For me, the 1990s will be memorable for four things: the Gulf War, the death of Princess Di, the Clinton / Lewinsky affair and the Oklahoma City Bombing. There was a lot more to this decade, of course: the highest grossing film of all time (Titanic), two white rappers (Eminem and Vanilla Ice), the collapse of the Soviet Union, the release of Nelson Mandela, Dolly the Sheep, the Columbine Massacre...
But it’s those four that stick in my mind. It was both a great decade and a sombre decade, and also one that produced (possibly) some of the best cars the world had ever seen. I class ‘90s cars as those that were launched between 1990 and 1999, and also a few that were launched in the late ‘80s (’88 or ’89) and gained popularity / infamy in the latter decade.
Let’s start with Japan. If the Germans owned the ‘80s in terms of automotive excellence, then the ‘90s were all about Japan. Mazda brought us the lightweight and fun Mazda MX-5 / Miata and the defining moment in rotary engine tech: the third generation Mazda RX-7. The boys from Nissan brought us not one but three generations of the phenomenal Nissan Skyline GT-R, solidifying it in the minds of street racers around the world. Nissan also gave us the slickly styled 300ZX, probably the best Z car since the original 240Z.
The rest of Japans automakers weren’t resting on their laurels though. Toyota had its Supra, Honda / Acura its NSX and Subaru stunned and shocked us with its “way out” SVX. Speaking of the latter, what would the ‘90s be without these two turbocharged, AWD four-doors: the Subaru Impreza WRX and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution?
The Yanks gave the world the still-awesome-after-19-years V10 Dodge Viper, the insanely styled Plymouth Prowler (really the last gasp of a dying brand), the final iteration of Pontiac’s Firebird and the Lotus tuned C4 Corvette ZR-1.
The Bavarians had the 8-Series, the last bastion of ‘80s excess in a world that was rapidly realising that greed wasn’t so good anymore but the real news was in Italy, where Lamborghini made a comeback with the awesome Diablo, their first new car in almost sixteen years. Two other Italians: the Alfa Romeo RZ and the Chris Bangle designed Fiat Coupe, proved that the ‘90s could be just as wild as the ‘80s had been at the time.
And last but not least, the Brits showed the world how it was done with not one, but two extraordinary hypercars: a God (the McLaren F1) and a dog (the Jaguar XJ220). They also brought us the Lotus Carlton, the result of taking a boring, poor selling sedan and handing it over to those mechanical mavens at Lotus. The result was a car that was quick on the straight, slick around the bends and totally badass to look at.
So, is your favorite on this list? If not, tell us! The comments section is open and ready to serve your every need.
By Tristan Hankins
*Read our 1980s Sports Car Countdown here