Best Cars of the 90s

by | Jun 21, 2020 | Lifestyle, Motoring

Reading time: 9 minutes

Alien gives way to Predator. Governator is the new box office king. And he gets a Hummer. Humongous cars make it to the fore. Ford launches the Excursion, hard rock bands make ballads and Axl Rose competes with Bon Jovi for supremacy in the teenager school folder.

DJ’s and Ibiza become mainstream destinations and chemistry makes it to the discotheque. Care free of a generation that has not known a war. Red Bull turns syrup into an energy drink and the nerd movement starts to take shape.

And in cars? Bugatti shows up again, Jaguar makes a hypercar, Mclaren gets Mr. Bean to buy Gordon Murray’s latest and Ferrari forgets about it and brings out the F50 contraption. It was so dismal they were force to come up, just a tiny bit later, with the Enzo. Not bad for an apology. But, in the age of A-Ha, let’s start with…

#1 Porsche 993 GT1 (1996-1999)

The marvellous “Strassenversion” of the 993 GT1 counted only 25 unit, just enough to comply with the GT1 regulation of the mid 90s. The engine had to be slightly de-tuned to meet European Emissions Laws, although its 536 hp at 7,200 rpm and 600 N⋅m of torque at 4,250 rpm proved to be more than adequate; the car could accelerate to 100 km/h from a standstill in 3.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 308 km/h. Her competitors were the legendary Ferrari F40 and the McLaren F1 GTR. At her debut in racing, Stuck and Boutsen won comfortably the Brands Hatch 4 Hours race. Soon after Kelleners and Collard won in SPA. In 1996, it clocked exactly 330 km/h on the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. At that time, this was mind boggling. After two years of near successes in the big races, it finally won Le Mans 24 hrs, scoring a one-two and beating the great Mercedes, the McLaren and the Toyotas, which were the favorites at that time. The look and the fascination of this car goes beyond fantasy and it remains one of the all time greats.

#2 McLaren F1 GTR

It is one of the most successful GTs ever made in history. It was designed by the genius of Gordon Murray with one clear purpose: to produce the best ever road car. He had no intention to race it. However it was so incredibly good that lots of important teams asked McLaren to modify the road version into a racing animal. It took part in more than 120 races, it won a whopping 38. At its debut in Le Mans 24Hr, it won immediately. It continued to dominate the scene every where in the world until 1998. Its engine was also a masterpiece: a naturally aspirated V12, 6 litre built by BMW was starting from 600 bhp both in the road and in the race version. One of the most particular aspects is that the driver seat is built in the middle, while two smaller seats for two passengers are built on the side. This is giving the driver the typical view of a single seater, with symmetrical control of the spaces, as well as a perfect weight distribution. An icon that will live forever

#3 Honda NSX

Possibly the most fascinating Japanese sports car of the 90s. It was presented at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show and was built in a purpose-made factory in Japan, for sale from 1990. It was originally available as a Coupe and, from 1995, a targa top. It underwent a performance upgrade in 1997, which saw the arrival of a larger 3.2 L V6 engine, and a facelift in 2002 before being discontinued in 2005. It featured a mid engine configuration, a naturally aspirated engine, revving to 8,000 rpm. Ayrton Senna largely cooperated in the testing of the car. Most passionates remember the incredible lap of Ayrton in Suzuka, extracting every bit of this super-balanced vehicle (Available on youtube). It remains an icon to the point it still obscures the new version of the NSX, launched in 2016.

#4 Lancia Delta Integrale

After the first poor attempt to produce the hottest hatch back vehicle in the 80s with the first Delta HF, Lancia decided to raise their voice, in the light of the participation to the newly established WRC formula. The times of the Group B monsters has sadly finished and the new rally cars needed to be much more similar to regular production motors. The Delta Integrale immediately became a winning machine. It scored 46 WRC race wins and a record of 6 consecutive constructor championships in a row, from 1987 to 1992, with the legendary drivers Juha Kankkunen and Miki Biasion. Driven by the success in motorsport, the Delta was the most desired 4WD hatch in the world. Handling and traction was superb, yet the reliability has remained its Achille’s heel. The last version dated 1991 and called HF Integrale Evoluzione. Its engine was the same turbocharged 16-valve 2-litre used on the previous model, but power had increased to 210 Hp at 5,750 rpm, chiefly thanks to a new single outlet 60 mm diameter exhaust system. Maximum torque was unchanged at 300 Nm, but was now reached an higher 3,500 rpm. The mother of all modern rally cars for the road.

#5 BMW M5

Since 1984, the M5 has become the mother of all high performance sedans. It’s an icon that is now lasting 35 years. At its launch, the E28 M5 was the fastest production sedan in the world. The E34 generation of the M5 was produced from September 1988 to August 1995. Powered by the E36 straight-6 engine, an evolution of the previous generation’s straight-6, it was initially produced in a sedan body style, with a Wagon Touring version following in 1992. Total production of the E34 M5 was 12,254 units.

After the first 3,6 ltr engine, capable of 311 hp, in late 1991, the engine was upgraded to the 3.8-litre. Power increased to 335 hp leading to a factory 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 5.9 seconds, and the ignition changed to a distributor-less system with each cylinder having an individual coil. BMW also used a dual-mass flywheel in place of the single in the 3.6-litre version for a smoother idle and throttle input at the expense of response. The standard self-leveling suspension (SLS) system, which maintained a constant ride height in the rear, was replaced with Electronic Damper Control (EDCIII+), an electronically controlled and hydraulically regulated system that can switch between comfort “P” setting and a more track-oriented “S” setting. A 6-speed Getrag 420G manual transmission was introduced in 1994, which added an overdriven top gear. Today the M5 is an incredibly complicated and performing sedan but nothing can take away the purity and the excitement of the 90s generation. A car to have.

#6 Jaguar XJ220

The XJ220 was built from 1992 until 1994, in collaboration with the specialist automotive and race engineering company Tom Walkinshaw Racing. The XJ220 recorded a top speed of 341.7 km/h during testing by Jaguar at the Nardo test track in Italy. This made it the fastest production car from 1992 to 1993. She was developed from a V12-engined 4-wheel drive concept car designed by an informal group of Jaguar employees working in their spare time. A total of just 275 cars were produced by the time production ended, each with a retail price of GB£ 470,000 in 1992, making it one of the most expensive cars at that time. The design brief for the exterior restricted the use of aerodynamic aids and aimed for a simple yet clean and functional body similar to classic Jaguar sports cars, such as the D-Type and E-Type. Drag and lift were limited at the envisioned ground clearance for road use, but the design allowed for additional downforce when the car was set up for racing. The body produced around 1,400 kg of downforce at 322 km/h. The engine was manufactured with an aluminium cylinder block and aluminium cylinder heads with steel connecting rods and crankshaft. In the standard state of tune, it was rated at a power output of 542 hp at 7,200 rpm and torque of 644 Nm at 4,500 rpm. The XJ220 could accelerate from 0–97 km/h (60 mph) in 3.6 seconds. In our hearts for being the true very and unique British hypercar of the 90s.

#7 Bugatti EB110

The last Italian Bugatti. Born under the direction of Mr Stanzani, a very well know man to Lamborghini, thanks to his career experience with the Miura, Espada and Countach. The continuation of the project feel into Mr Materazzi’s hands, the brain of the Ferrari F40. The car had many innovative technologies that were scarcely used by the automotive industry at the time of its introduction such as a carbon fibre monocoque chassis, active aerodynamics and an all-wheel-drive system for better handling. The design elements of the car paid homage to the distinctive Bugatti automobiles of the past. The name EB 110 is an abbreviation for the company’s founder, Ettore Bugatti and his 110 birthday. The car has a 60 Valves, quad-turbo charged V12 Engine, fed through 12 individual throttle bodies, powering all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. The 3,500 cc engine has a bore x stroke of 81 mm × 56.6 mm. The EB110 GT had a power output of 412 kW (560 PS; 553 hp) at 8,000 rpm and 611 Nm of torque at 3,750 rpm. The performance oriented Super Sport version had the engine tuned to a maximum power output of 450 kW (603 hp) at 8,250 rpm and 650 N⋅m of torque at 4,200 rpm. The car uses a double wishbone suspension, with the chassis built by Aérospatiale, an aircraft company, and made from carbonn fibre. Equipped with Gandini’s trademark shissor-doors it has a glass engine cover that provides a view of the V12 engine. The GT is equipped with a speed-sensitive electronic rear wing and active air flaps near the rear window that can be raised at the flick of a switch manually, while the Super Sport has a fixed rear wing. A true story maker

#8 Lamborghini Diablo

It was not easy to replace the Countach. When Chrysler Corporation bought the company in 1987, funding the company to complete the car’s development, its management was uncomfortable with Gandini’s designs and commissioned its design team in Detroit to execute a third extensive redesign, smoothing out the infamous sharp edges and corners of Gandini’s original design, and leaving him famously unimpressed. The Diablo was presented to the public for sale on 21 January 1990. Its power came from a 5.7 L dual overhead cam, 4 valves per cylinder version of the existing V12 engine and computer-controlled multi-point fuel injection, producing a maximum output of 485 Bhp and 580 N⋅m of torque. The vehicle could reach 0-100 km/h in about 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 325 km/h. The Diablo was rear-wheel drive and the engine was mid-mounted to aid its weight balance. only 2883 units were produced from 1990 to 2001. In 1999 Lamborghini was bought by Audi. The Diablo (the Devil) was the last italian-italian Lambo.

#9 Audi RS2 Avant

The RS2 was the product of a co-development project between Audi and Porsche, based on Audi’s 80 Avant. It was powered by a modified version of their 2,226 cc, 20 valves total turbo charged petrol engine. This internal combustion engine produced a power output of 311 bhp @ 6,500 rpm and 410 N⋅m @ 3000 rpm of torque. The standard KKK Turbocharger was switched for a larger unit, along with a heavy-duty intercooler and higher flow fuel injectors a newly designed camshaft a more efficient induction system, and a low-pressure exhaust system replaced the standard fare; With so much power available, the RS2 could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds and achieve a maximum speed of 262 km/h (electronically restricted), despite weighing over 1,600 kg. Porsche-designed braking systems replaced the standard Audi 80 equipment, however, the Bosch ABS was retained. The front brakes feature 304 millimetres in diameter by 32 mm thick radially ventilated rotors and use Brembo four-opposed piston fixed calipers. Approximately 2200 RS2s were to be built initially, but due to demand the total was 2891 cars built. I drove one extensively when a mate of mine bought it in 1995 and at that time, it was the most exotic, special machine in its class available. The classic turbo power delay made it hard core and needed to be kept above 3000 rpm to be able to use all its wonderful engine. She is the mother of all the modern high performance station wagons and an icon to be never forgotten.

#10 Mazda RX-7 MKIII

The third generation RX-7, featured an updated body design. The 13B-REW was the first-ever mass-produced sequential twin-turbocharger system to be exported from Japan, boosting power to 255 Bhp in 1993 and finally 276 Bhp by the time production ended in Japan in 2002. The chief designer was Yoichi Sato. Another key designer was Wu-huang Chin a Taiwanese automotive artist who also worked on the Mazda MX-5 Miata. In Japan, sales were affected by this series’ non-compliance with Japanese dimension regulations and Japanese buyers paid annual taxes for the car’s non-compliant width. The sequential twin turbocharging system, introduced in 1992, was extremely complex and was developed with the aid of Hitachi. The system used two turbochargers, one to provide 10 psi (0.69 bar) of boost from 1,800 rpm. The second turbocharger activated in the upper half of the rpm range, during full throttle acceleration — at 4,000 rpm to maintain 10 psi (0.69 bar) until redline. The changeover process occurred at 4,500 rpm, with a momentary dip in pressure to 8 psi (0.55 bar), and provided semi-linear acceleration from a wide torque curve throughout the entire rev range under normal operation. What made this car unique was his engine architecture, featuring a Wankel rotary system, completely different to the world production of combustion engines. A brave exercise that was then abandoned due to excessive running costs. A car many collectors still buy as of today.

On the Cover Page, Cindy Crawford, the undisputed queen of the top models in the 90s.

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