Back in the 1980s, GM experimented with turbocharged engines, which was in sync with the industry trends at that time. The Buick Grand National and the Buick GNX were the most famous of the time. They featured 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 engines with under five-second 0 to 60 mph acceleration times. With that kind of firepower, those black Buicks were terrorizing the drag strips and stop lights. But by the early 1990s, those Buicks were gone, so the GM engineers needed a vehicle to install their turbo hardware.
The decision was made to make a crazy sports truck out of a plebian Chevrolet S10. It was a compact pickup with diminutive four-cylinder power. This is how the GMC Syclone was born. GM took an ordinary S10 body shell and installed a 4.3-liter V6 with a turbocharger for 280 HP. They also used a special four-speed automatic transmission they sourced from the Corvette. They crowned it with a performance-based all-wheel drive.
The power figures don’t sound like much these days, but the Syclone was able to sprint to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, which made it faster than contemporary Ferraris. The key was the lightweight, small dimensions and the torque from a turbocharged engine. The price was significantly higher than the regular model, so they built less than 3,000, almost all in their signature black color.
Today, the GMC Syclone is a collector vehicle and a highly-sought after model. It is still quite fast and can hold its own against much younger, powerful cars, too.
Nissan 300 ZX
One of the best cars in the long line of Z-named Nissan sports coupes was the 300 ZX. Nissan introduced it in 1990 and discontinued it in 1996. Car enthusiasts respect this model since the 300 ZX was a proper sports coupe with the technology and performance that could rival more expensive, exclusive cars. The twin-turbo V6 engine pumped out 300 HP and the ZX could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds, topping 150 mph.
Those results are still impressive today. Although maintenance costs can be higher than its competitors, the Nissan 300 ZX is still a great choice. Not only is this car speedy, it also provides a decent level of comfort and equipment. Also, the turbo V6 has a high tuning potential. The aftermarket components are plentiful for this model. So, if you want your 300 ZX to be even faster, you can do that quite easily.
The prices for the 300 ZX are currently at around $10,000 for decent examples with full service histories and no accidents. You can find them at a lower price, but it is possible they will not be as good. Since the 90’s Japanese cars have slowly become more desirable, you better hurry up since Nissan 300 ZX prices could soon go up.
Ford Crown Victoria
You may think it is strange to put this utilitarian machine into a list filled with fast and exclusive cars. However, the Crown Vic deserves a place among the best 90’s cars since it is one of the most durable cars the world has ever seen. Those tough models from the 90’s and early 2000’s were common as police cruisers and taxis. Despite being 20 years old and surviving all kinds of torture, those cars are still on the road and running.
The Crown Victoria construction of a ladder chassis, live rear axle, tough suspension and heavy-duty components are based on mid-century technology that is still effective today. The 4.6-liter modular V8 engine will pump out only 260 HP, but this is more than enough to give the big rear-wheel sedan decent acceleration and cruising speeds.
All in all, the Crown Vic is a handy tool capable of many things. In fact, it is no surprise it was used by law enforcement agencies and others in need of a tough, dependable ride. If you want to own one of the last American ladder frame V8 sedans, you will be pleased to know prices are low and those cars are plentiful.
The new decade marked a new era for Honda with the launch of one of the best sports cars of the decade – the Acura NSX. Honda planned this model for a long time. The basic idea was to introduce a sports car with the technology of a supercar. It had to deliver uncompromised performance, power and design.
To say that Honda succeeded in that would be an understatement since the NSX was brilliant. Basically, car buyers got a Ferrari performance and looks for a supermarket price. It came with Honda’s signature reliability and maintenance costs, too.
The heart of the NSX was the 3.0-liter V6 with 274 HP and later, the 3.2-liter V6 with 290 HP. Since the car was light, the 0 to 60 mph time was a lightning-quick five seconds and top speeds reached over 170 mph. The introduction of the NSX stunned the competitors and the car market. Nobody expected such a bold move and such a composed and complete car.
The NSX was not only capable, but it was also extremely balanced. This was thanks to its mid-engine layout and clever engineering. Sports car buyers responded well to this new product. The original NSX stayed in production for almost 15 years, up to 2005.
Dodge Viper RT-10
Bob Lutz and Carroll Shelby conceived the Dodge Viper, along with the other Chrysler executives and engineers. The Viper was a modern-day Shelby Cobra, but with a twist. It had more power, meaner looks and an urge to kill the driver in any given moment. The long hood, short rear end and interesting Targa top was a fantastic-looking design. It was quite unique in 1992 when they released the car.
The original Viper had an 8.0-liter V10 with 400 HP and loads of torque. Despite the good construction, sports suspension and wide tires, the Viper was famous for easily losing control, especially on wet surfaces. The performance was brutal and 0 to 60 sprint took just 4.6 seconds, while the top speed was 182 mph. Despite the performance, high price and exclusivity, the original Viper was a crude car.
Its hot side pipes could burn your legs while exiting the car. It had a cramped interior and no trunk space. However, this car puts a smile on most car enthusiast’s faces faster than any other car from the era. The prices for original Vipers are slowly rising, so hurry and get this piece of American sports car history while you can.
BMW M3 E36
Built from 1992 to 1999, the E36 M3 featured a newly designed six-cylinder plant. Earlier models had a 3.0-liter engine with 291 HP. However, from 1995 until the end of production, they used the bigger 3.2-liter motor with 321 HP. Unfortunately, in America E36 M3s had only 240 HP. This was due to strict emissions regulations that crippled the otherwise powerful BMW engine.
Available as a sedan, coupe or a convertible, the E36 M3 was popular. It also introduced new standards in handling and performance. The 0 to 60 mph times were around six seconds. Thanks to the strong chassis, sharp steering and the driving dynamics were perfect.
You can find some well-maintained, accident-free M3s for around $10,000, which is a bargain compared to newer M3 and M4 prices. This is great, considering you will get one of the most legendary performance models of the 90’s destined to be a classic soon.
The SUV craze started long before they introduced the Navigator. But, this model was so perfectly suited for this class, it became a legend of the segment. Big, luxurious, expensive, powerful and prestigious, the Navigator was all that an SUV needed to be. Besides that, the Navigator had style and attitude, yet it was equally at home in the rich suburbs and shady downtown alleys.
You could see soccer moms and gangsters driving the same model, which was interesting. Even today, the sight of an original Lincoln Navigator demands respect. When they introduced it in 1998, the Navigator was a sales hit. It also came with a long list of options, drivetrain configurations and trim packages, too.
The 4.6-liter V8 with 300 HP was enough for most tasks. Car collectors will consider the original Navigator a valuable classic of the SUV genre in the near future. Be sure to grab a well-preserved one-owner Navigator today for a low price while you still can.
Toyota Supra Mk4
While eagerly waiting for the new Supras to hit showrooms, the last model and fourth generation Toyota from 1993 should be on your mind. This is one of the most iconic Japanese sports cars ever. It became legendary by appearing in many street racing movies, like Fast and Furious, as well as racing games and music videos. If you think the Supra’s popularity is based purely on media appearances, think again. This is one serious machine, especially in the turbo version.
The base model was naturally aspirated, and despite being quick, the most sought-after model is the 3.0-liter straight six twin turbo variant with 276 HP. We know that 276 HP is not much, but the engine produced somewhat more than advertised and had fantastic tuning potential. Today, it is hard to find a stock Supra. With just a few bolt-on power adders, and a bigger turbo and intake system, you can go all the way to 1,000 HP on those rear wheels.
This is a little roadster with a diminutive four-cylinder engine, but Miata’s perfect balance, rear wheel drive, rev happy engines and precise handling make it a joy to drive. This is why Mazda sold over a million of them since introducing the Miata in 1990.
You can find them at an affordable price almost anywhere. Since the power output of any Miata is relatively small, you can engage in spirited driving while staying under the speed limit and out of trouble.
For those who want something more out of this little convertible, the number of aftermarket companies who offer various bolt-on kits and components is enormous. So, you can easily personalize your Miata to make it go faster and handle even better.
Back in the mid-80s, the U.S. Military started using High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV). They affectionately named them the Humvee. This was a big, heavy military truck capable of running over anything, even landmines. Even though they strictly made and engineered the Humvee for the military, constant requests for street legal versions made them think about entering the lucrative civilian market.
Finally, in 1992, they presented the civilian Hummer H1. It looked almost the same as the military version, featuring the same technology and engine. The power came from a 6.2-liter diesel V8 with just 165 HP and loads of torque. The only real difference between military and civilian Hummers was the interior. The street legal model had a plusher interior with air conditioning, leather upholstery and a premium audio system.
The Hummer H1 was expensive and a challenge to drive because was as big as a house. This made it impractical for most drivers. However, it was extremely popular with customers who wanted something different and opulent. They didn’t pay attention to practicality and fuel economy. If you’d like to drive a beast, be sure to nab the 1992 Hummer, which will be a classic soon.
Back in the early ’90s, Subaru wanted to enter the sports car market and promote its biggest assets – all-wheel drive and flat six engines. So, the company hired Italdesign to design a sleek and modern coupe.
In 1991 the SVX debuted with strange styling and complicated side window patents. But they came with sublime handling and great performance. Under the hood was a 3.3-liter flat six which propelled this rare car to 7.3 seconds 0 to 60 mph times. Only about 14,000 were sold in America until 1996.
They introduced the E31 8-Series in 1989. It was BMW’s flagship coupe with V8 and V12 power, sublime performance, exclusivity and style. It was a big step up from the old 6-Series in technology, design and power. When it was presented, it was considered one of the best models in its class.
Today, almost 30 years after the first 8-Series rolled off the assembly line, this car still looks modern and performs just as good. Never too popular or common, especially on the American market, the E31 is still under the radar of most enthusiasts. This means you should get one now while they are still affordable.
Today, the Volkswagen Corrado is a forgotten model. But in the early ’90s, this was the fastest Volkswagen you could buy. Although they conceived as a replacement for the popular Sirocco coupe, the Corrado was much more. Volkswagen wanted something closer to the Porsche 944 in styling and performance than another sporty looking Golf derivate.
So, the Corrado had a revised front-wheel drive platform and a special suspension and brakes. It had a new, aggressive looking exterior design and an interesting and powerful VR6 engine option. The VR6 was a high-revving 2.9-liter V6 engine they mounted to a close ratio 5-speed manual. It delivered 190 HP, which was a high number for the early ’90s when the Corrado was for sale in the U.S.
The second generation of the Toyota MR2 lasted into the ’90s. It was an interesting little sports car and a true early ’90s icon with a mid-mounted engine and rear wheel drive. But the version you should look for is the 1.6-liter supercharged model they called the SC, for supercharger. It delivers 145 HP and 140 lb-ft of torque.
Those power output figures may not sound powerful today, but the MR2 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just seven seconds. The prices for well-preserved models are still affordable and the MR2 is tons of fun to drive.
The hot rod culture is one of the key ingredients of the American automotive landscape. However, no company ever dared to present a factory built hot rod until 1997 when Plymouth presented the Prowler. It was a retro-futuristic roadster with a V6 engine and fantastic looks.
Imagined as the follow up of the Viper, the Prowler was the hit on the show circuit and Chrysler wanted to capitalize on that. Despite initial success, the car proved to be a failure mainly due to the fact that customers expected V8 and not V6 power. If you are smitten by the interesting story of this car and the fact that Plymouth is gone, get one today.
Pontiac Firebird SLP Formula Firehawk
The SLP Firehawks were interesting late muscle cars. The model first appeared in 1995, marking the start of a successful venture between GM and the Street Legal Performance Company of New Jersey. They were an outside firm that produced performance kits for Firebirds but the cars weren’t just improved base models, they were much more.
The SLP Formula Firehawk had a 5.7-liter V8 engine with 300 or 315 HP which was a lofty number for 1995. The six-speed manual version could accelerate from 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds, making it one of the fastest production cars in America.
The vehicles on this list run the gamut from practical and efficient to outrageous and challenging. But soon they will be on the list of classic car must-haves. If you want one of these, be sure to get one before prices skyrocket.