When you think of the best cars of the 1990s, the famous Mercedes SL R129 stands out. The SL roadsters were always fantastic driving machines. But the R129 was the symbol of the decade and the automotive personification of success, power, speed, and quality.
The mid-’90s SL 600 with a V12 engine had an MSRP of over $120,000, around $200,000 in today’s rate. Today, these cars are significantly cheaper. But that may not last for long since more drivers are realizing how good the SL 600 is. If you want a bit lower price and maintenance costs, look for the V8-powered SL 500 (via Mercedes).
Ford introduced the Falcon in 1960 as their first compact model and it was an instant bestseller. With a modern-looking body and a nice selection of economical six-cylinder engines, the Falcon was affordable. But it was also a high-quality product, which appealed to a lot of customers. Soon, Ford introduced more powerful versions with V8 engines and a convertible body style, making the Falcon even more popular and interesting (Via Classic Cars History).
The parts are inexpensive, making the Falcon an ideal canvas for modifications. You can use everything from the Mustang in the Falcon, as well. Ford made over two million Falcons in various versions and body styles, so you should be able to find one in decent condition at an affordable price.
If the Spitfire was Triumph’s roadster for the masses, the TR6 was a car for the serious lover of open-air driving and speed. The Spitfire could be considered underpowered even though it weighed only 1500 lbs., but the TR6 had decent power straight from the box. The TR6 was a successor to TR5 and US-market only TR250, which all shared basic construction, dimensions, and design. The TR6 was introduced in 1968 and featured disc brakes, independent suspension, and a 2.5-liter straight-six engine with 145 HP (via Hemmings).
Thanks to a weight of just under 2200 lbs., the TR6 was agile and was amongst the fastest power roadsters on the market in the late 1960s. Production ended in 1976 after more than 90,000 were made. Today, the TR6 is a popular choice for classic roadster fans who want old-school looks and feel with solid performance and speed. Decent examples can be found for around $20,000.
Fiat unveiled the 124 Spider in 1966, selling it in America until 1985. The famous design house, Pininfarina, styled the 124 Spider and Fiat built it on the 124 Sedan platform. The mechanics were straightforward with a twin-cam engine, four-speed manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive. The early models got 90 HP from the 1.6-liter engine and later versions got a 2.0-liter engine with fuel injection to produce 102 HP (via Motor Trend).
The 124 Spider was one of the more comfortable options. It featured a roomy cabin, big trunk, and good ride quality, so decent examples are highly desirable. So, if you want one, don’t worry, because Fiat built over 200,000 of them. Better yet, most of them are in America, so finding one should be easy to do.
Today, Lancia is a forgotten company. They are still active but offer nothing interesting in their lineup besides selling rebadged Chryslers. But back in the ’60s, Lancia was an independent luxury manufacturer with highly respected cars that featured unique designs and technical solutions. So when the company presented the Fulvia Coupe in 1965, the car world took notice (via FCA Heritage).
The Fulvia Coupe was a little 2+2 two-door car with a narrow-angle V4 in the front powering the front wheels. This unique layout was handled fantastically and with the small weight, it presented a vivid performance. Despite having from 85 to 115 HP, Lancia Fulvia Coupe was a rally champion. It was also an extremely rewarding car to drive fast on winding roads. You can still find decent Fulvia Coupes starting at around $20,000. They imported the Fulvia Coupe to the U.S. when it was new, so you can find dozens for sale right now.
Introduced in 1966, Alfa Romeo Spider was the Italian answer to the popularity of British roadsters. Initially called the Duetto, the Spider was built on Alfa’s 105 sedans/coupe base. It had a Pininfarina-designed body, alloy twin cam engines, and rear-wheel drive. During the late 1960s, the Spider became very popular after it was featured in the movie “The Graduate.” In that classic hit, Dustin Hoffman drove a red example.
While the rest of the roadsters vanished from the American market, Alfa managed to sell Spiders until 1994, which just shows how popular this car was here. The engine choices ranged from 1.3 to 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 105 to 130 HP. Earlier models had carburetors and later models had fuel injection systems. Alfa made over 124,000 elegant Spiders and most of them were sold in the States. The final model year was 1994 and there were four generations of the model. For less than $20,000, you can pretend that you are a young Dustin Hoffman. But pay attention to rust issues, since classic Alfa Spiders were highly rust-prone (via FCA Heritage).
Introduced in the mid-1970s, the XJS was a big step for the company. Under the hood was a 3.6-liter six-cylinder. There was also a 5.3-liter V12 engine, which was a better choice if you wanted the full GT experience.
The XJS was an extremely popular choice, especially in America. Jaguar sold the majority of 115,000 cars made in the States. Due to its elegance, power, and speed, the XJS remained in production for an incredible 21 years. It’s still a respectable car in every way. The coupes are more common but convertibles are better to drive (via Jaguar Heritage).
You might see other cars from our list in traffic. But you’ll have to dig in deep to find the Renault Caravelle in your daily commute. Renault managed to sell 117,000 of them during its 10-year production run from 1958 to 1968.
Based on the mechanics of Renault’s economy 4CV model, the Floride/Caravelle was a cool-looking roadster. It had a rear-mounted four-cylinder engine and 2+2 seating configuration. Renault intended to call the car Floride for sale in the USA. They later decided to call the model Caravelle for US buyers and Floride for the rest of the world (Via Journal Classic Cars).
Interestingly, most of the production did end up in the US. The British roadster invasions of the 1960s made Renault look outdated and slow. Despite looking elegant, the Caravelle was pretty slow. The biggest engine was a 1.1-liter four-cylinder with 55 HP. However, if you’re in love with the French charm of this little convertible, then the Renault Caravelle could be the thing for you. You can find them for around $10,000, pretty affordable for such a rare model.
One of the most iconic Italian sports coupes is the beautiful Alfa Romeo Giulia Coupe. Car fans often called it the Tipo 105 Coupe for its chassis code. This was a Bertone-designed two-door version of the legendary Giulia sedan that was Alfa’s main model during the ’60s. They introduced it in 1963 under the name, the Giulia Sprint GT. And this little Alfa stunned the car world with its sculptured lines and perfect stance. Under the hood was a small 1.6-liter four-cylinder twin-cam engine with an advertised 105 HP. The Tipo 105 had a live rear axle and four-wheel disc brakes, unheard of in the mid-1960s (via Italclassic).
Over the years, its power grew to 1.8-liters and 2.0-liters in later models. You can recognize the final versions by the four headlights, wider taillights, and 2000 GTV badge. Those cars have 136 HP and a glorious soundtrack thanks to the high revving, all-alloy engine. Alfa Romeo Tipo 105 Coupes were inexpensive, but in recent years, the price spike has affected this model. Despite getting more expensive, they are still affordable. For around $30,000, you can find a perfect example of this little Italian gem, which fans call “the poor man’s Ferrari.”
This generation was in production from 1971 to 1989. The engine choices include one six-cylinder engine and several V8s with a range-topping 560 V8. We recommend you find a 450 or 500 V8 engine since they are the most popular and offer the best combination of power and efficiency.
Mercedes sold over 237,000 of those elegant convertibles during its 18-year old run. Believe or not, almost two-thirds of the whole production was US-spec cars. You won’t have any problems finding the right example. Be ready to pay around $25,000 for decent examples of this Teutonic power roadster (Via Mercedes).
Volvo was a dull brand in the ’60s that produced boring yet dependable cars. However, with the introduction of the P1800 in 1961, all of that changed. This coupe was one of the best-looking cars on the market for the time.
They took the platform and drivetrain from the well-known Amazon sedan model. But the coupe body was all new and they designed it in Italy. The Volvo P1800 was the perfect alternative to exclusive Jaguars. But, it came at a lower price and with more dependable mechanics. In 12 years of production, they made around 40,000 of them, selling them mainly in the United States (via Volvo).
The Fox-body Mustang grew more powerful with each model year, starting from 175 HP in the 1983 model. But by the late ’80s, the venerable 5.0-liter V8 engine was pumping 225 HP and 300 lb.-ft of torque, which translated to quick 0 to 60 mph times. This car marked a return to the roots with a strong V8 engine and exciting performance (via Top Flight Automotive).
Also, the late ’80s Fox-body GT was popular so they are plentiful today. That makes them a great choice for entry-level collectors. On the other hand, the aftermarket for them is massive so you can make your Fox-body GT even faster both easily and inexpensively.
Debuting in 1976, the new 6 Series was BMW’s entry in the Gran Turismo market as well as one of the most elegant coupes of the period. It came with a recognizable design, four headlights, and a big BMW grille. Also, they built the 6 Series on the 5 Series base featuring only powerful six-cylinder engines (via Hemmings).
The 6 Series proved to be popular, spending over 13 years on the market. BMW managed to produce over 100,000 of them, which are still sought-after models on the used car market. Interestingly, more than half of the cars they produced were sold in the USA. The prices are still understandable but soon those elegant cars will be out of reach.
When they introduced the XJ6 in 1968, there was nothing similar to it on the market. The XJ6 was a sleek, elegant sedan. They equipped it with powerful straight-six engines and even offered a 5.3-liter V12 for the most demanding customers. This was the first car that was the perfect blend of luxury with a sports appeal (via Autozine).
Also, its signature shape lasted all the way up to 2009 through eight different generations. In all of its iterations, the Jaguar XJ6 was always a popular luxury car in America. And that means there are plenty of those around. Some of the early models are quite affordable, so this could be the perfect starter classic if you’re into legendary British motors.
Today, fast SUVs are nothing special but in the ’90s, they were extremely rare and obscure. However, Jeep produced one that will be a collector’s item in the near future. And that is 1998 5.9 Limited, a one-year, top-of-the-line model. Jeep equipped it with every luxury item they had to offer as well as a 5.9-liter Magnum V8 delivering 245 HP (via Driving Line).
Although 245 HP doesn’t sound impressive today, it was a lofty number for by the late ’90s SUV standards. The Grand Cherokee 5.9 was sort of a Jeep hot rod before those modern SRT versions with their powerful Hemi engines. And because they only built about 15,000 of them, the 5.9 Limited is the definitive future classic.
When the 996 generation of 911 debuted in 1998, most Porsche purists were shocked. Their beloved car lost one of its defining characteristics: air cooling. The reason was simple, air cooling wasn’t interesting since it could no longer cope with the rising power of the engines and demanding engineering of Porsche cars. The engines had to use regular water cooling, which is far more efficient (via Porsche).
It was so good, they used water cooling throughout history. Some say the 911s lost some appeal, but it was a smart move because it allowed Porsche to develop the car even further. Whatever the truth, the reality is the 996 is still a great car you can buy for just a fraction of the original sticker price. But if you like the flat-six engine and unmistakable 911 shape, you should look for one right now.
In 1998, AMG released its ultimate version of standard E-Class in form of the E55 AMG. From the outside, the E55 AMG looked like any other E-Class with just minimal changes but underneath the body, there was a 5.4-liter supercharged beast just waiting to be released (via Mercedes UK).
With 349 HP and 391 lb.-ft of torque, E55 AMG could accelerate from 0 to 60 in just 5.4 seconds which was late 1990s Porsche Turbo territory. AMG built over 12,000 examples which makes them relatively plentiful today and you can pick up a decent example for around $10,000 which is a steal.
You may be surprised to know that you can easily become a proud owner of an almost classic Maserati for as little as $8,000. For that money, you can buy a decent Maserati BiTurbo, which they introduced in 1981 and produced until 1994. The BiTurbo lineup of cars started with the 222 model, which was a handsome two-door coupe (Via Maserati).
And it continued with those 420 and 430 sedans they built on the same base. The car’s original price was close to $50,000 in the mid-80s. But thanks to depreciation and the poor quality of the BiTurbo model, you can look rich and sophisticated for the price of a used Ford Focus.
It sounds unbelievable, but you can buy a proper Rolls Royce for less than $10,000. That is right. The early 1980s Rolls Silver Spirit is a super luxury sedan with classic looks, a powerful engine and a bespoke interior (via Classic World).
If you decide to buy this car, it will show that you have class, money and are a member of high society. And, if that is exactly what you want people to believe, that $10,000 was well-spent.
Today’s classic car enthusiasts may not remember the Oldsmobile heyday since they retired the brand in 2000. However, back in the ’60s, this company enjoyed a reputation for inventive technology, style, and luxury. Oldsmobile represented the cutting edge of GM at one point in time, presenting models that were far ahead of their time and displayed power and style on the global market. And one such car is the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. This was a large, powerful personal luxury coupe with a twist as it was front-wheel drive (FWD). All domestic cars, regardless of the class or engine, were rear-wheel drive. However, Oldsmobile wanted to introduce something else, so they constructed the ingenious FWD system (via Car and Driver).
Designers created an attractive shape with a low roof and hidden headlights for the Toronado. The car’s power came from a big block 455 V8 with 385 HP. The Toronado was a success because it introduced superb driving characteristics, leaving most competitors in the dust. The first two generations were the best. Later, the Toronado was a Cadillac Eldorado with a different grille. Interestingly enough, however, current prices for this gem are not high. For less than $20,000, you can find a perfect 1966 to 1968 Toronado. And, it could change your perspective on the driving and the handling of those big, classic American cruisers.
Cadillac envisioned the Allante as a competitor to the Mercedes SL convertible. It was a two-seat luxury convertible designed by Pininfarina. It came with a Northstar V8 engine and front-wheel drive. That was quite an unusual combination, but the car looked and performed quite well (via Retro Motor).
The production process was specific because the actual fabrication happened in Italy in the Pininfarina factory. And then they shipped cars to the U.S. by jet, which affected the cost of the final product. The Allante stayed in production until 1993 and they built just over 21,000. The car proved too expensive to produce. Allegedly, the factory lost money on every Allante they made.
The Pacer is a car that people equally love and hate, but it is still legendary and recognizable. It was AMC’s effort to produce a compact car. However, it turned out to be less compact than its competitors, and with numerous flaws. However, the design and the legend that revolves around its charm make it one of the most quirky and iconic ’70s legends (via American Motors).
The prices are still low, and most people have forgotten about this cool car. If you like the Pacer, you can find them affordable, but don’t expect great performance because that’s not what this car is all about.