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These Sports Cars and Trucks Defined The 1990s

Cameron EittreimDecember 14, 2022

The 1990s were one of the most innovative times in the auto industry. Car fans went from the boxes of the 1980s to the sleek modern cars that we have today. Certain cars changed the game, like the Toyota Supra Turbo and the cab-forward Chrysler sedans. The 1990s were also the birth of the SUV era, which is now the preferred type of vehicle in today’s world. The car industry also saw pickup trucks venture further into the mainstream and move away from being a farm tool.

The 1990s also saw many automotive brands fade away such as AMC, Eagle, and Geo. This was the decade of change and no industry saw as much change as the auto industry. We looked back at sports cars and trucks that completely defined the decade. These were vehicles that pushed the boundaries of design and performance. When you think of the car industry in the ’90s, you can’t go back in time without thinking about these cars and trucks first.

Photo Credit: Mecum

GMC Typhoon

Nowadays the idea of a super powerful performance SUV isn’t out of the question. The Typhoon was the fastest production SUV of the period. The performance was downright exhilarating using the same type of turbocharged engine that was found in the Grand National. The fact that it was based on the S-15 platform made it even better (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit Mecum

The production cycle for the Typhoon was very short, but in that short amount of time, the SUV made quite an impact. The Typhoon was the stuff of legends and it paved the way for the performance vehicles like the Grand Cherokee SRT that we have today.

Photo Credit: GM

GMC Syclone

The Syclone was another project by GM performance that utilized nearly the same design as the Typhoon. Believe it or not, the Syclone was the fastest production car in the world for a short period, and it was a pickup truck. The slick black look of the truck became iconic with early 1990s GM products (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

The turbocharged engine was and still is one of the best engines that GM has ever produced. The Syclone was the first unique truck that was sold exclusively under the GMC banner. When it came to performance trucks, the Syclone was faster than the 454 SS and the F-150 Lightning. A turbocharged performance truck used to just be a novelty, but nowadays it’s a reality thanks to the Syclone.

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1990 Chevrolet 454 SS

There’s no denying the impact the 454 SS had on the automotive industry for the simple fact that it was a single-cab Silverado with a sport package alone. The truck was intimidating and it showed the world that a pickup truck could be just as fun to drive as a sports car (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Fast Lane Cars

The 454 SS was a massive undertaking by GM and the truck had several special features. From the decals to its red interior, this truck was unlike anything else that had come before it. The 454 SS also influenced Ford to bring the Lightning to the market. To this day GM has never sold a truck quite like the 454 SS.

Porsche 911 Carrera RS
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Porsche 911 Carrera RS

The 1991 model of the 911 Carrera RS was by far one of the rarest Porsches ever built. The 911 Carrera RS came with a 256 HP 3.6-liter flat six, and yes it was one of the last air-cooled Porsches. The beautiful color assortment that you could choose from also added to the unique styling of the car (via DuPont).

Porsche 911 Carrera RS
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There were a few iconic sports cars in the 1990s that almost every kid remembers. But the 911 Carrera RS was unlike anything else. This was the car that had that quintessential Porsche styling that enthusiasts were looking for at the time.

Bugatti EB 110 - Bugatti Centodieci
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Bugatti EB110

When the Bugatti brand was introduced in the 1990s everything was different about it. The Bugatti sports cars were hand built in a special factory, and you could say that more effort went into building the car than it was worth. The EB110 was the sole beneficiary of this exclusive factory and the company ended up going bankrupt (via Motor Authority).

Bugatti EB110
Photo Credit: Auto Week

But the EB110 was largely considered one of the best sports cars of all time. The driving experience is exhilarating and you can feel every bit of the hand-built design. Nowadays the Bugatti brand is a fixture of pop culture but the EB110 was the car that started it all for the company.

BMW Z1
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BMW Z1

The Z1 was a strange little BMW sports car with removable doors and a style that was unlike anything else on the road. Although the Z1 looked like a concept car, it was indeed a production model. The short wheelbase allowed the Z1 to perform like a true sports car on tight roads with lots of twists and turns (via Hot Cars).

BMW Z1
Photo Credit: BMW

The Z1 was a very limited production roadster produced from 1989 to 1991. That limited production run meant that the Z1 has steadily increased in value over the years. The fact that it was a roadster that had removable doors made it an even more unique proposition than just about anything else on the road.

Photo Credit: BMW Blog

BMW M3 Lightweight

The first BMW M3 model from the 1990s has become the stuff of legends. The lightweight car introduced the world to a fun driving luxury experience that didn’t break the bank. The E36-generation M3 was a groundbreaking ride and it introduced the world to the mainstream M-Series line (via Classic).

Photo Credit: BMW

Nowadays the first-generation M3 has become more valuable than ever, but back then it was just an entry-level sports car. The design language of the 1990s was more unique than ever in the automotive industry and the M3 was evidence of that.

Pristine Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI Tommi Makinen Edition #001 Sold For A Record $200K | Carscoops
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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Tommi Mäkinen Edition

To the regular driver who grew up in the 1990s, the Lancer Evolution was not your average car. You seldom saw one on the road, yet instead, this car was most prevalent in video games like the Gran Turismo series. The Lancer Evolution Tommi Mäkinen Edition was iconic because it won quite a few WRC titles (via Hot Cars).

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The Lancer Evolution Tommi Mäkinen Edition was one of the cars that changed the face of rally racing in the 1990s. It was cars like this that made drivers interested in the rally racing scene in the first place, and this car was attainable to the average person.

Ferrari F50 - Ferrari F40
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Ferrari F50

The F50 was one of the lesser-known exotic cars from the 1990s, often overshadowed by the F40. But for a car that was only manufactured from 1995 to 1997, it had a lot of power and iconic styling that can’t be forgotten. The F50 had a removable Targa top but that was only the beginning of the great features this car offered (via Ferrari).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The V12 engine was one of the most powerful engines that Ferrari ever produced. The performance was among the top class in the automotive world. When it comes to pure enthusiast cars, there’s nothing like the F50 on the road today. Its smooth styling and almost limitless power made this car the stuff of legends.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR

The 1990s were a transition period for Mercedes-Benz, and their road racing cars were no joke. The Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR was designed specifically to tackle the daunting LeMans race, and it did it well. Not only did this car win numerous championships, but it also put Mercedes on the map in the racing world (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The CLK GTR had all of the styling cues that the next-generation Mercedes-Benz models were known for. The distinct taillights and the wide body design of the car made it something so beautiful that it couldn’t be ignored.

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Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Rally racing was big business in the 1990s, and Ford dominated it. The Escort RS Cosworth was one of the cars that dominated the rally racing world. The compact design and exceptional power made Cosworth a serious contender on the world circuit. Its beautiful design was unlike anything else in this price range (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Which Car

Ford took the rally racing world seriously because a championship car will equal great international sales. The Escort RS Cosworth didn’t disappoint in that regard, and it went on to become one of the most awarded rally cars of all time.

Mazda RX-7
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Mazda RX-7

The 1990s were a great time for sports cars and a sad time because many legendary models were being discontinued. The Supra was discontinued in 1997 and the RX-7 in 1995. But not before this beautiful example was released to the market. The final generation of the RX-7 is still considered one of the best sports cars of all time (via Cars.com).

Maza RX-7
Photo Credit: Hemmings

The rotary-powered engine was only just the tip of the iceberg for this car. The handling and performance were great as well and made Mazda a household name. The RX-7 was downright beautiful and performed better than just about every other sports car in its price range.

Photo Credit: Motor1

Acura Integra Type R

Fast, economical, and fun were three things that came to mind when you thought of the Integra Type R. ThisAcura model became the stuff of legends in the 1990s. The Type R was rare and is considered one of the best pure sports cars of all time. With the bright yellow paint job and the high-revving engine, this car became an iconic part of the 1990s (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

Between the Honda Civic SI and the Integra Type R, there’s no doubt that Honda was having fun toward the end of the decade. Japanese compact enthusiasts loved these cars because they were reliable but also a blast to drive.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Ferrari 550 Maranello

This car is iconic for a few reasons, the first of which being that it was the last front-wheel-drive V12 Ferrari model ever built. But aside from that little factoid, there is also the fact that the 550 Maranello was downright beautiful. This is the quintessential Ferrari sports car when you think about what to expect in one (via DuPont).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The fact that it was the front-wheel drive was only a bonus because the rest of the build is amazing as well. Ferrari never cuts corners on quality, and even today the 550 Maranello is a car that satisfies the appetite when it comes to performance.

BMW 850CSi
Photo Credit: Automobile

BMW 850CSi

The big and bold BMW sports car, who could forget it? The 850CSi was the stuff of legends in the 1990s and it made a whole new generation fall in love with Beamers. The beautiful styling of the car was well ahead of its time and the performance under the hood was exceptional. The 850CSi gets a bad rap because of the expensive repair costs associated with it (via Hot Cars).

BMW 850 CI
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But if you’re prepared to spend the money required to keep this thing on the road, it’s one of the best driving cars that was ever built. The sheer quality that goes into each and every inch of the 850CSi was what made it great.

Jaguar XJ220 - Car
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Jaguar XJ220

People don’t generally associate the Jaguar brand with high performance or beauty, and that’s sad because the XJ220 was out of this world. The XJ220 is probably the only Jaguar supercar that you’ll ever see. It was a car that was so exclusive it was owned by the likes of Elton John and other well-known celebrities (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The low-slung styling didn’t look like anything else Jaguar had on the market. But when you got behind the wheel of the XJ220, you knew you were driving something special. The beautiful car was the image of perfection when it comes to a supercar.

Toyota MR2
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Toyota MR2

Many in the automotive world considered the SW20 MR2 the best version of the MR2. This is a car that many people call a poor man’s Ferrari, and when you look at the styling it’s easy to see why. The car does resemble a Ferrari and the mid-engined performance left a smile on drivers’ faces in the 1990s (via Motor Trend).

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Toyota intended for this generation of the MR2 to resemble a Ferrari, and you can see it in the design of the car. But the MR2 was more than just a cheap Ferrari knock-off, this car performed well and offered serious sports car value.

Photo Credit: Which Car

Subaru Impreza 22B

For the most part, no one remembers the Subaru lineup of the 1990s, but if you were a kid in the 1990s, you remember the Impreza 22B. This was the car in almost every racing game around. But the 22B was also an impressive car in real life and won many championships in the rally racing circuit (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Which Car

What made the car exceptionally fast was the engineering under its hood. Coupled with the lightweight design and bulletproof build quality the Impreza 22B was an iconic sports car, and surprisingly this car is still very popular.

Daily Wallpaper: Porsche 911 GT2 | I Like To Waste My Time
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Porsche 911 GT2

Before you see this car and think that you’re just going to head over to Bring a Trailer and bid on one, the 911 GT2 was a very rare car. Only one has sold in the last couple of years and it went for a staggering $2.4 Million. So what made the GT2 such a great rendition of the 911? Well, take a look at the styling and you will know right away.

Porsche 911 Carrera
Photo Credit: Porsche

This was a purist’s road car in every sense of the word, and if you love Porsches then you loved this car. The wide body kit was nothing something that Porsche does often, and the engineering was just as great, which made the 911 GT2 a serious performance car.

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Lamborghini Diablo

Like Ferrari, Lamborghini was also adapting to the new decade of the 1990s. The Diablo was the car that became the face of the company in this decade. The styling was signature Lambo and it added that distinct 1990s style to it. The Diablo was also one of the fastest production cars on the road around this time as well (via Lambo Cars).

Lamborghini - Car
Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Diablo was such an iconic car that people still talk about it today. The beautiful styling and the almost bulletproof performance made it stand out from the crowd. Very few Lamborghini models will ever surpass the popularity of the Diablo.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Acura NSX

No one in the performance world ever thought Honda would build a supercar, but they were proved wrong with the NSX. Honda did indeed build a supercar and it was one of the best on the road. The performance of the NSX was unlike anything else that ever came out of Honda (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The style looked like a Ferrari and you knew right away that this was a supercar. The NSX got rave reviews from the automotive press, and it became one of the most iconic sports cars of the 1990s.

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Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

There wasn’t much about the C4 Corvette that people like to remember, but the ZR-1 was one of those fond memories. The ZR-1 was designed to be a street-legal race car, and it was. The performance of the ZR-1 was well above the standard model. The styling of the ZR-1 was also vastly improved to appeal to new buyers as well (via Motor Trend).

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With the legendary LT5 engine and a cheap price tag, the ZR-1 is still one of the best deals in the automotive world. If you’ve never considered the C4 to be an iconic sports car you might want to give the ZR-1 a try.

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Nissan 300ZX

Automotive fans lost one icon after the other in the 1990s, and we did because the 300ZX was the third sports car to get the axe. The 300ZX in the 1990s was one of the most well-appointed and fun-to-drive sports cars on the road. There was even a convertible version that’s considered one of the rarest sports cars of all time (via Hot Cars).

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The 300ZX did everything right and it truly was the pinnacle of Nissan engineering at the time. The unique styling of the 300ZX and the bulletproof engine was the height of Nissan engineering, even if the company was on the verge of collapse during this time.

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Toyota Supra (Mk IV)

The Supra (Mk IV) was probably one of the biggest victims of the 1990s. Consumers just weren’t interested in sports cars anymore. The Supra wasn’t a bad car by any means, it was one of the best sports cars in the world. But consumers were more interested in SUVs at this time and the Supra wasn’t selling (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Super Cars Net

The Supra Mk IV was discontinued in 1997, but the car has since become one of the most expensive classics in the world. The styling and performance of this generation of the Supra were almost unmatched by anything else on the road.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Ford Mustang

The Mustang of the 1990s was not the fastest nor was it the most advanced sports car on the road. But it was the quintessential 1990s Ford and it defined the brand during this era. The styling of the Mustang was modern and the performance was better than ever. The Mustang truly was the best mixture of everything for the price (via Motor Trend).

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Ford slowly added to the winning formula and the Mustang saw minimal changes during this era. But sometimes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and the Mustang didn’t need to be fixed. The 1990s also saw the return of the SVT Cobra Mustang.

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Dodge Viper

The Viper was one of the most iconic sports cars that were ever built. The first generation of cars had no roof, no A/C, and no windows, and it was a pure sports car. But it became a surprise hit for Dodge and the brand kept the Viper in production for decades to come (via Car & Driver).

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But the V10 engine that was under the hood was considered one of the best engines that Dodge ever built. The Viper didn’t compete with cars like the Corvette, instead, it was in a league of its own and Chrysler liked it like that.

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Mazda MX-5 Miata

Another surprise hit in the 1990s was the MX-5 Miata, a car that sold like hotcakes. What made the Miata so popular? Well, the cheap price tag and excellent performance are the two things that changed the game. The styling of the car was also well ahead of its time, and it was one of the first cars that moved away from boxy styling (via Cars).

Photo Credit: Net Car Show

There were a few special editions of the MX-5 as well, and Mazda did a whole redesign on the car for the 1998 model year. Few cars have experienced the smash success that the MX-5 Miata did in a short period.

Photo Credit: Automobile Mag

Ferrari F355

We think it’s safe to say that Ferrari was batting a thousand in the 1990s, and the F355 is more evidence of that. Most consider the F355 the best pure Ferrari around. The performance was well above the competition and the styling was nice and modern. The 3.5 Liter V8 was a great engine that proved reliable (via Ferrari).

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To mix things up and entice even the most exclusive shoppers Ferrari also offered a Spyder version. Getting the Spyder in red makes for one of the most beautiful cars on the road. There aren’t a lot of cars from the 1990s that can compete with the F355 Spyder.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Nissan Skyline GT-R

The Skyline GT-R was not a car that we got here in America, but a car that was popular around the world. From the outside looking in the GT-R was not the most impressive car, but it was the performance that saved the day. The Skyline GT-R was one of the best-performing sports cars on the road at the time (via JDM Export).

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

That performance was so impressive that the car still puts up great numbers today. The Skyline was everything that the 300ZX could have been. The car was well-built and it featured that signature Nissan engineering that people love.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

McLaren F1

McLaren was a big thing in the 1990s as anyone unmatched their sports cars else. The F1 was for a long time considered the fastest car in the world. Take one look at this thing and you’ll see why it still commands millions of dollars. The F1 was essentially a race car that was put into a production body (via McLaren).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

There is nothing skimpy or fake about the F1, this car is all business. If you want to drive the fastest car in the world that would be the F1. Everything about this car was meticulously put together so that it would impress even the biggest car snob.

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

Lincoln Navigator

This was the SUV that started the luxury SUV boom that we have today. The Navigator was the very first full-size SUV that was decked out in leather and chrome. Sure, Jeep did it before with the Grand Wagoneer but no one seemed to do it as well as Lincoln. Many have said that the Navigator was the vehicle that saved Lincoln (via Cars).

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

The brand was on the verge of obscurity, and young shoppers weren’t buying Lincolns anymore. But it was the Navigator that flew off the lots. They just couldn’t keep these things on the dealership lots because they were selling like hotcakes.

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Dodge Ram SS/T

Dodge wasn’t known for selling sports trucks, but they did offer one in the 1990s. There is a good chance that you saw a Ram with the SS/T badging and stripes in the 1990s. And yes this was a factory package available. The SS/T wasn’t going to win any races like an F-150 Lightning, but it was a comfortable two-door truck (via Auto Trader).

Photo Credit: Mecum

It also showed Chrysler was willing to listen to its customers. The SS/T proved to be a great-selling pickup truck for the Dodge brand. Although the SS/T model didn’t continue on into the next generation, it was quite popular.

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Toyota RAV4

We wouldn’t have compact SUVs without the Toyota RAV4; it wasn’t the first, but it was the first that did it right. The RAV4 was car based but it offered the great options that you’d expect out of a Toyota SUV. The fuel efficiency and relative durability made the SUV quite popular. Consumers who didn’t want a 4Runner now had a more practical option (via KBB).

Photo Credit: Toyota

Early RAV4 models even came with a removable top and a two-door version. The RAV4 was also one of the first SUVs to experiment with an EV setup. And the RAV4 EV was leased to consumers in very small quantities.

Photo Credit: GM

Oldsmobile Aurora

The Aurora was the car supposed to save Oldsmobile, and it was a sports car. Cramming a V8 engine under the hood of a small car seemed to be what GM did best during this era. The problem with Aurora was that it didn’t seem to catch on with consumers. The styling was too extreme and the price tag was high (via Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

That’s not to say the Aurora wasn’t a great car, because it was. But it just wasn’t the sports sedan that people were looking for. There were far better sports sedans on the market and the Aurora just didn’t cut the mustard.

Photo Credit: GM

Chevrolet Impala SS

In the early 1990s, the Impala name returned, and although it was based on the Caprice this car became iconic. The Impala SS was a slick sports sedan that did everything right. It was comfortable to drive and had more than enough power thanks to the Corvette LT1 engine under the hood (via Muscle Car Club).

Photo Credit: GM

Anyone who dreamed about owning a sports car in the 1990s thought about the Impala SS at least once in their life. The car was not only iconic but also one of the best cars that GM built during this period.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Ford Bronco

The 1990s Bronco wasn’t a special car by any stretch of the imagination until it became famous for a certain high-speed chase. The white Bronco that OJ Simpson rode in during the infamous slow-speed police chase made this a famous car. It defined the Bronco brand and most of the 1990s (via Cars).

Photo Credit: Ford

There is no more iconic car from the 1990s than the white Ford Bronco and it made the SUV a collector’s item. But the Bronco wasn’t just for looks, as this was one of the last dedicated off-road SUVs sold on the market.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Yukon GT

Another iconic SUV from the 1990s is the Yukon GT, which was also sold as the Tahoe Sport. This was a big and burly two-door SUV like the Bronco, and although the top was not removable the Yukon GT was just as versatile. The Yukon GT had everything the 454 SS pickup truck offered but in a more comfortable package (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

With the Yukon, you got a backseat and a load of cargo space, which is what most rational adults need in their vehicles. By the end of the 1990s these two-door SUV models were all but gone from the market, but the Yukon GT has managed to remain one of the most popular.

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