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Top 20 ’90s Dream Cars Available For A Bargain

Vukasin HerbezJuly 10, 2019

If you grew up in the ’90s, you probably remember looking over those car magazines for those fantastic new sports and high-end cars. The ’90s were a breakthrough decade when design met technology. The cars had modern lines and powertrains yet still retained their analog feel and balanced driving dynamics. However, to own any of those models you needed a lot of money which is something most car enthusiasts don’t have.

Fast forward 25 years and through the magic of depreciation, all those fantastic machines are within the reach of the average car fan. You can fulfill your ’90s car dreams for the price of a compact SUV, so if you want one, you should do it. However, there is a catch and that is maintenance. Almost all the cars on this list are tough and/or expensive to maintain, which is something you have to consider. But, that shouldn’t that put you off, so here are 20 of the best ’90s dream cars you can buy at bargain prices.

  1. BMW 8-Series

The BMW 8-Series wasn’t a replacement for the aging 6 Series coupe. Instead, it was a new model BMW conceived to be the best Gran Turismo coupe in the world. The design and platform were different as well as the engines. The 8 Series featured V8 and the advanced V12 engine.

BMW filled the car with advanced technical solutions and electronic systems. They added tof the line hardware, luxury details, and acres of the finest leather. The big coupe lasted on the market until 1999. And while it wasn’t a big commercial success for the company, it was one of the finest cars BMW ever produced and a true future classic.

  1. Ford Mustang SVT Cobra

Introduced in 1994 as a top of the line version of the new, fourth-generation Mustang, the SVT Cobra featured a 5.0-liter V8 with 240 HP ratings. However, everybody agrees the real output was probably much higher. And its 0 to 60 mph time of 5.6 seconds was the proof.

The Cobra was much better equipped than the regular Mustang GT. Also, it featured a new front bumper and numerous upgrades. Although those muscle cars from the ’90s don’t get much respect these days, this model is destined to be a collector car. It is a fast, competent and an attractive car you can get at a bargain these days.

  1. GMC Syclone

No one knows who came up with the idea to take a plebian Chevrolet S10 compact truck and turn it into a Ferrari-killer. GM took an ordinary S10 bodyshell and installed a 4.3-liter V6 with a turbocharger good for 280 HP. They installed a special four-speed automatic they sourced from a Corvette as well as 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. And that made it faster than those contemporary Ferraris. The key was it low weight, small dimensions and lots of torque coming from that turbocharged engine.

  1. Mazda RX-7

If you know a thing or two about Japanese sports cars, you know the RX-7 has a special place in the nomenclature of performance cars from the “Land of the Rising Sun.” The reason is the engine. In contrast to other cars on the market with conventional piston engines, the RX-7 has had a rotary Wankel engine since the beginning.

The third generation that debuted in 1992 and lasted until 2002 produced from 252 to 276 HP. Also, it delivered vivid performance numbers thanks to its small weight and perfect balance. And better yet, they are still affordable, but you should hurry up before the prices start to soar.

  1. Nissan Skyline R32

Everybody who played racing games in the last 20 years will know about the R32. This crazy powerful all-wheel-drive Japanese coupe was on top of many American enthusiasts’ wish lists for a quarter of a century. And now, it is finally eligible to import. They introduced this model in 1989, so that means it was legal since 2014. However, most die-hard fans waited until 2017 to import later and better versions with more power, less weight, and better performance numbers.

For those who want the facts, let’s just say this. The Skyline R32 was a two-door coupe with intelligent all-wheel drive and a 2.6-liter turbocharged engine pumping out 276 HP in stock with a lot of tuning potential. Unfortunately, all R32s are right-hand-drive models since they mostly produced them for the Japanese and Australian markets. However, for true JDM fans, this just adds to their appeal.

  1. BMW M5 E39

They built the BMW M5 between 1998 and 2003 and most people consider it to be one of the best performance sedans of all time. Also, it is the best M5 model and a prime example of German muscle cars. You are probably wondering what this model did to receive such high praise from car fans and the motoring press. BMW had a tradition of building high powered and extremely fast sedans since the mid-80s when they presented the first M5.

However, in late 1998, the E39 M5 amped the whole Autobahn cruiser/muscle sedan concept to a whole new level. The M Power department took the already competent E39 platform and re-engineered it into a pure sports car chassis with space for five people and their luggage. The heart of the car was a glorious S62 4.9-liter V8 engine producing 400 HP. And it sent all of its power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual, which was the only transmission choice.

  1. Lexus LS 400

The early ’90s LS400 was the first Lexus model and car and it made the company. Although it looked like a Mercedes S-Class, it had distinctive features and a V8 engine. With its updated equipment, they made it to last. But the LS 400 was expensive since it was a high-class automobile. However, the quality reputation and smooth running made it legendary.

So, if you are a fan of the Lexus and you have lusted over the LS 400 since it was brand new, now it is the time to buy one. They are reasonably affordable and most of them are in good condition. And better yet, you will not have a problem finding one that suits your needs.

  1. Chevrolet Corvette C4 ZR1

The Chevrolet engineers knew the C4 chassis had enormous potential. So, they always looked for ways to improve the power and performance. But finally, they got the green light from management to introduce the best Corvette model in years. They wanted to show the sports car world what the Corvette was capable of.

So, in 1990, they presented the mighty ZR-1 with 400 HP and performance numbers that could beat any Ferrari at the moment. Chevrolet named it the “King of the Hill,” and the Corvette ZR1 was exactly that. It was the king of all Corvettes in 1990 when they revealed the ZR1. And soon, it was obvious that Chevrolet had hit a home run.

Under the hood, there was the LT4, a Lotus-engineered V8 engine delivering 375 HP and later 400 HP. Also, it came with quad cam heads and 32 valves. The engine was an engineering marvel and performed exceptionally well. With a beefed-up suspension, gearbox and a pair of extra wide rear tires, the Corvette ZR1 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. And that is what made it one of the fastest cars of the era and a true modern classic today.

  1. Jeep Cherokee Limited 5.91

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 the 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.

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.

  1. Aston Martin DB7

During the ’70s and the ’80s, Aston Martin produced some wonderful machinery. But it just wasn’t enough for the company to stay afloat, so Ford took it over in 1988. So, after years of development, the DB7 saw the light of day in 1994. Thanks to the wonders of part sharing and mass production in favor of traditional coachbuilding, the DB7 was able to achieve much-needed profits for the company.

The new owners of the company dropped those aluminum bodies in favor of steel construction. Some parts came directly from Ford, and the car was even powered by a Jaguar inline six engine. The DB7 got its V12 power in 1999 with the introduction of the DB7 V12 Vantage.

The ultimate version of this car came with 425 HP and a truly sublime performance. But what was most important is that they sold the DB7 in over 7,000 examples. And that was more than all the previous DB cars together. Also, that means you can pick one up for a reasonable amount.

  1. Nissan 300 ZX Twin Turbo

One of the best cars in the long line of Z-named Nissan sports coupes was the 300 ZX between 1990 and 1996. Car enthusiasts respect this model since the 300 ZX is a proper sports coupe with the technology and performance to rival much more expensive, exclusive cars. The twin-turbo V6 engine pumped out 300 HP and the 300 ZX could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds, topping 150 mph.

The prices for this model are currently at around $10,000 for decent examples with a full-service history and no accidents. You can find them at lower prices, but it is possible that these will not be as good. Since ’90s Japanese cars are slowly getting more desirable, you should hurry since the prices of the Nissan 300 ZX could soon go up.

  1. Chevrolet Corvette C5

The fifth generation of Chevrolet’s sports car, the Corvette debuted in 1996 and stayed on the market until 2005. It sold in big numbers, becoming a popular choice for sports car fans all over the world. The layout of this car is incredible. You get a 350 HP 5.7-liter V8 in the front and a gearbox and rear suspension together in the transaxle system. And all that is what gives the C5 the perfect weight distribution for sharp handling.

But best of all, they topped it all off with a lightweight and aerodynamically efficient body. The C5 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just under five seconds, reaching 175 mph. Also, it is good to know that the maintenance costs are lower than on similar imports sports cars. So, if you are looking for a fast and inexpensive car, this is a perfect choice.

  1. Lotus Esprit

Lotus offered the Esprit since the early ’70s all the way up to the early 2000s. It was always a fantastic supercar despite the fact it has smaller engines than its competitors. But the last and best version was the V8 pumping out 350 HP. Also, it comes with a lightweight body that could outrun many competitors while still retaining that classic wedge look.

The 3.5-liter V8 isn’t particularly powerful compared to modern cars, but the light, aerodynamically efficient body makes the Lotus Esprit V8 a blast to drive. You can still get one at an affordable price even though the Esprit V8 is a bona fide supercar.

  1. Porsche 968 Clubsport

Porsche brought a new vision of sports car dynamics to the market in the early ’80s with the 944. And they constantly upgraded the original concept and performance. However, in the ’90s, Porsche decided to introduce an improved model they called the 968. But its ultimate track-day version they named the 968 Clubsport. The Clubsport is a two-seater model without any luxury items.

Also, they gave it a 238 HP four-cylinder engine, better brakes and a track-trimmed suspension. When Porsche released it, the car journalists recognized it as one of the best front-engine Porsches they ever built. But the customers weren’t that impressed. And that is why they produced the 968 Clubsport in limited numbers, so if you find one, buy it.

  1. Mercedes SL 500/600

When you think of the best car of the 1990s, there is one car that stands out. And that is the famous Mercedes SL, the R129 generation. The SL roadsters were always fantastic driving machines and ultimate Stuttgart classics. However, the R129 was a symbol of the decade and the automotive personification of success, power, speed and quality.

The mid-90s SL 600 with V12 engine had MSRP of over $120,000, which is around $200,000 at today’s rates. But today, those cars are significantly less, but not for long since more people are realizing how good the SL 600 is. If you want a lower price and maintenance costs, look for the V8-powered SL 500, which is almost as good to drive.

  1. BMW M3 E36

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. But from 1995 until the end of production, the bigger 3.2-liter with 321 HP was the choice. Unfortunately, in America, the E36 M3s produced only 240 HP. And that was due to the new emissions regulations, which crippled the otherwise powerful BMW engine.

Available as a sedan, coupe or a convertible, the E36 M3 was popular, introducing new standards in handling and performance. The 0 to 60 mph time was around six seconds. Also, thanks to a good chassis, sharp steering is guaranteed. And better yet, the driving dynamics are perfect. In fact, the E36 M3 is probably the most affordable M car you can buy.

  1. Dodge Viper R/T 10

This legendary sports muscle car debuted in 1992 and immediately became an American icon. It had a monster of a V10 engine in the front and a sleek and aggressive body style. And with its rear-wheel drive, there was not much to protect you from being killed by the sheer power and wild nature of this car.

Over three generations, Chrysler made over 100,000 of them. However, the basic layout was identical with a V10 in the front sending power to the rear wheels and a manual transmission in between. Until the end, this was the only transmission choice, which the purists highly appreciated. The Viper is expensive, but they are still affordable. Buy one now since they will just get more expensive in the future.

  1. Porsche Boxster 986

With over 20 years since Porsche introduced this roadster, it is safe to say the Boxster revolutionized the concept of the open-top fun car. In fact, it has stood the test of time as a future classic you can own today. The Boxster has a mid-mounted flat-six engine, perfect balance, two trunks and sublime handling. Since the base 2.5-liter delivers a healthy 200 HP, it makes even the most affordable Boxsters agile, fast and exciting to drive.

And that is especially if you pair it with a six-speed manual transmission. If you think the ’90s Porsche design is cool and want the perfect piece of German engineering with an open-air flavor, this is the roadster for you. So, for around $10,000, you can find good examples from the late ’90s.

  1. Porsche 911 996

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 go to regular water cooling, which is far more efficient.

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.

  1. Mitsubishi 3000 GT

The 3000 GT is another ’90s legend forgotten by mainstream sports car enthusiasts, which is quite a shame. With the pop up headlights, rear panorama glass and big spoiler, the 3000 GT screams early ’90s car design. But there is much more about this car than contemporary nostalgia since this is one serious driving machine.

Under the hood is a 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 with 300 HP sending power to all four wheels over an intelligent AWD system. However, maintenance could be expensive since the car is a true technological tour de force but it is well worth the money.

These are 20 of the best ’90s dream cars you can buy at bargain prices. But because they are older, maintenance is an issue. So, if you want to buy one of these cars, look for a vehicle with a great maintenance record.

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