A Decade of Automotive Gems
The 1990s, often seen as an automotive dark age, was actually a period that birthed a variety of unique and intriguing vehicles. From niche models to evolutionary dead ends, the decade was studded with gems that have now become bona fide collectibles. Some of these vehicles are on the verge of slipping into complete unaffordability, while others remain great deals, all worthy of a collector’s interest.
The Z32-generation Z sports car was a technological marvel that recaptured the model’s magic after the bloated prior model. The sleek and aerodynamic look, coupled with the VG30DE twin-turbo, intercooled V-6, made it a force to be reckoned with. The car’s handling was enhanced by Nissan’s HICAS active rear steering, earning it the 1990 Import Car of the Year award. Today, the surviving models command ever-increasing prices, with an excellent 300ZX turbo still being a $40,000 car as of this writing.
Once ubiquitous, the iconic GMT400-platform vehicles, including the C/K pickups, Suburban, and the Tahoe/Yukon two-doors, have become difficult to find in good condition. These vehicles, particularly the slick two-doors, are now seen as upright, honest, and handsome. They are reasonably priced even after reaching their current peak values, and they’re very usable, with available 4WD and enough power to tow toys or tackle a weather-wracked road. Well-kept examples can range between $20,000 and $40,000.
The 964-generation Porsche 911, once overlooked, is now coming into its own. Despite a short model run, there are many variants, including the highly desirable Turbos, available all-wheel drive, and even a Tiptronic for those who would prefer one. Prices have jumped in the last few years, with excellent examples of even the Carrera 2 into six figures, while the rarest variants, like the Carrera RS, break the million-dollar barrier.
The C5 Corvette was a radical innovation when new. Its innovative chassis, involving hydroformed frame rails and lightweight laminated balsa floor panels, and rear transaxle were the stuff of engineers’ fever dreams. The LS1 V-8 was a marvel, lightweight and power-dense, and it birthed the entire LS engine family and phenomenon. Ratty, modified C5s are ridiculously cheap, but ultra-clean low-mile ones are in the $30,000s after years of rock-bottom depreciation.
The Taurus SHO was a coup for Ford, and yet for a couple of decades, it was just an old (if interesting) sedan, with even clean ones selling for well under $10,000. Now, the SHO formula represents the antithesis of what anyone would actually buy today. The remaining un-crumpled, clean ones are suddenly rare and highly desirable but prices have yet to catch up; $20,000 is likely to get you one of the world’s nicest.
The A80 Supra was never an inexpensive vehicle. Born out of the Japanese Bubble Era economy, it was a tech marvel that paired a stupendously complicated sequential twin-turbo system with a massively overbuilt 2JZ inline-six. The availability of JDM imports has muddied the waters a bit, but it is the mintiest U.S.-market Turbo models that command the biggest premium—to the tune of $175,000 and up.
The Toyota Chaser/Mark II is one you should be thinking about before everybody else does. The Chaser, in stock form, is the ultimate sleeper, looking a bit like a weirdly proportioned Camry. Nevertheless, underneath the nondescript sheetmetal is a rear-drive-based, inline-six-powered chassis that easily accepts subtle or extreme modifications. Prices trail rear-drive Skylines of similar vintage, but maybe not for long; importers offer relatively clean stock models for less than—sometimes much less than—$15,000.
The third-generation Jimny appeared in 1998, looking very much like an updated, modernized version of its predecessor—but it was never sold in America. And yet a lot of what everyone loved about the Samurai remains, including a rugged ladder frame, solid axles front and rear, and a part-time four-wheel-drive system with a legit low range.
The 1990s, often overlooked in the automotive world, was a decade that produced a variety of unique and intriguing vehicles. From the Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo to the Chevrolet Corvette C5, these cars have now become bona fide collectibles. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a budding enthusiast, the 1990s offer a treasure trove of collectible cars that are sure to pique your interest.
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1. What makes a car from the 1990s collectible?
A car from the 1990s becomes collectible due to a variety of factors such as its rarity, condition, historical significance, and the nostalgia it evokes. Cars that were technological marvels of their time or represented a significant shift in design or performance often become collectible.
2. Are cars from the 1990s a good investment?
While it’s difficult to predict with certainty, many cars from the 1990s have seen their value increase over time, making them potentially good investments. However, it is important to remember that car values can fluctuate based on a variety of factors.