10 Classic ’90s Rides You Should Buy Right Now
Haven’t you always wanted a Lotus?
The 1990s brought us some cool cars, some of which are rocketing out of sight in value. So if you were late to the party buying an air-cooled Porsche 911 993 or a Toyota Supra, no worries. There are still some sweet rides available for reasonable money.
Here are ten mean machines that you can buy and drive today and maybe sell for more later. We’re not promising 911 bubble price gains, but each of these beauties should be headed up in value. And even if they aren’t, you can still enjoy these now-classic rides.
To remind you why each of these cars will be great today, we’ve included MotorWeek video reviews from back in the day, which describe why they were great then.
1. 1989-’92 Lotus Elan
In 1989, Lotus decided to revive the name of the Elan, the tiny roadster that won hearts and inspired the 1989 launch of the Mazda MX-5 Miata. But the new Lotus version was no longer a minimalist roadster. Instead, they built a stylish, 130-horsepower front-drive convertible built more for cruising than slicing up the local mountain pass.
Although the Elan listed for $33,000, today one in good condition is worth about $14,800, according to the classic car experts at Hagerty Insurance.
2. 1989-present Mazda MX-5 Miata
Meanwhile, in Japan (with some help from California), Mazda devised its own Elan tribute, the MX-5 Miata. Mazda’s version is true to the minimalist Lotus original, starting with a 120-horsepower 1.6-liter engine that grew to 1.8 liters and 133 horsepower over time.
An updated car debuted in 1998 with fixed headlights in place of the original pop-up units, making the ’98-newer Miatas look a little less dated. They all drive similarly, so your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to locate the best value nearby on Craiglist.
Hagerty says a good condition ’97 Miata will run about $4,600.
3. 1990-’94 Volkswagen Corrado
Volkswagen had its own classic magic to capture for the ’90s. The original Scirocco was a sleek, lightweight coupe and VW aimed to recapture its spirit with the Corrado. The car started with a 158-horsepower supercharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder, but soon offered a 178-horsepower narrow-angle V6, which was both stronger and more reliable.
Because the Corrado cost, at $25,000, double the price of a Golf in 1994, VW didn’t sell many of them. But today a good one is only $6,800, and the Corrado continues to look modern two decades later.
4. 1990-’96 Nissan 300ZX
The 1990 Nissan 300ZX launched with the splash of a one-run Super Bowl commercial showing the car outrunning a sport bike, race car and fighter plane, and in twin-turbocharged form, the 300-horsepower coupe seemed to have the speed to deliver on that promise.
Certainly, the second-generation 300ZX looked the part, with voluptuous lines and fixed headlights behind clear lenses.
Hagerty says the base, non-turbocharged 222-horsepower versions of the car cost only $7,400 in good condition, so the time is right to buy one.
5. 1992-’95 Porsche 968
Prices on these face-lifted 944s ignited last year, according to Hagerty, rocketing from $12,000 to $18,000 for a good-condition 968 in just the last 12 months, so if you’re interested in the ultimate front-engine four-cylinder Porsche, now’s the time.
The 968 bears a strong resemblance to its 944 and 924 predecessors, but it was built in Porsche’s own Zuffenhausen factory rather than contracted out to Audi’s Neckarsulm plant, as the earlier cars had been. And Porsche stated that the 968 was 80 percent new from those cars.
The 236-horsepower 3.0-liter four-cylinder was surely one of the biggest fours of modern times, but with the transaxle mounted in the rear, the 968 maintained 50/50 weight distribution for agility.
6. 1990-’95 Toyota MR2
The wedgy original 1984 Toyota MR2 was a fun plaything, but was so toylike in its appearance that it is difficult to take seriously as a collector car. But the second-generation car of 1990 possesses more mature lines that make it a better attempt at a budget supercar, thanks to the efforts of chief designer Kunihiro Uchida (who was also credited with the original Lexus LS400).
After all, the MR-2 is a mid-engine two-seater, just like the cars from famous Italian houses, but at a more attainable price. Power from a naturally aspirated 163-horsepower 2.2-liter inline four-cylinder or a turbocharged 218-horsepower 2.0-liter version of the engine.
Good examples should be available for less than $10,000.
7. 1976-’96 Jaguar XJ-S
Here’s your chance to own a real V12 classic. The 1976-’96 Jaguar XJ-S is the epitome of traditional English luxury, with real wood panels, sumptuous leather seats and a serene 285-horsepower 5.3-liter V12 engine.
Jag traditionalists disdain the XK-S because it isn’t an E-Type, the car it replaced in the lineup. But buy the XJ-S for the grand tourer it is, and you won’t be disappointed, so long as you can stay ahead of the car’s famously finicky maintenance demands.
Hagerty values a good 1990 XJ-S coupe at $8,900.
8. 1992-’97 Subaru SVX
Yeah, Subaru normally means WRX, bro. But back in the day, Subaru went for a more traditional sporty car, with a slippery coupe penned by legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Instead of the familiar flat four-cylinder, the SVX had a Porsche-like flat six, producing 230 horsepower. The SVX was available in either front-drive or all-wheel drive configuration.
And check out the tiny window-within-a-window design for the side windows: it is almost exactly like the ones on McLaren’s new Senna hyper-performance car!
Even the fully loaded LS-L AWD version of the SVX should only run about $4,100, according to Hagerty, so the SVX presents an easy way to stand out from the mainstream.
9. 1999-2002 BMW M-Coupe
BMW’s uniquely styled hardtop version of the Z3 roadster was never a popular seller when it was new. But in addition to providing unusual style, the fixed roof also reinforced the roadster’s flexy frame, dramatically improving ride and handling in comparison to the Z3.
The smooth-revving 240-horsepower 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine was a joy to drive and it was backed by an equally slick six-speed manual shifter. When BMW called itself “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” cars like the M-Coupe are what they meant.
Unfortunately, this is not a secret, and so a good condition M-Coupe costs $23,600. That means they are hardly bargains today, but it also shows that their value is already headed upward.
10. 1999-2004 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning
The coolest American car of the ’90s might have been a truck. Yes, we remember the cool Impala SS and the mighty Corvette ZR1. But the Ford F-150 SVT Lightning was an amazing achievement.
Ford’s Special Vehicle Group improbably found a way to make a pickup truck with a leaf-spring solid rear axle handle shockingly well. And the limited slip rear differential put down the power of the 360-horsepower supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine to the pavement, even with the handicap of the empty cargo bed above the rear wheels that left most of the truck’s weight up front.
Unfortunately, Hagerty doesn’t provide a value for these beasts, but they are offered for sale on the Hemmings Motor News site for prices between $11,000 and $19,000.