Classic Cars – Cars of 90s and early 00s

It is with no surprise that cars of the 1990s and early 2000s have become the next big collecting field for everyday automotive fanatics. While graceful bullnoses of the 1920s are still perfect for those weekend picnics and 1950s and 60s curvy classic cars still turn heads in the car-park, it is fair to say that their intrinsic appeal has fast become associated more with trophy investments than daily run-arounds. Indeed, anyone who has ever owned such vehicles will know first-hand that winter chill of ill-fitting vinyl soft-tops, barely visible headlamps, soft brakes and that feeling of dread as you gun the engine like mad just to join the motorway.

As prices for older vintage and veteran cars have continued to steadily climb over the last decade it is hardly surprising that most spend more time locked away in garages than out on the open road. This in turn has created a market for affordable practical classics which can still be used as the daily run-around, are enjoyable to drive and don’t require a PHD to repair. It is for these reasons that cars from the 1990s and early 2000s have risen in popularity as many incorporate the safety features we rely on today such as ABS and airbags, but usually are not weighed down by excessive computerised management systems which require some pretty expensive kit to resolve. Furthermore, as many have now passed (or are getting close to) the 25-year-old mark they also qualify for cheaper classic motor insurance as well. Since models do differ across countries the majority of cars mentioned here were aimed at the UK market.

In the world of practical classics there has always been plenty of choice to suit anyone’s interests. These can range from very basic small engine hatchbacks which hold nostalgic memories for many as their first set of wheels, nippy little sports coupes, to far more powerful saloons which we all wish our dad’s had driven when we were younger.

 

Retro Hatchbacks

At the lower end of the financial scale sit a myriad of three door 1-1.5 litre hatchbacks which filled the market back in the 1990s and whose long-term saving grace was their tin-can simplicity. While the lack of fancy accessories such as automatic wing-mirrors or heated seats may give them rather an austere feel, the first thing most people did at the time was to upgrade the stereo system so at least you’ll probably have ample bass as you travel around. As cars aimed primarily at a younger audience these cars shunned the monotone boxy feel of the 1980s in favour of more appealing curves and metallic paints. This was also an era of rapidly rising petrol prices so a good thing about these small engine hatchbacks is their relative fuel economy. To take three popular sellers at the time the Vauxhall Corsa, Nissan Micra and VW Golf they all offered around 25-35mpg depending on the exact model. While that may sound a bit low by today’s standards, contrast it to 13mpg for a Range Rover of the same period and at least you won’t be checking your bank balance quite as often.  There are of course enough of these little cars still around to find parts cheaply, but interestingly according to DVLA records of the million or so Ford Fiesta’s which were sold in the 1990s (and as such was Britain’s most popular seller) around 80% have now been scrapped or Sorn. Therefore, while there is still ample supply at the moment even these are slowly getting scarcer.

 

End of the Century Sports Cars

The next group in the financial pecking order are the two-seater sports cars. While the early 1990s did not produce many new innovative designs in this field, what they did do was to further refine and update those that were already popular. Just as we saw with the hatchbacks, boxy lines were softened, ugly black bumpers became wrap-around and body coloured, roll-bars and heated seats became more common, soft-tops switched from manual to automatic and the power/torque ratio was forever being refined to create more efficient and responsive drives.

Therefore the affordable sports coupes of the time were often the final and most refined versions of the older classic cars we love. A good example of this was the Alfa Romeo Spider Series 4 which came out in 1990-93. Although this staunch classic had first been released decades before, the series 4 was the last off the production line. With coloured bumpers and an electronic fuel injection system amongst other changes, it is arguably the best version of this classic car to buy. Similarly, the Porsche 911 released between 1990-94 (also known as the 964 by collectors) was the last of this 80s classic to be produced and since relatively few were actually sold, has been going up in value quickly.

Other notable sports coupes of the 90s were the highly popular Mazda MX5, Ford Puma, Toyota MR2 and BMW Z3. On styling alone the BWM and Mazda have proved the most enduring and the second generation MX5 builds from 1997-2006 were again a notable improvement on quality and comfort.  By the late 90s things were finally moving up a notch. In 1996 Mercedes brought out their extremely popular SLK roadster whose design laid clear homage to its Germanic roots, but gave a level of refinement few other two seaters couldn’t compete with. Then in 1998 Audi released their ‘TT’ 2-door roadster which on shape alone blew all competition out of the water and became an instant cult classic. This remains one of the few sports cars which looks as good either in hard or open top and of course is still in production today. That said, when it comes to a design classic, nothing beats an original.

 

Powerful Practicality

The final grouping is not really a group at all but in truth ‘everything else’. This is because in the world of practical and affordable turn-of-the-century classics there are still lots of cars around and plenty of options to choose from. In truth the pecking order for these really depends on your needs and personal preferences, but most are more spacious practical cars for everyday family. These include – but are in no way limited to – vehicles including the BMW 7 series with its big v12 engine, BMW M3 for its styling, the Volvo 850 for its retro cavernous charm, the Saab 900 Turbo for its vintage curve appeal, Mercedes S500 for its air of gentrification, or even the Land Rover Discovery or Toyota Land Cruisers for their ‘Global Nomad’ identities. As we say since practical classics are primarily for using and secondarily for investment, not everyone is going to agree on what was the perfect 1990s saloon.

In essence driving a classic car is like taking off your shoes and just walking in your socks – you will feel a lot more of the ground underneath you. And that’s inherently a good think. With power assisted steering and so many computer managed systems today your drive has arguably become more sterile and in turn made you less responsive than in the past. Of course, no-one is saying that you need to drive a 1920s jalopy to reconnect to the road when a sleek 1990s fast-back will do the job just as well!

 

Selling Classic Cars

At PM Antiques we strive to find prestigious classic cars to add to our stocklist. From barn finds to concours winners, single vehicles to whole estates, we offer a courteous professional service and a fast decision. For more information please visit our Classic Cars page.