There are certain things that define a period in time and, alongside fashion, cars are one of the big ones.
In this series, we’re looking at the cars that really stood out from around the world from the 1950s to the 1990s. Alas, we are at the end of our series – the 1990s.
A time of social change, of great technological advancements and of Cool Britannia, the 1990s is home to some cars that are rapidly becoming modern classics.
And the so-called Playstation generation began to access their future cars virtually as well. If you’re in the market for a 1990s classic, check out our for sale section.
We could have chosen the Escort Cosworth, but that would have been too obvious. Because the Mondeo was more than a car – it gave birth to a 1990s stereotype.
Not many cars can lay claim to being associated with a type of person, even if it was something of an unwanted tag. The first generation Mondo went on sale in 1993 and a few years later, thanks to Tony Blair, who was at that time trying to be the next Prime Minister, ‘Mondeo Man’ was born.
Blair used the moniker to describe someone who was getting somewhere in life, basically. Back to the car itself; it was the replacement for the Sierra and came in saloon, hatch and estate trims and it was welcomed as something of a revelation.
It was soon a best-seller in the UK, probably helped by its part in the British Touring Car Championship’s heyday of the mid-1990s, when all the top manufacturers battled it out on the track at the weekends before doing the same in the showrooms during the week.
Face-lifted in 1996, the first-gen car was replaced in 2000 and it lives to this day. If you’re looking for a future classic this could be the car for you, with values as low as a couple of hundred quid and even the hot ST220 available for barely £1,000.
To anyone who played a certain arcade rallying game in the 1990s, the Lancia Delta, specifically the Integrale version, is a bit of a legend.
The Delta was a small family car produced by the Italian firm, with the first generation that we’re looking at here actually beginning life in 1979 and lasting through to 1994.
But it’s arguable that it came to the world’s attention in those last few years, thanks to success in the World Rally Championship. It dominated in the late 1980s and early 1990s – with homologation rules meaning that road-going versions had to be produced, with nearly 45,000 hitting the road.
The Integrale was a four-wheel-drive hot hatch and was a desirable then than it is now. The rally version won 46 events, taking it to the constructors’ title six times in a row.
Today, bog-standard Deltas can be had for a couple of thousand, but the Integrale will cost you north of £30,000 in many cases.
Another important one, this, in that it was car that pretty much saved Porsche in the late 1990s. It started off a commercial turnaround and probably stopped the German marque from being taken over.
Bosses started work at the end of 1991, facing big financial problems, on a new entry-level car. Production of the Boxster began in 1996 and it did the business, opening up Porsche to a new generation of buyers.
It was the cheapest model in the range, despite sharing much with its bigger, more expensive, brother, the 996. Not ones to miss a trick, Porsche even managed to bag the car its own Playstation game, no doubt securing a few future buyers in the process.
The Boxster has held its value well, with around £4,000 to £6,000 needed for starters.
OK, so we risk the wrath of fans of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo – the Impreza’s arch rival – here, but to the average person the Impreza is probably more instantly recognisable.
Probably. Anyway, alongside the Mitsi, a battle that began in the World Rally Championship later took to the showrooms and the streets.
The Impreza was unveiled in late 1992 in Japan, its home country, and could be had with either two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive. It’s that second one that was to cement its status as a legend of the 1990s.
At the time Subarus were already well-used in rallying, with the Impreza’s predecessor, the Legacy, enjoying success. But it was Colin McRae’s championship win in 1995 that would cement the car in British minds.
Again, it was the draw of having a rally car for the road, with Subaru producing WRX versions from 1992. They had all-wheel-drive, stiffer suspension and, crucially, turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engines.
That, of course, and a mean looking body kit. The STI versions were even more closely aligned to the cars that the world’s top rally drivers were piloting.
Prices today start at about £5,000 and can be much, much more.
The MX5 was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1989 and it was the beginning of a legendary sports car. Priced at just US$14,000, it went on sale a few months later, coming to the UK in 1990.
It harked back to a simpler time – a pure two-seat roadster that offered drivers great handling and lots of fun behind the wheel. Thanks to some excellent reviews, demand outstripped production and the car was an immediate success.
The second generation came along in 1997 and arguably later versions weren’t so desirable, but Mazda took the MX5 back to its roots and rediscovered the ethos of the original with the current version.
It’s still affordable today, with values kicking off at sub-£3,000.