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Appreciating 1990s classic cars – 20 of the best Nineties icons to watch

Appreciating 1990s classic cars – 20 of the best Nineties icons to watch Classic and Performance Car

Here are 20 up-and-coming modern classics from the 1990s. With values rising, you might not want to wait too long to buy one...

For many, the 1990s represents the start of the modern era. While many of the cars are still seen regularly on the roads today, it’s important to remember that these are now the up and coming classics, with the earliest already celebrating their 25th anniversary last year. Perhaps it’s because they’re all generally very usable, or the styling is still pretty modern, but some find the term ‘classic’ doesn’t quite sit appropriately with these modern icons. 
With increasing safety and emission regulations, cars of the 1990s had a much harder time raising the excitement stakes from the wild and high-boosted 1980s, but improving technology and an increasing grasp of turbocharging helped to level the playing field. 
As values of the iconic 1970s and 1980s classic cars are moving out of reach for many, they are looking to the next generation of up and coming classics. Our advice? Be quick! Most of these cars have already seen significant movement, and will most likely continue to see further price rises in the next few years.
Here are 20 of the most entertaining cars built in the 1990s: 

Renault Clio Williams

Renault Clio Williams

While 1980s hot hatches continue to climb in value, the choice of scintillating pocket rockets in the 1990s was somewhat slimmer. That’s why Clio Williams prices have been steadily rising, with the earliest limited edition Williams 1 worth upwards of £7500 today if in good condition. Later Williams 2 and 3 models are just as much fun, and can be picked up for a little less. Once a popular choice for cheap track day toys (with a few turned into rally cars), numbers of good condition cars have thinned out, making those survivors significantly more sought after. A 205 GTI for the 1990s? We’d say so!

Porsche 911 (996) 

Porsche 996

While the Porsche 993 might be the last air-cooled 911, prices are already out of reach for many. Clever money is currently on the 996 models. Some will always moan about those headlights, but it’s a small price to pay for a truly great driving Porsche. Concerns over the weak engines also kept values low for years, with many fearing the worst. In reality most have now been sorted, and the pre-emptive fix is a relatively cheap and well documented one. 
Basic Carrera models are among the sweetest 911s ever made, while the Turbo models are still savagely quick. After a relatively quick increase in prices over the last four years, they’re currently holding steady. While they might cost more than they once did, these great cars still offer the best value choice for a 911 buyer. Buy a nice example with the right spec and mileage, and enjoy depreciation free motoring.

> Read the Porsche 996 buying guide, and browse the cars for sale in the classifieds

Lotus Elise S1 

Lotus Elise

It was a classic the moment it was launched, but the series 1 Lotus Elise’s sharp rise in value is largely down to supply and demand, with many enthusiasts from overseas looking to get in on the action. Early original cars can still be picked up for around £8000, but the more interesting special editions (such as the 111S) and the very best examples of the more powerful versions are now pushing £20,000. 

Lamborghini Diablo


Lamborghini Diablo

Named after the devil (in Spanish, in homage to the bullfighting names of other Lamborghinis), the Diablo had a tough act to follow in the Countach. Maybe it’s not quite the icon, but it kept Sant’Agata heads high in the 1990s supercar battle, with a top speed above 200mph. Post-Audi company ownership saw dramatic improvements in build quality and civility. Avoiding the special edition models, such as the SV and SE30, prices start from around £150,000, rising to about £200,000 for the best. Some cars can still be found for just north of £100,000, if you’re happy with slightly patchy history or high miles. 

Honda NSX


Honda NSX

Honda’s real-world supercar made an absolute mockery of the established players when it was launched in 1990. Here was a mid-engined, high-revving exotic – even having its own dedicated factory built in Japan – that offered a thrilling drive with usability and reliability. 
While the NSX was never a huge seller, especially in the UK, it has become increasingly desirable driving up prices to more than £60,000 for prime examples, with the later mk2 models commanding a fair amount more than that. Original UK cars rarely appear on the open market however, so getting an import is the much easier route. A lot of the time, these tend to be the less desirable models, generally in automatic form, meaning these cars can still be picked up for less than £30k. Values are expected to continue rising.

Alfa Romeo GTV 3.0 V6 

Alfa Romeo GTV

Great engine, fantastic chassis and gorgeous looks, it’s no surprise that the GTV is highly coveted by Alfa Romeo fans. Although fundamentally reliable, they’re expensive to run, which means many were scrapped when values were low. Today, a good example can command up to £7500 (up to £10,000 for the limited edition Cup model), although you can still pick up a bargain if you are prepared to spend some money on repairs. The 2.0-litre models also offer great value, handle even better and are more sensible to run, but in the long run it’s the V6 that everybody wants… 
> Read the Alfa GTV buying guide, and browse cars for sale in the classifieds

BMW Z3M Coupe


BMW Z3 M Coupe

This just scrapes into the 1990s, but like many other BMW M cars, the Z3 M has been rapidly rising in value recently. Shoehorning the BMW M3’s fantastic engine into the Z3 roadster was a stroke of genius – in effect producing a modern day German muscle car. Fitting this drivetrain into the shooting brake-style coupe gave the car a character all of its own, and it has always been considered one of the most fun modern M cars. Low-mileage examples are being snapped up for upwards of £25,000, with the later S54-engined models commanding double that figure in perfect condition. 

Nissan Skyline GT-R R32


Nissan Skyline GT-R R32

Thanks to the rise in values in Japan, and increasing interest from around the world, a nice  and (reasonably) unmodified GT-R will set you back at least £16,000 today. That’s still fantastic value compared with European rivals, but due to the number of cars ruined by bad modifications, you’ll pay a significant premium for any car that is vaguely standard. Tweaked cars (the engines can put out more than 400bhp with ease) can potentially still be picked up from around £8000, but tread with caution. 
Alternatively, sitting between the motorsport-dominating R32 and high-tech R34, the slightly unloved R33 GT-R is seemingly the bargain GT-R. It’s a little bit bigger and heavier than the original, but is every bit the thoroughbred, and to some the best looking of the bunch. Search for one of the limited edition models, such as the V-spec or even 400R Nismo if you want the best.

Aston Martin DB7


Aston Martin DB7
It has taken time, but the DB7 is finally finding acceptance within the classic Aston Martin scene. As the company’s first mass-produced model, the DB7 represented a turning point for Aston, thanks to some heavily-developed Jaguar XJ41 underpinnings (the 1980s F-type project that never came to fruition). It even featured a heavily re-worked and supercharged straight-six Jaguar AJ6 engine… 
It was a great looking car when it was launched, and has aged extremely gracefully. Values bottomed out at less than £7000 for rough early cars about four years ago, but these cars have either been revived or broken for spares by now, with the remaining good condition examples ranging from £20,000-£35,000. The drop-top Volantes are valued slightly higher, while the best V12 Vantages still push £40,000. The last-of-the-line 435bhp GT and GTA models are the best to drive, and thanks to their limited numbers, are still the most expensive at £60k-plus.

Subaru Impreza Turbo 


Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000

Rallying icons don’t come any cheaper than the Impreza Turbo, at least for now. Values of early Turbo 2000 models have doubled over the last four years, as the nicest examples are being swept up. Rough examples from about £1500 are still in abundance, so it’s best to search for the best you can find, and £3000-£4000 should still get you a great example. UK-spec cars are in good supply, so there’s no reason to opt for an import unless you’re after one of the more extreme special edition models. UK special editions such as the Terzo and RB5 are worth a little more, and their limited edition nature adds some kudos. 
Want to the ultimate Impreza? Few would argue that the extremely limited edition Impreza 22B is perhaps the most iconic, and certainly the most expensive. Prices for this lightweight, wide-arched monster have done the same as it’s much cheaper sibling, almost doubling to the current £40-£50k value in just a few years. With just 424 built, and just 16 officially sold in the UK, demand has always outstripped supply and will continue to do so for some time.

Volkswagen Corrado


VW Corrado VR6

The Volkswagen scene is thriving, and values of cult classics like the Corrado can only go one way. Finding a tidy and original VR6 is a difficult task, but they are out there. Don’t instantly dismiss the four-pot G60 either – It might not have the multi-cylinder sound, but a bit of supercharger fiddling can do wonders for the performance.
Still, most agree that the larger engine up front (along with a slightly wider track) makes the VR6 the most special Corrado of the bunch. Budget around £4000-£6000 for a nice example – a little less for a G60, and from £2000 for a more basic model – but expect to pay up to £10k for the very best. Especially if you want the the run-out Storm model. 

Honda Integra Type R


Honda Integra Type R

Much of the engineering that made the NSX so special was funnelled into this front-wheel drive performance legend. The extreme weight saving included the removal of sound  deadening, thinner windscreen glass among other things, but a considerable amount of chassis strengthening and bracing put a considerable amount of heft back into the car. 
A hand-built 1.8-litre VTEC produced 188bhp, and screamed its way round to almost 9000rpm, with a close-ratio five-speed gearbox and limited slip differential channeling it to the road. With values dropping as low as £2500 at one point, the cheapest cars now start at £5000, with clean and tidy UK cars selling for around £8000. Super low mileage Type Rs can sell for up to £12,000. Imports are a little more common today, but prices are really decided by condition and history.

Ferrari F355 

Ferrari F355

As one of the prettiest Ferraris of all time, the F355 has always had a strong following. Anywhere from £70,000-£90,000 will buy you one, but the best are now fetching in excess of £110k. This was also the first Ferrari that learned from the lessons of the Honda NSX, adding some much needed (relative) reliability into the mix. It’s brilliant to drive and also relatively easy to live with – although running costs should not be underestimated. Prices are likely to stay strong.

Meanwhile, at the top of the market…

Up to this point, we’ve focused on some of the more attainable options. Here are a few of the exceptional machines that are more expensive than ever before:

Porsche 993 GT2


Porsche 993 GT2

It was always one of, if not the most extreme road-going 911, designed to homologate a rear-wheel drive version of the 993 Turbo for racing. It’s not as if the GT2 has ever been affordable, but in-line with Porsche price rises across the market what could very well be the ultimate aircooled 911 has seen an astronomical rise in value over the last three years. 
The £1.8m price paid for one at auction towards the end of 2016 raised a few eyebrows, and it makes the GT2 far more expensive than the more traditional big price 911, the 2.7RS. While it was an exceptional example in possibly the most desirable colour and spec combo – one of the 57 road cars ever built – it woke a lot of collectors up to the fact that 1990s Porsches are now considered top shelf cars. 

McLaren F1


McLaren F1

It held the title of the world’s fastest production car for years, and was built to be the best car in the world. Engineered by Gordon Murray, this 240mph supercar was an astounding £540,000 to buy when new, which probably seems like great value if you’re looking at one today. You’ll need somewhere between £7m-£10m to buy an F1 today, setting the benchmark for all modern supercar values. 

Read more about the McLaren F1, and see if there are any for sale here

A look at the entry-level 1990s classics

Looking for some fun on a budget? Like everything above these cars are starting to show signs of rising interest and prices, but the good news is that most can still be picked up for less than £1500.

Peugeot 306 GTI-6

Peugeot 306 GTI
A thoroughbred hot hatch, with a 167bhp 16v engine, close-ratio six-speed gearbox and a cracking chassis. Numbers have rapidly thinned due to 205 GTI engine transplants as well as a tendency for lift-off oversteer. The Rallye is more sought after, but aside from some (admittedly very cool) stripes and a bit less equipment, it’s exactly the same car. 

> Take a look at Peugeot 306s for sale in the classifieds

Ford Puma

Ford Puma
No, we’re not talking about the Racing Puma – these are already well on the way to classic status – but the regular small coupe model. Zetec-engined examples are the sweetest, and if you want one it’s worth finding a low-mileage one soon. Running costs are cheap, but rust has killed a lot so be careful when buying.  

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5

Again, rust is an unenviable fact of life for any MX-5 owner, but apart from that it’s hard to go wrong with this small Japanese sports car. Mk2 models, introduced in 1998, are actually the most affordable, but we’d recommend seeking out an original-as-you-can-find Mk1 in good condition. There’s a world of tuning and modification possibilities if that’s your thing, but we’d suggest keeping on top of that rust, cherishing, but ultimately enjoying this convertible in it's natural form. We’ve already seen prices overtake the Mk2, and it’s likely to continue rising as the numbers of unmodified and un-rusty models continues to dwindle.

Citroen Saxo VTS

Citroen Saxo VTS
Why not the Peugeot 106 GTI you ask? Simply put, the Saxo VTS is almost identical and comes with the same 130bhp 16v engine for considerably less money. Good examples can actually be found from £500-£1500, although if you’re really set on the Peugeot, £2000-£3000 can bag you tidy car. 

> Take a look at Citroen Saxos for sale in the classifieds

Rover 200 BRM

Rover 200 BRM
It might be an acquired taste, but this 1997 special edition Rover 200 is probably the most valuable of all 1990s Rovers, has a dedicated club and one of the most eye-catching red leather interiors of its time. With 1.8-litre K-Series power, and a limited slip differential, it's actually quite a bit of fun. Love it or loathe it, that BRM orange nosecone really does stand out on today’s primarily grey roads as well.

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