Are 90s cars considered classic?

The 1990s was an interesting decade for the automotive industry. Many iconic cars that are now considered classics were first introduced during this time period. With 1990s cars now at least 20-30 years old, the debate continues on whether vehicles from the 90s can be considered true classics.

What Qualifies a Car as a Classic?

There isn’t one universally agreed upon definition for what makes a classic car. However, some common criteria include:

  • Age – The vehicle should be at least 20-25 years old.
  • Design and engineering significance – The car introduced innovative design elements or engineering advancements for its time.
  • Cultural impact – The car had a major influence on automotive culture and trends.
  • Collectability – There is strong demand among collectors and enthusiasts to own the vehicle, often reflected in high market values for outstanding examples.
  • Production longevity – The car had an extended production run spanning multiple years or decades.
  • Performance pedigree – The car excelled in motorsports, set records, or had outstanding performance capabilities for its era.

Based on this criteria, not all 90s cars would qualify as classics. However, many iconic sports cars, luxury vehicles, off-roaders and everyday cars from the 1990s are now reaching the age threshold to be considered.

Sports Cars

The 1990s saw the debut of several landmark sports cars that are highly valued by collectors today:

  • Acura NSX – The original NSX introduced in 1990 featured an all-aluminum body and a VTEC V6 engine. It demonstrated that supercar performance was achievable at a more affordable price point.
  • Toyota Supra – Early 90s Supras with the legendary 2JZ engine can still hold their own against modern sports cars in terms of power. The fourth generation Supra (1993-2002) is especially coveted today.
  • Mazda RX-7 – The third generation FD RX-7 (1992-2002) remains an automotive icon with its revolutionary RENESIS rotary engine and advanced sequential twin-turbo system.
  • Nissan 300ZX – The 300ZX Twin Turbo was one of the premier Japanese sports cars of the 90s, known for its distinctive styling and strong turbocharged V6 performance.
  • BMW M3 – The high revving inline-6 E36 M3 sold from 1992-1999 is considered by many to be the definitive M3 generation, and an excellent driver’s car.

These 1990s sports cars combine timeless perfomance capabilities with modern collectability, putting them firmly into classic car territory today.

Luxury Vehicles

Several luxury cars emerged in the 90s that raised the bar for refinement, comfort and build quality:

  • Lexus LS 400 – The original LS 400 sedan shocked the world in 1989 as a rival to Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series. Its buttery-smooth V8 and obsessive build quality made it an instant hit.
  • Acura Legend – The first-generation Legend coupe and sedan were Honda’s initial attempt at a luxury car for the US market. Their understated styling and precise handling have stood the test of time.
  • Infiniti Q45 – This full-size luxury sedan’s muscular styling and powerful V8 helped put Nissan’s new Infiniti brand on the map in the 90s luxury segment.
  • Lexus SC – The SC 300 and SC 400 grand tourers blend supple rides with punchy twin-turbo or V8 power depending on the generation. They remain appealing grand touring coupes today.

While they may not have the pedigree of a flagship Mercedes or BMW, many of these 90s Japanese luxury cars have matured into respected modern classics noted for their quality, performance and refinement.

Trucks & SUVs

Rugged off-roaders and versatile trucks from the 1990s also have strong followings today:

  • Jeep Wrangler – The Wrangler became an icon following its 1987 debut. 1990s models like the YJ and TJ preserved its rugged, off-roadready heritage while adding more comfort and practicality.
  • Toyota Land Cruiser – The 80-series Land Cruiser produced from 1990 to 1997 combined serious off-road chops with improved on-road manners, leading to soaring demand and values today.
  • Ford F-150 – The tenth generation F-150 introduced for 1992 is a modern classic pickup known for its handsome looks and strong overall capability.
  • Toyota 4Runner – The 1990s brought about the second and third generations of the 4Runner SUV. Their blend of truck-based durability and family practicality make them popular among collectors.

The right mix of utility, performance and style has helped many of the best 90s trucks achieve classic status. Brands like Jeep, Toyota and Ford created particularly iconic models during the decade.

Everyday Cars

Even some of the most common everyday cars from the 1990s have cultivated followings today:

  • Toyota Camry – The 1992-1996 Camry is revered for its bulletproof reliability and excellent value. Pristine examples are becoming difficult to find.
  • Honda Civic – The fifth (1992-1995), sixth (1996-2000) and seventh (2001-2005) generations of the Civic now have dedicated followings. Si trims and hatchback body styles are most sought-after.
  • Subaru Impreza – The first and second generation Imprezas, especially turbocharged WRX variants, earned respect through rally racing success and all-weather capability.
  • Volvo 240 – Boxy rear-wheel drive Volvo sedans like the 240 DL and GLT Turbo stood out for their practicality and durability, even if not the most exciting vehicles.

While 1990s family cars may not seem very collectible when new, the best examples have proven their staying power and become classics in their own right due to sheer popularity and longevity.

Unique 90s Cars That qualify as Classics

Beyond the usual sports cars and luxury barges, some of the truly unique cars of the 1990s have attained classic status:

  • Isuzu VehiCROSS – This oddball SUV had aggressive styling and a glass panel roof that set it apart in the late 90s market. Its rarity has only boosted its collectability.
  • Plymouth Prowler – The retro-styled Prowler had hot rod looks but mild V6 power. Its flashy appearance and low production numbers make it a coveted collector’s item.
  • Geo Metro Convertible – The tiny 3-cylinder Metro drop-top was an oddity when new. Now its funky styling, simplicity and fuel efficiency give it cult classic appeal.
  • Lincoln Mark VIII – The personal luxury coupe Mark VIII turned heads with its sleek “aero-edge” styling. Today it’s appreciated for its stand-out looks and rear-wheel drive performance.

Quirky and obscure 1990s cars like these demonstrate that classics can emerge out of the most unlikely places when a unique formula comes together.

Japanese Sports Cars Lead the Way

While a wide variety of 90s cars are collectible today, Japanese sports cars in particular seem to be leading the emerging classics pack. Models like the Acura NSX, Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra and Nissan 300ZX represent some of the very best sports car offerings of the decade.

They pioneered technologies like variable valve timing, sequential turbocharging and high-revving multi-cam engines that raised the bar for performance. Their styling has aged gracefully over the years, with sleek, angular designs that still look contemporary. And their excellent balance of power, handling and driver engagement make them genuinely fun to drive even by today’s standards.

Finally, with solid build quality and production numbers typically limited to the tens of thousands, the best examples have become quite scarce and desirable among collectors. As the decades march on, these 1990s Japanese sports cars seem destined to be considered among the true classics of their time.

What Factors Can Influence Future Classic Status?

While some cars have already joined the classic ranks, others may still gain or lose notoriety in the future based on various factors:

  • Nostalgia – Cars that create strong nostalgic connections to the 1990s era among generations who grew up with them are likely to increase in collectibility.
  • Rarity – Uncommon, limited production models are valued by collectors seeking unique cars. Common family cars are less likely to be considered classics unless exceptionally well-preserved.
  • Historical significance – Cars representing innovative designs and engineering are more likely to become classics than unremarkable models.
  • Pop culture – Cars featured prominently in 1990s music, movies, and video games may benefit from added notoriety and nostalgic interest.
  • Condition – The number of surviving well-maintained examples strongly impacts a car’s collectibility and value.

Cars that tick multiple boxes across nostalgia, historical importance, pop culture influence and production rarity seem most likely to join the 90s classic car ranks in the years ahead.

Final Verdict

The 1990s produced some truly memorable cars that stand out today as emerging classics. Japanese sports cars lead the pack, with their advanced engineering, enduring designs and genuine performance capabilities cementing their places in history. Mainstream family cars and trucks that have stood the test of time also earn classic status thanks to their popularity and longevity. And some uniquely 90s automotive oddities have cultivated their own quirky followings.

While the 90s may still seem like yesterday, enough time has passed for its best cars to be appreciated in a more nostalgic light. The 90s gave us a diverse automotive era with selections sure to suit any enthusiast’s fancy. For those seeking a blend of modern performance, everyday usability and a nostalgic trip down memory lane, 1990s cars present an excellent emerging class of classics.

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