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The Transformative Cars Of The '90s

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
edited February 2011 in General
While these cars are too new to qualify as classics, some are beginning to qualify as collector cars. Are they still too new for inclusion on this board? That's for Shifty to decide, but one rationalization for including them is that these are cars from the previous century. The first ones were produced in '89. To my eyes, they're beginning to look ripe

The '90s was a transformative decade, in the sense that quality and performance generally made great advances. On the negative side, cars became increasingly complex, and the number of standard and optional features increased significantly. The practical effects of the greater complexity, especially of the electronics, is that it threatens the future collectability of these cars. This is a new phenomenom.

Your thoughts? Which '90s cars are your candidates as future collectibles and classics?
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Comments

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,027
    My guess is that GM's LT-1 RWD cars from 1994-96 will have some kind of collector status. The Impala SS already does. And Mustangs, Camaros, Trans Ams, and Corvettes will always have their following.

    On the foreign front, what about stuff like the Supra, 300ZX, and Mazda RX-7?

    and some of GM's supercharged cars from the late 90's might have some kind of minor collector interest.

    It's hard to believe that the 1990 cars are now 21 model years old. I bought my '69 Dart in September of 1989, just as the '90's were coming out. That Dart seemed downright ancient. And even my '80 Malibu, just 10 model years old at the time, seemed as if it were from another era.

    Yet today, a 21-year old car, if it's been fairly well-maintained at least, just doesn't seem THAT old. But, for the most part, not that much has changed since then. Cars have been improved upon, to be sure. But 21 years ago, we had plenty of FWD, fuel injection, computer controls, an airbag here and there, OHC, automatics with more than 3 forward gears (going from a 4-speed to a 5 speed isn't that big of a deal IMO, compared to going from a 3 to 4-speed was). Composite headlights, flush window glass, aerodynamic styling, etc.

    And styling really hasn't advanced so much in the past 21 years, but rather recycled, regurgitated, and repackaged, and then marketed as something new.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,860
    edited February 2011
    I can agree with those - and there is little else from the 90s that will gain any value. Some cars will and already have a following, but I don't see much appreciation potential. I think those Impalas and Supras etc are still depreciating.

    Design evolution and survival rates (lack of rust compared to the old days) are responsible. Looking at cars which still look fairly modern - 92 Taurus, 92 Civic, Lexus SC, Supra, RX7, Z, MB 140, BMW 850, and many others - all in effect 20 years old now. But they seem new compared to how a 20 year old car looked 20 years ago. And many ~15 year old cars look a generation newer - Neon, Ram, Mustang, Contour, MB 210...compared to a 1975 car in 1991, it's crazy.

    I don't see much from Europe being a big collectible, I think electronics will do some of them in, and cosmetic quality can be iffy too. Mostly tuned models will survive - AMG and M cars. I doubt there will be many pre-1998 Audis around in 20 years.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    edited February 2011
    All true, but the most significant improvements since the decade of the '90s, especially as it applies to the domestic brands, are the things you don't see. I'm thinking of things such as fit and finish, assembly quality and reliability.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,027
    for some reason, I've been getting an itch for a supercharged Regal. Don't ask me why. My Dad has an '03 LS, the regular, non-supercharged model. I don't particularly care for it. As a brand-new car, it would've been pretty mediocre, although it was a steal as a 1 year old, 19500 mile car for $12,840 out the door.

    Weren't the supercharged Regals good for 0-60 in about 6.0 seconds?
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    Yeah, the rate of change and improvement, as it relates to styling and design, seems to have slowed markedly. What hasn't slowed down is the introduction of new safety and convenience features. Some of these are of marginal value for me.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,027
    Even in cars that haven't been ground-up redesigns, there have been big improvements in safety. For instance, here's how my 2000 Park Ave might fare in a crash:

    1997-2005 Park Ave crash test.

    And for comparison: 2006+ Lucerne crash test.

    Now, for the time, the Park Ave actually did pretty good. It scored high ratings for driver and passenger protection. But still, look at the improvement with the Lucerne. there doesn't even appear to be any buckling of the door frame or A-pillar, as there was with the Park Ave.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    edited February 2011
    I also like the Regal GS. The cladding and the painted grille improved the appearance over the LS. And, the supercharger and firmer suspension of the GS upped the fun factor. As I recall, the painted grille also came with some editions of the LS, such as the Joseph Abboud edition, and you could order the firmer suspension, but not the supercharger. There was also a Joseph Abboud version of the GS, which was a neat package.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    Was the '92 Taurus a refresh or a new platform?

    I'm among the few that likes the '96-99 Taurus better than the refreshed '00.

    The '92 Civic was a significant improvement over the boxy previous platform, and while the '96 looked like a refresh, I think it was an all-new platform. I remember a comment in one report on the '92 Civic, to the effect that "if Mercedes made a small car, this would be it." Good as it was in its day, one area that Honda never got right with the Civic, or, to a lesser extent with the Accord, is sound insulation. The high level of road noise that permeates the cabin detracts from the perception of quality. Of the mass market brands, VW does this much better than Honda.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,860
    Styling really isn't evolving at all anymore and hasn't for several years. There are fads here and there...but nothing like the old aero ideal, which we are pretty much still in.

    Some features do seem of debatable value, but I think the structural integrity of cars has improved a lot, like in Andre's crash tests. This is true for "safe" makes" as well - in the 90s some of them performed in crash tests in a way that would make people scream today - the initial run of MB W210 was pretty iffy. There aren't many really unsafe cars sold in the first world anymore.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,027
    Two months ago I moved to a new building at work, but before that, I used to see a Joseph Abboud edition Regal in the lot where I used to park. Nice looking car. I can't remember if it was a GS or LS though.

    I always thought the Olds Intrigue was a sharp looking car too. But, IIRC, those only came with the regular 3800, or the "shortstar" 3.5 DOHC V-6, which could be pretty troublesome.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,860
    I think the 92 was just a refresh...but it was pretty crisp and modern. The original aged pretty well too, but the slightly sharper lines and narrower lines of the 92 updated it nicely IMO. My mom had a 93 that was a fairly decent car. The ovoid ones were just too much too soon, then they really made it rental grade.

    I was thinking the 96 Civic was a refresh and the 01 was all new...but I was never really into those. The period Accords were really good cars too, although the nicely proportioned 90-93s seem to rust out even here.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    True, no really unsafe new cars today, and for the vast majority of drivers, no underpowered ones, either. That increasingly makes prestige the primary differentiater between mass market and luxury.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,027
    Was the '92 Taurus a refresh or a new platform?

    The 1992 was just a refresh. It was more handsome looking IMO, but at the same time, less bold and daring. My grandparents on my Dad's side of the family had an '89 LX, and a '94 GL. The '89 seemed like an awesome car at the time, but the '94 just seemed like a very nice rental car. Granddad gave up driving in 2004, when he turned 90. Offered to give me the car. It only had about 35-40,000 miles on it. But I really didn't need it, and every time I drove or rode in that car, I swear I smelled antifreeze, so I figured there was something wrong with it. One of my cousins ended up getting it, and, sadly, beat the hell out of it. I saw it on Easter Sunday, 2009, when we went to their house. Had about 85,000 miles on it, but you could tell it was getting ragged out. I remember Granddad walked over to it and looked at it, sad look in his face, shaking his head back and forth. It looked almost like a brand-new car when he had given it to them.

    When the refreshed 2000 Taurus came out, I took Granddad to look at them. He was in the mood for a new car, and wanted me to go with him. He usually traded every 3-4 years, so in his mind, he was way overdue. However, he took one look at that 2000 Taurus, which I actually liked, and refused to take a test drive. The salesman had to almost beg him to even sit in the thing!

    I liked the 1992 Civic a lot. In fact, I think the 2nd-gen Dodge Intrepid bears a very slight resemblance to it. I knew two people who had them, and their experiences were like polar opposites. First, some friends of mine from college and church, a married couple, wanted a small car, and I recommended the Civic. While I may be pro-domestic, I do think the Japanese still do small cars better, and even more so back in those days. Alas, the 1994 EX automatic (or whatever they called the top level model) Civic my friend bought blew two head gaskets and needed a/c work, in the course of about 80,000 miles. They replaced it with a 1998 or so Saturn S-series. Probably one of the few examples of someone deserting the Japanese for a domestic. Last time I saw them though, they had a 2003-2007 era Corolla, so I guess the Civic didn't totally scare them away from the Japanese.

    On the flip side, one of my supervisors at work bought a 1992 or 93 Civic, stripper model with a stick shift. I think it finally gave out around 200,000 miles, and he abused the hell out of it.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    edited February 2011
    I used to prefer the Intrigue over the Regal, but now I prefer the Regal. Since the Shortstar was only used in the Intrigue (as far as I know), I knew it became relatively difficult to get certain parts, such as oil filters, for example. However, I didn't know that this was a troublesome engine. What was/were its point(s) of weakness?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,027
    I think the main problems with the "Shortstar" V-6 were that it was more complicated, and a lot more expensive to fix than, say, a 3800. So troublesome might not be the right word. I know on the Northstar V-8 (and the Olds 4.0 version) that some components are extremely hard to get to when they fail, such as the starter motor. And there's also some switch or sensor that can fail, and costs a lot to replace, again, simply because it's buried.

    I think the main reason I preferred the Intrigue was that the interior just seemed nicer than the Regal. But, unfortunately, still not nice enough to woo the import buyers Olds was trying to go after.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    edited February 2011
    I've read more negative comments about the Northstar than the Shortstar, but, then, there were a lot more Northstars and Olds 4.0s made than Shortstars, so it may have been proportional. I don't know. Do you know whether the Shortstar had the high oil consumption issues that the Northstar reportedly had?
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    edited February 2011
    It's well known that the sleek new Taurus was largely responsible for turning a failing Ford Motor Company around in the '80s. The '92 refresh kept the Taurus competitive with the popular Camry and Accord, but it essentially kicked the can down the road, as the currently popular saying goes. What to do next? Continue with evolutionary change on a new platform, or introduce a dramatic new style to leapfrog the competition? Toyota and Honda had copied cues from the jelly bean look of the original Taurus, and enjoyed a quality advantage. Seeing how taking a bold risk in design paid off in '80s, Ford introduced the dramatically new oval design for the '96 model year. It was quite successful at first, if controversial, but it didn't have the impact Ford had hoped for. Further, the public got tired of the oval design much sooner than it tired of the jelly bean look. Even though both designs were all-new, the '96 was more polarizing than the original one.

    An interesting side note is that the '96 Taurus also used oval cues in the dash board.

    By the late '80s the president of Ford, Jacques Nasser, focused on the notion that the mass market was too much of a commodity play, and that Ford's profits and future could be greatly enhanced by focusing on his newly created Premium Auto Group (PAG). Management's attention and the company's resources were thus diverted from the bread and butter Ford and Mercury models, and directed at competing in the luxury market, with newly purchased brands. Although Lincoln was included in the PAG, it was allowed to languish. The exception to that was the Lincoln Navigator, which was very successful and profitable.

    It should be noted that Ford Motor Co. was hugely profitable from the late '80s-mid '90s. However, Nasser's bungled strategy and botched execution reversed the company's hard-fought sales and profit gains, and practically sank the company.

    The point of summarizing this history is that the '96 oval design probably wasn't a mistake. While the company worked on addressing its quality deficits, the idea of compensating with new design was probably sound.

    What are your thoughts on the oval look?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,027
    I didn't like the '96 Taurus, but I thought they improved it a bit for 1998-99, when they enlarged the grille just enough to get the blue oval emblem to fit inside it, rather than above it. And while it was toned down and a lot more conservative, I think the 2000+ Taurus was a lot better looking. I'm not comfortable in them though, because the sides curve in so sharply, it makes me lean inboard. I remember having to do that in the '89 and '94 Tauruses my grandparents had, but it wasn't quite as severe.

    I actually preferred the underdog partner to the Taurus, the Mercury Sable! I thought it looked better from 1996-99, and the 2000+ had a nice, upscale look to it.

    When the '96 Taurus came out, didn't Ford start dumping them into fleets and such to keep the production numbers high, so they could still claim #1 car in America, over the Camry and Accord? I remember the original Taurus managed to do that without padding production, although perhaps in later years, maybe they did it with the '92-95 to a degree, as well?

    If anything, that massive fleet-dumping might have served as a turning point, tarnishing Ford's image.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,193
    ...1992 Cadillac Seville STS was a transformative car for Cadillac. The previous Seville, (1986-91) embodied everything that was wrong with Cadillac at that time and the 1992 Seville was a quantum leap. It was the genesis of Cadillac's rebirth which we are still witnessing today. The 1998-2003 Seville was a nice evolution of this design.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    "When the '96 Taurus came out, didn't Ford start dumping them into fleets and such to keep the production numbers high, so they could still claim #1 car in America, over the Camry and Accord?"

    Don't know for sure, but it's probably true.

    "...maybe they did it with the '92-95 to a degree, as well?"

    I vaguely remember that to be true, but it's been too long to say for sure without statistics to support it. If it was indeed true, too much reliance on fleet sales would have been an additional factor which may have prompted Ford to swing for the fences with the '96 redesign.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    Indeed, it was. I liked the '92 STS styling from the get-go. I also thought that the regular Seville was superfluous for Cadillac.
  • berriberri Posts: 4,213
    Personally, before Mulally I don't think Ford had a good leader since Caldwell and Red Poling.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    I agree completely. Nasser was a disaster for Ford. As for Bill Ford, I give him credit for recognizing his limitations, and convincing the board and family members who are important stockholders to hire Alan Mulally.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    edited February 2011
    I'd say the '93 Chrysler Concord, Eagle Vision and Dodge Intrepid were transformative, in that they moved Chrysler Corp. beyond the K-car era. These cars looked striking in their day. Too bad the quality lagged.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,027
    I'd say the '93 Chrysler Concord, Eagle Vision and Dodge Intrepid were transformative, in that they moved Chrysler Corp. beyond the K-car era.

    I think those '93 LH cars really pushed the concept of aerodynamic style, taking it a step beyond the Taurus/Sable. One problem I had with the Taurus/Sable is that, while they certainly looked sleek and modern, I just never thought they were all that attractive. In contrast, I thought the Concorde/Vision/Intrepid, and then the New Yorker/LHS which followed for 1994, were gorgeous!

    But yeah, the quality on them was horrible. The one good component in them was the 3.3 V-6, which, IIRC, was designed by the same guy who designed the Slant Six, so it was durable and fairly easy to work on.

    There was a lady at work who had a 1994 Vision with the 3.3, and she got it to around 160,000 miles on the original engine and transmission, before giving it to her son. She always carried on about what a piece of crap it was, but I think it was because it had computer problems that made it stall out, and the dealer couldn't find the issue.

    I've heard that the 1996-97 models aren't too bad with regards to reliability, but the redesigned 1998-04 models were still much better. Although with them you have to watch out for the 2.7, which can be sludge-prone. Supposedly the internal water pump is a problem too...when it fails, you get coolant mixing in with the oil, spreading through the engine, and that's often enough to kill it.

    I still remember, one day back around 1993 or 1994, seeing an Intrepid ES on a Dodge showroom floor in Silver Spring (Sport Auto Sales Park I think it's called, off Route 29), and just about fainting when I saw the $25K price tag. Who ever would've thought that one day a Dodge would be $25K!? Of course, nowadays it's not hard to get a Hemi Charger or Challenger up over $40K!
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    Wasn't the transmission the greatest point of weakness of the '93-97 LHs?
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,193
    I remember being smitten with the looks of the 1994 Chrysler New Yorker LH car around the time I bought my 1994 Cadillac DeVille. Looking back on the problems the early LH cars had, it's a good thing I chose the Caddy.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,860
    edited February 2011
    I can't remember the last time I saw an early Chrysler LH car on the road - all of the early cab forward cars are getting to be uncommon out there, now when they lose a tranny, end of the road. I think I even see more older Taurii than the Mopars.

    Back in the day my mother actually test drove a pretty loaded Eagle Vision, and she liked it - but her old mechanic friend warned against it (the brand was about to be orphaned at this time). Probably wasn't the worst decision.

    I remember around 1995 a good friend of mine's father got a Concorde as a company car, and in 1999 was promoted to a new 300, seemed pretty fancy.
  • Owned 2 Intrepids....a 96 with the bigger engine which I let one of the kids take to school after we had it for 4 years,followed by a 2K ES. The 96 was fun to drive , but troublesome . The 2K never gave any trouble in the five years we had it. One thing I especially liked about them was how well you could see the road in front of you. I see quite a few of these later ones still doing their thing locally....very few of the early ones. I got the ES from the long-defunct Carorder.com back when they were trying to "buy business". Remember reading posts by Andre on an Intrepid forum around that same time.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    edited October 2011
    This is a very delayed reply to your message #31. I think the main reason you see so few of the first generation Intrepids (and Chrysler Concords and Eagles, for that matter) is a high incidence of transmission failures. Although very advanced for their time on many ways, their quality was not high enough to invest money to save them as they aged and became miled up.
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