SEVEN 90s CLASSIC WORTH SAVING
1 1992-1998 BMW M3 (E36)
WHY WE LOVE IT Everything an M3 should be, yet even the hottest ones are still relatively cheap Adjusting for inflation, no M3 has ever been cheaper than the E36 variant is now. The situation is helped by a pincer movement in prices – the preceding E30 generation has always been lauded for its four-cylinder rawness, and the succeeding E46 of the 2000s is so fast that it’s regarded more as a Porsche 911 alternative than a hot saloon, and priced accordingly. The market isn’t sure what to make of the interim E36 – yet. But it’s still every inch an M3. The chassis balance is exquisite, the steering intuitive, and your right foot controls 240-320bhp of silken straight-six urge in a package that looks increasingly crisp and unadorned rather than plain and boring. £10k will get you a decent one, rising to £15k for the best low-mileage 3.2-litre Evos and adjustable-spoiler (and hugely rare) GTs.
ENGINES 3152cc/6-cyl/DOHC POWER 240bhp@6000rpm TORQUE 236lb ft@3800rpm MAX SPEED 137mph 0-60MPH 5.9sec FUEL CONSUMPTION 17-23mpg TRANSMISSION RWD, six-speed manual
2 1989-1995 LOTUS ELAN SE TURBO
WHY WE LOVE IT For once, here’s an undervalued Lotus that’s reliable, rust-free and cheap. It can’t last Although it had been planning to resurrect the Elan for ages by 1989, Lotus knew that it couldn’t take on the MX-5 with more of the same. Instead, what emerged looked and performed more like an Esprit than a small mainstream roadster, thanks to its low, wide stance. It surprised everyone by being front-wheel drive, its clever subframe design eliminating torquesteer so it drove more like a high-tech 4WD supercar, albeit a lightweight one.
Every generation has its least-loved Lotus, so be thankful that, rather than emulating the likes of the 7 S4, Elan +2 and Éclat, this one was built using GM cash, has an impervious galvanised chassis and a viceless Japanese engine providing more than adequate thrust. Elises are more troublesome. Buy one before everyone realises this and gets in on the act.
ENGINES 1588cc/4-cyl/DOHC POWER 167bhp@6600rpm TORQUE 147lb ft@4200rpm MAX SPEED 136mph 0-60MPH 7.2sec FUEL CONSUMPTION 28-33mpg TRANSMISSION FWD, five-speed manual
3 1993-1997 VOLVO 850 T5/T5-R/850R ESTATE
WHY WE LOVE IT It’s a racing estate car! And it changed Volvo’s image forever Volvo had experimented with performance cars before the 850, but they’d usually been wayward things with all the panache of a potting shed. Jan Wilsgaard’s front-drive 850 smoothed off the old angles, and the T5 in particular was essentially a giant, hard-riding hot-hatch.
Teaming up with Tom Walkinshaw Racing, Volvo entered it in the British Touring Car Championship in 1994, where it failed to beat the likes of Alfa Romeo and BMW but created such a spectacle that showroom desirability was guaranteed. A limited-edition run of hardcore T5-R models sold out in 1995, followed by the ‘productionised’ – and even faster – 850R. Volvo now sells on Scandinavian design cool rather than ferocious performance, but to a generation of BTCC fans and family motorists, the hot 850 estates were icons of simultaneously available and edible cake.
And they still are today.
ENGINES 2319cc/5-cyl/DOHC POWER 250bhp@5400rpm TORQUE 260lb ft@2400rpm MAX SPEED 158mph 0-60MPH 6.7sec FUEL CONSUMPTION 22-28mpg TRANSMISSION FWD, five-speed manual
4 1992-2003 TVR CHIMAERA
WHY WE LOVE IT A thunderous supercar, traditionalist roadster and utter bargain all in one The Nineties was the era of the low-volume British sports car, and manufacturers like TVR laid down a template of wild glassfibre body, heavily-tuned mass-market big-block V-engine and zero driver aids wrapped up in a macho image that the burgeoning track-day brigade adored. There were more extreme 1990s TVRs, but there was no chance of the Chimaera leaving you feeling short-changed by its nervous steering, volcanic soundtrack and performance capable of annoying a Countach.
Nowadays, prices are suppressed by continuing demand for the retro-styled yet mechanically similar V8S and more hardcore Griffith. But a drive in a Chimaera reveals that there’s little difference between the three. It’s a proper bargain.
ENGINES 3950cc/V8/OHV POWER 235bhp@5500rpm TORQUE 260lb ft@4500rpm MAX SPEED 152mph 0-60MPH 4.8sec FUEL CONSUMPTION 18-26mpg TRANSMISSION RWD, five-speed man
5 1995-2002 MG F
WHY WE LOVE IT The British entry into the MX-5’s market, and the easiest way into MG ownership today MG chose the height of the Britpop era to launch the F– a car designed to hit back at the super-successful Mazda MX-5 and rekindle the spirit of its much-missed B.
Only it did more than that. Not only was it gorgeous – those nose nacelles recall the B and Jaguar E-type, and the rump harks back to the Triumph TR7 – but it was also innovative, with Hydragas suspension and a revvy mid-mounted twin-cam engine for excellent ride and handling.
They did have their problems – failing cylinder head gaskets chief among them – but the excellent MG Owners’ Club can solve them all cheaply. Prices are on the floor now, but they’re being kept there only by fleeting ignorance.
ENGINES 1796cc/4-cyl/DOHC POWER 120bhp@6000rpm TORQUE 122lb ft@4500rpm MAX SPEED 118mph 0-60MPH 8.5sec FUEL CONSUMPTION 25-31mpg TRANSMISSION RWD, five-speed manual
6 1996-2005 Jaguar XK8
WHY WE LOVE IT Makes you question whether you really want an aston Martin after all If the MG F promised to resurrect the MGB, the styling of the Jaguar XK8 – released a year later – strongly suggested that the E-type was back.
This wasn’t quite the case – the XK8 followed on from the XJS in being an unashamed grand tourer rather than a sports car – but sophisticated electronically-controlled suspension and a responsive new V8 engine meant that it was much quicker and much sharper to drive than the old XJS ever was. Crucially, too, the new car was still available as a convertible as well as a coupé.
Comparisons abounded with the 1994 Aston Martin DB7 when new – both were evolved from the XJS after all – but not only was the XK8 much cheaper than the similar-looking DB7, contemporary road testers went as far as to say that it was better to drive too. Its four-litre AJV8 later evolved into the DB7-replacement AMV8’s 4.3 and 4.7-litre units, which suggests that Aston agreed as well. And yet nowadays one can be yours for as little as £5k – try finding a DB7 for that sort of money.
EnginES 3996cc/V8/DOHC per bank POWER 290bhp@6100rpm TORQUE 290lb ft@4250rpm MAX SPEED 155mph 0-60MPH 6.5sec FUEL COnSUMPTiOn 18-26mpg TRAnSMiSSiOn RWD, five-speed automatic
7 1996-2001 Honda Integra type-r
WHY WE LOVE IT touring-car nutcasery for the road, and a genuine handling masterclass Ironically it wasn’t until the DC2 Integra Type-R’s DC5 successor that we saw it scream onto the British Touring Car Championship stage. But the burgeoning Japanese grey-import scene of the 1990s – and a certain PlayStation game – meant that pretty much everyone knew what one was by that point anyway.
Only available in white, black or red, the DC2 combined stiffened, braced suspension with the kind of weight reduction only usually seen on track cars (ten per cent thinner windscreen, anyone?) and a VTEC engine that switched camshaft profiles at higher revs to provide a kick of peak power without the low-rev lag of a turbocharger. Magazine reviewers were ecstatic, and it wiped away the 1980s template of forcedinduction performance cars. Suddenly everyone wanted variable valve timing. SPECIFICATIONS EnginES 1797cc/4-cyl/DOHC POWER 187bhp@8000rpm TORQUE 131lb ft@7300rpm MAX SPEED 145mph 0-60MPH 6.5sec FUEL COnSUMPTiOn 25-30mpg TRAnSMiSSiOn FWD, five-speed manual