Before we begin, I’d like to thank all the posters for their comments on the previous articles. I certainly gained insight into some cars that I either had forgotten about or never knew about in the first place, which is why I read CC – to learn something new. Also, a little more clarification on what “jaw dropping” means in the context of these posts. First, there are no right or wrong choices – the goal of this series is to stimulate discussion and share viewpoints – so if you really think a 1990 Chevy Lumina APV “Dustbuster” van is a jaw-dropper, we respect that view and we’d like to hear about it here. Two, we’ve focused in this series on cars that hit you emotionally in a positive way (versus negatively) – it may be appearance, capability, rarity, you name it – if you had a “significant emotional moment” when you first saw it, then it’s a good candidate.
So put aside that piece of cherry pie and “damn fine” coffee, grab your flip phone, put on your mood ring, lace up the roller-blades, and let’s see if “the truth is out there”…
1990 Corvette ZR-1
As mentioned in the ‘80s post, the Corvette kinda cruised during that decade. Power mostly stayed in the mid 200 hp range with the L98 350 cu in engine. In the meantime, many similar sports cars were making considerably more. To quote our President at the beginning of that decade, “this won’t stand”, so GM, in one of their better decisions, decided to leap over their competitors, rather than match them. They did that with an aluminum DOHC LT5 engine hand-built by Mercury Marine initially rated at 375 hp. It brought Corvette performance back to a level not achieved since 1971, rightly earning the nickname “King of the Hill”.
1990 Lexus LS 400
I know this car debuted in Jan 1989, but since it was so indicative of the ’90s, I included it here. It took me five minutes before my jaw dropped on this car. I went to see one at the dealer (who by the way treated me with a level of service and courtesy that I had never experienced before), looked at the outside; nice, smooth, but nothing really distinctive. Then I sat down inside – that’s when it happened. Wow, what a beautifully executed interior – the best fit and finish I had ever seen. Maybe it’s because I’m a detail guy, but I notice things like panel fits and gaps. This car had absolutely seamless interior fitment – everywhere you looked or touched was a perfect thin line – no gap. Then when I took it for a test drive the seamlessly smooth 1UZ-FE V8 induced similar shock. Segment redefining.
1990 Acura NSX
Even though Lexus, Infiniti and Acura had convinced US and European customers that they could play in the high-end luxury arena, no one thought the Japanese had the expertise and know-how to build a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche or Mercedes challenger – this car laid waste to that assumption, as well as to several of those brand’s cars. It also convinced owners who enjoyed ultra performance that you didn’t have to be on a first name basis with Luigi or Hans at the service shop. Further, as the Nissan 300ZX had done earlier, it forced all these other manufacturers to raise their game.
Probably the biggest jaw dropper of the decade – this car caught me completely by surprise – who would have thought a spiritual successor to the Shelby Cobra would be built in the ‘90s – and by Chrysler. The V10 engine was developed in coordination with Lamborghini, and made 400 hp and more significantly 465 ft lb of torque. Rude, crude, and blindingly fast – and looked great doing it.
1993/1999 Chrysler LH sedans (Gen 1 and 2)
For me, these sedans were really jaw dropping – I liked them so much I included both the first and second generations. I was, and still am, a huge fan of cab-forward design – I think it looks great – and these two wore it best; the 1993 Dodge Intrepid and 1999 Chrysler LHS. These cars showcased what the team of Bob Lutz, Tom Gale and Francois Castaing could do when not stifled by Lee Iaccoca. Line either of these cars up with their 90s competitors; the ovoid Taurus, the invisible Lumina, the elderly Buick Park Avenue – what a contrast…
91/92 GMC Syclone/Typhoon
92 Mazda RX-7 Turbo
92 McLaren F1
97 Plymouth Prowler
97 Acura Integra Type R