Were Classic 90’s Cars More Fun
With Pass Me Faster driving school closed due to Coronavirus, it’s given us all a bit of time to think about things. I started to remember some of the fun times I had buying and selling cheap cars. I’m beginning to wonder, ”Were Classic 90’s Cars More Fun?”
Thinking back to some of the first cars I owned, why did they seem to bring more joy than my recent gas guzzlers. Like a kid in a candy store there just seemed to be so much choice. Is it possible I’m just remembering the freedom I had through rose-tinted windscreens?
Yeh, that must be it!
Every single one of my early 90’s cars has it’s own unique story. Maybe that’s why I remember them more? Would I feel the same if I was buying second-hand cars today?
Classic Cars Vs Antiques?
What’s The Difference
A classic car is typically over 20 years old. The common theme is it must also be of sufficient historical interest. Vintage or Antique vehicles have usually been swangin and bangin for 50 years or more.
I can’t say I have ever owned a vintage two bulb. Hopefully one day I might. Nevertheless, many of my first vehicles have been pushing tarmac for well over 20 years now. And whether you agree or not, to me, they all had sufficient historical interest.
As a result, they’ve earned their classic car moniker.
Were Classic Cars Better Than Today’s
Top Gears, James May clears things up for us ”classic cars are rubbish if they were any good they’d still be made!
When it comes to safety, fuel consumption and design James May – be right. But at the same time new cars are all starting to look the same, aren’t they?
Compared to classic ’90s whiz bangs modern cars although far superior all look and feel the same. Inside and Out!
As the world’s oldest car magazine Autocar puts it.
”If variety is the spice of life, then the interior of the modern executive car is a bowl of plain white rice.”
Check out the cars below at the 90’s Teesside Park. All coming for their DIY’ing at Texas Homecare. For the party people, this was also the days of the Millenium Nightclub, also found lurking in the bottom corner of Teesside Park.
Back in the late nineties, early noughties a quick walk around a busy car park gave a great overview of the current car scene. The scene was variety.
From the lavish to rusty tyre kicker, the moto trike to the camper van, car parks were filled with the sweet, sour, bitter and pungent.
Have a walk around a car park today! There’ s no denying it cars now are far superior and they look great. But they all look great and that’s the problem. We miss the bangers, don’t we!
Here are my Classic 90’s Bangers! In reverse order and scored in how much fun they brought me.
5. Nissan Sunny (The Smashing Let Down)
Fun Factor – 6/10
Number 5 on the list is my Nissan Sunny. Although not a very sunny car itself, it was sunny the day I went to pick it up.
I remember the day well, it was pre sat nav days and I had to navigate my way up to Durham. Luckily I had my trusty co-driver who had a real fetish for an A to Z map. The kind Indian gentleman selling the car gave me his address and we agreed on the £90 sale price. Initially agreeing on £90 I did, however, have something else up my sleeve, but we’ll get to that later.
So off we went.
Getting totally lost was quite normal for us, pre sat nav days. You don’t bother to read the instructions first do you. Wait until your lost then use the map to work out which way to go!
In a flap, I decided to call the guy selling the car. ”We’re lost, I said, all I can see is a big acropolis type thing on a hill!” This actually turned out to be Penshaw Monument.
”Yes, follow the acropolis” he said, you’re not far now. We drove up and down the same road a couple of times preying my new aquamarine Nissan sunny would still be there. Eventually, we arrived.
Before handing over any money I decided to try a different tack. At the time I worked on Teessport docks frequently boarding chemical ships. The Filipino crew, always keen to make an extra dime would sell full cartons of L and M cigarettes for £10 a pop. Despite the fact, you needed minor’s lungs to handle an L and M tab we always bought them for bargaining purposes.
Hedging my bets I gingerly thrust 5 cartons at him and smiled.
He nearly took my hand clean off. This was easily worth more than £150 for him. We’re both winners today.
I chuffed myself into my brand new car that just cost me £50, slammed the car door firmly. What could go wrong!
As the door clattered shut –
CRASH!! out came the complete back window, SMASHING into smithereens!!
Argh well, you can’t win them all.
The car actually lasted a good 2 or 3 months. And not only that but it suffered no accumulation of cigarette burns from any of my back seat passengers. Their finished L and M’s, instead of ending up on the seat or in the footwell just went flicking out the back window!
Apart from the window issues, the car was quite decent. It was fairly fuel-efficient, didn’t break down and was quite nippy too. I remember handling wasn’t that great but we weren’t going rallying up Guisborough woods or anything.
No, that was the next car on the list!!
4. The Volvo (Unsuitably Tough)
Fun Factor 7/10
Next on the list of my memorable 90’s classics was the Volvo Sedan. I managed to pick this up for free at auction (nobody else wanted it.) A local auction house called Manheim let it go for only the auction fee (£20 ish if I remember correctly.). Filling the car with fuel instantly tripled its value.
I’m sure Volvo would be first to admit that this thing wasn’t designed with the car enthusiast in mind. However, it’s not a complete ricer. If you’re looking for something truly sensible, roomy with fantastic towing ability this thing had you more than covered. Although this may be true, that wasn’t what interested me!
Volvo’s have been compared in the past to tanks, not just their looks but also their durability, (check out this Top Gear video.) With this in mind, we decided to try and destroy our wardrobe on wheels.
The car was to be put through its paces on the same day of purchase. A renowned rocky track near the start of Hutton Village in Guisborough was deemed perfect. The trail even had its own name!
As the name suggests, things were about to get bumpy! The car rammed, bashed, belched and bumped its way up this most infamous of Guisborian track. We soon started to notice that this thing was indestructible! But we weren’t about to give up just yet!
At the end of the track, a left turn took you to an opening in the forest named Jurassic Park. Wheel spins mixed with J turns were the main theme for the next 15 minutes. This was finished off with a 50-degree hill climb, followed by a hasty roll back tuther way. As the car see-sawed up and down the hill like the pirate ship at Flamingo Land it finally gave way.
Like many a 90’s Classic, mixing a cocktail of cheap car and extreme punishment quite often resulted in severe exhaust problems. Jurassic Park had finally destroyed the Volvo as it limped off like a cat with its tailpipe between its legs.
The Volvo’s exhaust system sparked along the road behind us as all the way to Morgan’s scrapyard where it would finally be put to rest.
I can’t remember how much we got for the car scrapped, but all in all, it covered the initial auction fees and the fuel cost. This was a positive trip to the auctions and we would go many more times.
3. Volkswagon Jetta – (The Dreamcatcher)
Fun Factor 7/10
The Jetta came into my life not through trailing auction sites or bartering with L and M tabs but via a friend of mine that lived close bye. He offered up a fair price so we both agreed on the deal.
Prior to purchase, I had been advised that the back offside tyre tended to need replacing now and then. That didn’t matter, I needed a new vehicle and this thing fitted the bill perfectly.
It soon became clear why the rear tyre needed to be changed every fortnight. The front and back of the car didn’t get on! To say they weren’t on the same page would be a bit of an understatement. As the front of the car went forward the rear went 90 degrees to the right! YES, that’s right, I’d bought a big red Krusty Krab!
Within a week of driving the crabbing effect quickly wore the tyre down to the bone. You really got to see a cross-section of what a tyre was made up of at every level. Right down to the wire hanging out at the end.
Although Krusty was Krabbing the tyre down at alarming speeds, second-hand rubbers were relatively cheap back then so a bye weekly change was quite acceptable. Believe it or not, this wasn’t its main safety flaw.
After driving krusty for a month or so I had started to notice a couple of things. Firstly there was a slight smell of diesel fumes after a decent drive and secondly, the car made you feel sleepy on long trips. I mentioned it to my friend but he quickly denied all knowledge. I decided to investigate.
I sat revving krusty to the max for a good five minutes. Suddenly there it was, a tiny wisp of smoke puffed out of a hole in the gear stick leather. That material that surrounds the bottom of the stick. It turned out there was a hole in the exhaust pipe in line with the gear stick and the exhaust was slowly hotboxing the car!
Apart from the crabbing and exhaust problems the car had been great. It didn’t break down once and was as sturdy as a rock. Despite this, it was time to get rid. Another car for the scrap yard!
2. Honda CRX mk1 (The Delorian Pocket Rocket)
Fun Factor 9/10
It’s been hard to decide which car was my number 1 favorite and I’ve changed my mind a few times already. I really wanted this to be number 1 as it was a fantastic car. Although all the cars on my list are classic cars to me, the Honda CRX Mk1 would no doubt be recognized as a classic by the masses.
The CRX cost £650 and was probably the best thing I ever owned. The car was built by Honda to fill a vacuum in the car market in the wake of the death of the Triumph TR7 and the MGB. I didn’t know or care about any of that at the time! All I knew was my friend had a red one and it could really burn rubber!
Mine was silver and looked like the Delorean from Back to The Future! With a top speed of 120 mph, this thing could really beat the clock. 88mph was not a problem!
My friend and I continued to rally our cars around for six months or so in tandem before things started to go wrong. The wing mirror broke off first and then I managed to snap the indicator stork too. Things were starting to break, the car was already pretty old back in 2005. Finding spare parts became almost impossible no matter how many scrap yards I visited.
The final nail in the coffin was a trip up to York in the thick snow. One of the four-engine cylinders decided to stop working (spark plug lead problem) and the car spluttered its way back home. That was the end and another one of my favorite cars ended up at the scrap yard!
1. Citroen AX (The Eco Blancmange)
Fun Factor 10/10
Coming in at number 1 is the first car I ever bought. My Dad helped me buy the car, I was 19 years old at the time. We thought it was brilliant and it only cost £400. I immediately insured it and then followed my dad back home to show Mum.
I got home and raced inside to show her the new car.
She went MAD!
”400 pounds! That won’t last 5 minutes” she said. The euphoria quickly drained off my face as I stood there holding the keys in my hands like Jack and his bag of magical beans.
But like Jack’s Mum, she was wrong. The car turned out to be magical.
This has got to be without doubt the most economical car I ever owned. I remember going to church more often than visiting the petrol station. It literally ran on fresh air and it had a bit of poke too for a 1 litre.
Magazine reviews back in the day boasted of 50 miles to the gallon. Either that was a massive understatement or my AX really was grown from magic beans. I remember a trip from Boro to Newcastle and back at the time cost about £8 in fuel! That was proper fuel too, not the magic concoction I came up with later on!
The Citroen wasn’t all beanstalks and giants. like all of my 90’s Classics, it did actually have a flaw. But that’s what made them better!
In a straight line, the AX felt quite perky. You could even go as far as to say it was a bit of middle lane hustler. Unfortunately, any comparisons to racing pedigree soon diminished when the road started to bend.
Nobody told the AX it was going to have to deal with corners! As a result, the car actually looks surprised when it got to a bend. Unless you owned an AX GT you were in for some fun when you ran out of straight road.
It wobbled and wallowed like a giant blancmange as the front-wheel-drive clawed round turns with all the grace of a top-heavy trifle.
Fantastic fuel economy and a wobble on corners, the Citroen AX soon earned its name as the Eco Blancmange!
Apart from having fun in, the Citroen was also to get me to work. At the time I was helping sample chemical and petrol ships coming into Teessport Docks. The Stolt Puffin (above) was one of my favorites.
Samples had to be kept for 3 to 6 months in case there were any cargo quality issues. After 6 months they were disposed of. The sample store technician decided that my car was a great way to get rid of the samples.
A 40%, 20%, 20%, 10%, 10% petrol, benzene, naphtha, pygas, condensate cocktail was invented. For the next 6 months, I pushed over a tonne of this stuff through my car. The car handled it fine but I did loose two full exhaust systems, which I now attribute to mixing me RON’s with me MON’s.
The End Of The AX
The Citroen gave me a great first two years of motoring. It was perfect and I was really lucky to find something this good for my first car. It was cheap to run, fun, had character and apart from the exhaust incidents, never let me down.
It was one of only a few of my used cars that didn’t end up at the scrap yard either. My friend was a mechanic and fixed it up for cheap and it was sold to another friend we knew. The AX just continued to soldier on.
Like a bag of beans it didn’t seem much but ended up pure MAGIC!
If you have any funny 90’s used car memories we’d love to hear them. Please add them to the comments below.