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Old 05-11-2019, 11:09 AM
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What car did teenage and adult sports car enthusiasts want in the late 1990s


Wast thinking about a couple fictional characters of this era, and wondering what cars they would want. I was actually a teenager then, but not interested in cars and everyone where I was was just happy to get anything.

But if a grown (late 30s, early 40s) electrical engineer wanted a sports car (a "car guy"), what wold be a likely target for him in the time period?

Also, a teen with rich parents and a 45k limit on the car. One who wants a car to drive and look impressive, not to race or work on or anything.

So, have we anyone here who dreamed about cars during the time period and could point me in the right direction.

Last edited by Tzigone; 05-11-2019 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:31 AM
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For the engineer - an Acura NSX, particularly if you're talking about the early '90s. Japanese performance cars were big at the time, so a teenager might want that, a Toyota Supra or MR2 turbo, Mazda RX-7, or Nissan 300zx turbo. Bedroom wall posters probably would have included a Lamborghini Diablo, McLaren F1, or maybe a Jaguar XJ220.

For the rich teen, BMW 325i.

Last edited by Tired and Cranky; 05-11-2019 at 11:33 AM.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:32 AM
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Hm, well you've given two very demographics. For the older guy or gal, most likely a camero, or mustang, just about any vintage. For older cars nova camero mustang Malibu 'cuda are what come to mind right off with a handful or so of Corvette enthusiasts for good measure. Also, can't forget the truck enthusiasts with their restored or hot rodded old gmc ford chevy and the somewhat rare international trucks.

For the younger crowd, there would be split between those who favor older and newer detroit iron and those who are among the modders of newer cars. This was the (beginning of) the age of mazda and Nissan modders with their spoilers and ground effect lights and sound systems and people were starting to figure out that you could hook a computer up to your car and adjust things to get some pretty impressive times at the drag strip out of that little rice grinder you drive everyday.

Overlaying all of this, there are most likely regional differences as well. The midwest farmboy will probably have something different from a person from Boston who will have something different from a person in Atlanta
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:32 AM
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In every era since the 50s there has been the Corvette. Anyone may have interest in other fast and sleek cars, but nobody doesn't want a Vette.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:35 AM
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This was a bit earlier in the 1990s, but an electrical engineer I knew back then got a Toyota Supra, which was probably somewhere around your $45k limit with the bells and whistles that he got on it. We started joking with him about how he was going to get a bunch of tickets, and since we all worked on airborne radar at the time, he started a serious conversation about what he could do to turn his car into a "stealth Toyota" so that police radar wouldn't be able to get a decent reading on it (short answer, not much).

I'm a car guy, but I don't care much about sports cars. I was looking at kit cars, kits that took modern cars and made them look like they were from the 1920s. They have Cobra kits as well, which wouldn't interest me, but I think a Cobra kit car would work well for your story. It adds that "not only is it a sports car but I built it myself" angle that a lot of engineers would like.

For a rich kid, I'm thinking something along the lines of a Dodge Viper.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:59 AM
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The best sports cars for the money are the ones that have a large aftermarket performance following. So Mustangs, Camaros and the like.
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Old 05-11-2019, 12:09 PM
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For the engineer - an Acura NSX, particularly if you're talking about the early '90s. Japanese performance cars were big at the time, so a teenager might want that, a Toyota Supra or MR2 turbo, Mazda RX-7, or Nissan 300zx turbo. Bedroom wall posters probably would have included a Lamborghini Diablo, McLaren F1, or maybe a Jaguar XJ220.

For the rich teen, BMW 325i.
I was a car-obsessed teen in the late 90's, and this is spot-on. Add the Lamborghini Countach and Ferarri Testarossa. Probably the Dodge Viper and Porsche 911 Turbo as well.

Don't forget the DeLorean which was still a plausible dream car in the late 90's.
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Old 05-11-2019, 02:30 PM
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For the engineer - an Acura NSX, particularly if you're talking about the early '90s. Japanese performance cars were big at the time, so a teenager might want that, a Toyota Supra or MR2 turbo, Mazda RX-7, or Nissan 300zx turbo. Bedroom wall posters probably would have included a Lamborghini Diablo, McLaren F1, or maybe a Jaguar XJ220.

For the rich teen, BMW 325i.
I agree with these. My first thought was NSX or RX7 for the engineer and 3 series BMW or Boxster for the "rich teen".
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Old 05-11-2019, 03:17 PM
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Yet another vote that Tired and Cranky nailed it - the big 3 would be Acura NSX, Toyota Supra, or a twin turbo 300ZX.

This was a time when Japanese sports cars were at their peak and thwomping everyone else for performance / price (not to mention looks).

You could throw in perennial objects of lust like the last of the widebody air-cooled Porsche 911's (which are still objects of lust enough they've actually appreciated quite a bit in value today relative to what you could buy them for then) or Corvettes (if your characters are midwestern), but the really iconic this-just-screams-90's ones will be the Japanese two seaters.
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Old 05-11-2019, 03:49 PM
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The Nissan Sentra SE-R or the Honda Civic Si... or for a few more bucks, the Acura Integra Type-R.
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Old 05-11-2019, 04:53 PM
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Didn’t Dodge/Mitsubishi have some sort of joint project at the time, not the Dodge Viper but something a bit less expensive. IIRC it was a popular rich kid car. Also, as DorkVader points out, it may have been regional. In the New England/MidAtlantic region where I lived as a young adult during that era, Audis, Saabs, and high end SUVs were much more popular within this demographic than Japanese or domestic sports cars.
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Old 05-11-2019, 04:58 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to start looking into some of these cars.
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Old 05-11-2019, 05:54 PM
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Didn’t Dodge/Mitsubishi have some sort of joint project at the time, not the Dodge Viper but something a bit less expensive.
Dodge Stealth R/T and Mitsu 3000GT VR4. Twin turbo, all wheel drive, four wheel steering.
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Old 05-11-2019, 06:12 PM
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I graduated in 95. My circle of friends had a Supra, Fox body Mustang, 34 Ford 3 window coupe rat rod, and Mitsubishi Eclipse of note. Everyone else drove standard cars or trucks of the time. The dream cars were Lambo's, Porsche's, and Dodge Vipers.
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Old 05-11-2019, 06:54 PM
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My circle of friends lusted after Vipers, NSX, and any model of Porshe other than the 914 and 924.

The cars we got were Mustangs, Camaros, and Porshe 914 or 924
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Old 05-11-2019, 07:01 PM
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I wanted a 928, I got a Jag conversion with a Chevy small block. Earlier I had a big block Camaro. Later I got a Boss Mustang. I drive a Honda Accord now!
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Old 05-11-2019, 08:13 PM
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I came out at the end of your timeframe (1999) but the Honda S2000 was the true inheritor of the low cost British sports car of the 50s & 60s. Plus the dream of many teenagers with used Civics and del Sols.

IMHO, your $45k is on the high end for that decade. The Miata came out at ~20k and the S2000 was just under 30k. The Supra (and its Lexus SC300 cousin) were ~35k.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:02 PM
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Nothing says "electrical engineer" like Jaguar.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:19 PM
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the late 90s to the mid 00s were the age of the " riceboy" watch the first of the fast and furious series for the ultimate epitome of that era ........

people trying to trick out cheap imports (sometimes old domesticis) with cheap after market parts to go drag or street racing ..... or as a friend of the family put it " dumbasses who put a 400 dollar Soundsystem and a 5oo dollar exhaust system in 750 dollar junker ......"
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Old 05-12-2019, 03:30 PM
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Nothing says "electrical engineer" like Jaguar.
Everybody wants an E-Type.
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Old 05-12-2019, 03:35 PM
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IMHO, your $45k is on the high end for that decade.
Honestly, I picked it because I Googled for Corvette price (it was about 40k in 1999 at top trim, I think), and decided rich parent (and we are talking billionaire rich) wouldn't go "much" over that, because he doesn't want to spoil the kid (joking reference to specific event). I really couldn't think of many other sports cars besides the cheaper Camaros and Mustangs and the too-expensive Porches. Like I said, not a car person. And I know there was some talk of Corvettes being an "old man's car" but I'm not sure when that started. Or how much of it was the car actually being undesirable the young v. being unaffordable to the young.

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Old 05-12-2019, 09:00 PM
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It really depends on whether the rich kid is more of a car guy or more of a status guy. You say he wants the car more to show off than to race or work on. But is he a kid who spends a lot of time thinking about cars and following the car world, or is he just a kid who wants his car to scream "I'm rich!"? Because if it's the latter, I think he's more likely to want a Lexus sedan or a Cadillac Escalade or a Range Rover. Those were the vehicles that rappers were name-dropping in the late 90s, that pro athletes and celebrities were seen getting out of outside clubs. Luxury SUVs were particularly big in the late 90s. If a kid in high school is not a "car guy", chances are he just wants to have one of those vehicles.

The electrical engineer, in my mind's eye, if he's in his early 40s in the late 90s, is more likely to want a European roadster - BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, or even an MG or Triumph or something, and I don't envision it being a new one either. I imagine he's been tinkering with it in the garage for the past 10 years and just takes it out on nice days.
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Old 05-12-2019, 10:32 PM
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As a guy who owns a couple of sports cars, my experience and observation tells me that in their 30s to 40s, a lot of guys want the car they couldn't afford as a teenager.

So, look for the cool cars of the 50s & 60s for the engineer. If they don't want an older car, look for the modern replacement. All bets are off if they want the car mostly for status or masculine enhancement...
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Old 05-12-2019, 10:48 PM
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I'm kind of car nut and was a young man during that era. I bought a mustang cobra and then a Corvette C5. Dream cars at the time would have been a Ferrari 355 or a Diablo.
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Old 05-13-2019, 06:25 AM
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My dream car in 1996 was a Pontiac Bonneville SSEi. That's the time I was transitioning from the low pay of the military to being able to afford things on an entry-level engineer's salary.

My dreams are always practical, though. Some of my fellow, young engineers bought ridiculous things, like a giant GMC diesel pickup; one bought a Corvette; and another one bought a Dodge Viper (I think, or some other ugly Dodge with dragster-type front end).

I was a poor kid (thus the military early on), so I didn't dare to dream of a car beyond my 1985 Escort. I'm not kidding when I say that some of my fellow soldiers were envious that I had it.
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:11 AM
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The late 90's was the reign of Japanese sports cars - both genuine and in looks/sound only. So Toyota Supra Turbos, Mazda Rx-7s, Acura NSX, and the Holy Grail - The Nissan Skyline GT-R.
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tired and Cranky View Post
For the engineer - an Acura NSX, particularly if you're talking about the early '90s. Japanese performance cars were big at the time, so a teenager might want that, a Toyota Supra or MR2 turbo, Mazda RX-7, or Nissan 300zx turbo. Bedroom wall posters probably would have included a Lamborghini Diablo, McLaren F1, or maybe a Jaguar XJ220.

For the rich teen, BMW 325i.
Really, for your needs, answered in one. The RX-7 and 300zx were huge among the car guys I hung around with. The Acura is a good answer for the older person, also Infiniti's and Lexus's were taking off then. If your older characters want a vintage model, well, you have the entire world open to you. Corvette and Mustang are the go-to default answers here, especially if the guy is wanting to relive his teenage years.

Last edited by JohnT; 05-14-2019 at 10:25 AM.
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:58 AM
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I'm the outlier here but as an 80s teen the car I lusted after was the Volvo 850 Turbo wagon, or the Countach. I also reallly wanted the Twin turbo Stealth when it came out, as well.
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Old 05-14-2019, 11:19 AM
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Back at that time, I remember most of my "car guy" friends were enamored with the Subaru WRX. One of them bought one in 2003 and I drove it a few times. All I really remember is the gearing was incredibly short and it was scary fast, scarier than a Ferrari or a Lambo, which I've also driven, because as opposed to those cars, the Subaru's interior felt extremely cheap and flimsy.
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Old 05-14-2019, 12:24 PM
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If we're talking about the late 90's I'd go with the Corvette. The 1997 'Vette was a completely new and refreshing model design from the by then stale design that hadn't been significantly updated since 1984. I vividly remember the commercial for the new '97 Corvette featuring the song Rock n Roll by Led Zeppelin and being pretty impressed with the look of the car. I think '97 was somewhat limited production, not extremely rare or anything, but would be a nice feather in your cap if you snagged one of the new ones.
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Old 05-14-2019, 12:36 PM
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Back at that time, I remember most of my "car guy" friends were enamored with the Subaru WRX. One of them bought one in 2003 and I drove it a few times. All I really remember is the gearing was incredibly short and it was scary fast, scarier than a Ferrari or a Lambo, which I've also driven, because as opposed to those cars, the Subaru's interior felt extremely cheap and flimsy.
Yeah I remember more than a few rich car kids drove those during my high school days. I always thought they were pretty stupid looking.
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Old 05-14-2019, 01:10 PM
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The early 90's Dodge Viper slightly exceeds the upper limit given in the OP (~50k+ vs. 45k), but I agree it was the "drool factor" car at the time for guys in the 30ish age bracket. The NSX was even farther out of the given range at $60-90K. Given that, I'm going to go with the RX-7 (why, yes, I am the guy who tried to convince my wife that a car seat would indeed fit in the fold down rear seats of an RX-7).
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:38 PM
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Nothing says "electrical engineer" like Jaguar.
Hmmm.... I personally have never known an electrical engineer with a Jaguar. To me, as an engineer, a Jaguar screams engineering manager more than engineer.

In my experience, many more engineers I have worked with were going for old 70s era muscle cars than sports cars in the 1990s. These were the cars they dreamed about when they were younger and couldn't afford them, and now they could afford them.

One engineer I know got an old Chevelle. Another collects old T-birds (mostly 60s and 70s eras). One had about a dozen old cars from the 50s through the 70s. He used to park a lot of them at work because he didn't have room for them where he lived. One bought a Triumph Spitfire. One had an early 70s Mustang. That's just a few examples. I have known plenty.

For what it's worth, I work on the east coast (Baltimore area). I started out in the defense industry and did a few other jobs in between before ending up spending the last couple of decades designing industrial controls. What industry you work in matters. Your daily driver isn't going to be a sports car if you work in a steel mill or a chemical plant.
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:55 PM
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Another pair from the early 90s: GMC Syclone (sic) & Typhoon. I haven't seen one out in the wild in years. I'll bet an original condition example goes for a fortune today.

I remember admiring Buick Grand Nationals and GNXs still in the mid 90s. The Ford Taurus SHO wasn't particarly desirable to teens but one that was car-aware at the time would notice them. Firebird Trans-Ams were cool.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:13 PM
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Nissan Skyline. Peugeot 106 GTi, VW GTI all qualify, the last two were popular due to budget constraints. Old Honda CRXs were valued. Mazda Miatas.
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Old 05-14-2019, 05:07 PM
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Hmmm.... I personally have never known an electrical engineer with a Jaguar. To me, as an engineer, a Jaguar screams engineering manager more than engineer.
I guess my joke went over a lot of heads. Jaguars are absolutely notorious for horrible electrical problems.
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Old 05-14-2019, 08:11 PM
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I guess my joke went over a lot of heads. Jaguars are absolutely notorious for horrible electrical problems.
I know Jaguars are notorious for spending more time in the shop than out of it. I wasn't aware that electrical issues were a part of that mix.

Wasn't the "routine" maintenance at something like 60,000 miles on an older Jag basically a complete engine rebuild?
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:04 PM
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Software engineer here. I was in my 20's in the 90's and into cars. Early 90's I had a '75 Camaro (hot rodded). Mid 90's I got a brand new '96 Camaro Z28 6-speed. Late 90's I added a '71 Corvette (still had the Z28).

22 years later the Z28 is long gone, but I still have the '71 Corvette.
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:06 PM
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I guess my joke went over a lot of heads. Jaguars are absolutely notorious for horrible electrical problems.
Yep. Lucas Electronics was the supplier for Jaguars. Plenty of jokes regarding lucas. "Inventor of the intermittent wipers - sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn't". "Lucas - invented darkness and perfected the short circuit".
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:33 AM
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The correct answer is "it was the late 90s. Gen-X did not care for such Bourgeois displays of conspicuous consumerism."


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I was a car-obsessed teen in the late 90's, and this is spot-on. Add the Lamborghini Countach and Ferarri Testarossa. Probably the Dodge Viper and Porsche 911 Turbo as well.
Yes, those were some of the cars I conspicuously didn't care about.

Also the Mitsubishi 3000GT and Dodge Stealth.


I also remember not liking the 5-series BMW convertible my college roommate had on loan from his girlfriend.

Last edited by msmith537; 05-15-2019 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 05-16-2019, 02:49 PM
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Still own the 1999 Firebird Formula I bought as my first new car. At 20 years together, it's been one of my more stable long-term relationships.
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Old 05-16-2019, 03:09 PM
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This Gen-Xer was a bit of a car guy, and got to drive quite a few nice ones in his job as a bellman and valet at a luxury resort. The one I wanted, in that I could conceive of eventually having the money to buy one (so there goes your McLaren F1s, Porsche 959s, Vector M12, etc...), was the Porsche 911 Turbo (993 model). All wheel drive, 400 HP back when that was something, Porsche feel. It had it all, IMHO. Never got to drive one, but the Carerra 4 of the same time period I did get to drive, was absolutely lovely.

Lamborghinis, both Countach and Diablo, seemed to me like something created by someone who'd heard of a car, and was great at building engines, but was kind of unclear about how the human was supposed to be involved with driving it. I was very glad that I did a walkaround before moving it, and remarked to my bell captain before I moved the car, that the owner was the idiot who'd cracked the front air dam, not me. Ferraris up to the 335, like the 308 and 348 had the same issue. The 335 OTOH, actually felt like the engineers had talked to an ergonomics specialist. I liked it a lot, for the 50 feet I got to drive it. The Viper RT/10 was insanely easy to to break the rear tires free on wet pavement, and I was trying to drive it very gingerly too. Plastic everywhere. Weirdly, I didn't care for the NSX at all. Even more plastic-y feeling.

Never did get to drive a McLaren or a super Jag like the -220 or the XJR-15. Which isn't surprising. We weren't supposed to be able to drive the Viper GTS's either, and then the media guys on the junket forgot to give the car back to the separate media lot, and I got to return it... Fun car.
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Old 05-16-2019, 03:22 PM
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Don't forget the DeLorean which was still a plausible dream car in the late 90's.
It amazed me that a car could be built to look like that and be so crazy underpowered. It'd be fun to see what Dodge could do with it today if they were to do a retro production.

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Old 05-16-2019, 04:47 PM
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I was going to mention that there was a period of time they stopped making the Camaro, but it looks like that didn't happen until 2002, and not the late 90s like I had remembered. I think a Corvette would be at the top of the list. At least it was for me during the 90s which were my teenage years.
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Old 05-16-2019, 07:34 PM
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The electrical engineer, in my mind's eye, if he's in his early 40s in the late 90s, is more likely to want a European roadster - BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, or even an MG or Triumph or something, and I don't envision it being a new one either. I imagine he's been tinkering with it in the garage for the past 10 years and just takes it out on nice days.
Not really what I'm looking for with him. I mean, he may have one of those, but I'm looking at daily-driver car that's also fun, not a special occasion car. It does need to be sporty, unlike the teenager.

Quote:
It really depends on whether the rich kid is more of a car guy or more of a status guy. You say he wants the car more to show off than to race or work on. But is he a kid who spends a lot of time thinking about cars and following the car world, or is he just a kid who wants his car to scream "I'm rich!"? Because if it's the latter, I think he's more likely to want a Lexus sedan or a Cadillac Escalade or a Range Rover. Those were the vehicles that rappers were name-dropping in the late 90s, that pro athletes and celebrities were seen getting out of outside clubs. Luxury SUVs were particularly big in the late 90s. If a kid in high school is not a "car guy", chances are he just wants to have one of those vehicles.
Not so much about screaming "I'm rich" but about whatever will turn girls on or whatever is currently cool. He's not trying to be superior or denigrate others or anything. He just wants the coolest car in his budget. Coolest, for him, is defined by whatever will look cool to girls his age. I'll look into the SUVs. But definitely not someone who follows the car world at all. Not quite the college grad who just got a good-paying job and wants a luxury car "because they can afford it", but a similar lack of thought into whether it's a good long-term choice, etc. Fortunately for him, he doesn't have to make payments on it. He'll be on the hook for insurance and maintenance in a couple years, but he hasn't given that one single thought. And he has a trust fund, anyway. His thought is "how sexy is the car"?

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If we're talking about the late 90's I'd go with the Corvette.
Late 1998/early 1999 for the teenager. Probably 1994 to 1996 for the engineer. I'm looking for a sporty daily driver that he wouldn't mind passing to his own teenager in the very early 2000s (good excuse for him to get a new car).

Last edited by Tzigone; 05-16-2019 at 07:36 PM.
  #46  
Old 05-16-2019, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Tzigone View Post
He just wants the coolest car in his budget. Coolest, for him, is defined by whatever will look cool to girls his age........His thought is "how sexy is the car"?
Porsche Boxster, then - a convertible. The MSRP for it in 1999 was 41k. If he's a student at a typical American public high school - not some elite private academy - it would probably be the slickest car in the lot, and the girls would most certainly want a ride in it.
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