If you were able to restore one beloved car from your past, what would it be? Join the conversation below.
And, well, this part is hard to talk about: At night, when the wife and kids are asleep... I look at online car porn. Hemmings.com, Bringatrailer.com (BaT), and even Jalopnik.com. I feel so dirty.
But you wouldn’t believe all the awesome cars! When I was a kid, classic sports cars were MGs or Triumphs—cold, wet, weak ragtops possessed with corrosion from the factory. But these days the classic-car threshold (25 years or older) is dawning on what may have been the Greatest Generation of sporty mass-market autos, the 1990s. Back then, emissions regulations were minimal, turbos were maximal, and drivers stirred their own gearshifts. Excelsior.
I thought I could beat this addiction on my own. But then they just kept making more “The Fast and the Furious” movies. What is this, nine? Damn you, Vin Diesel. You make it all look too good.
Like the program says, I have made a list of cars for which I might have to make amends to my wife. These three ‘90s sport-compact/street-performance machines are: a) desirable; b) accessible; and c) available. Two are “F&F” Hall of Famers: The Acura Integra, the Mazda RX-7. I didn’t include the Nissan Skyline but it’s all stuck up now that it’s famous.
Known in the rest of the world as the Honda Integra Type R, this devilishly tossable, absolutely shatterproof sports coupe entered into legend with the “F&F” movies, but I’ll overlook it. The Type R was light and stiff, with exquisite cornering and steering that you could feel in your bones. Under the hood was the never-say-die 1.8-liter, 195-hp VTEC (8,500 rpm fuel shut-off). Torque was then shunted through a close-ratio five-speed gearbox to a front limited-slip differential, and then magic happened.
Unlike some freshly minted classics, the Type R remains properly quick, even in a modern context: 0-60 mph acceleration was tested in the mid sixes and quarter-miles in the upper 14s. Also, any Type Rs that have survived are likely to have had work done, with various essential performance upgrades installed, if not nitrous-injected Franken-motors.
Widely regarded as the best handling front-drive car in history and, dare I say it, a ’90s icon, the Type R now has collectible status. A low-mileage 1997 model sold on BaT in September for $82,000. Not bad for a car that sold for less than a third that 22 years ago.
Built by Ford to compete in FIA World Rally Championship, the Escort RS Cosworth was a but-barely domesticated race car, with a giant turbo-boosted 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and raging all-wheel drive. It can be identified in the field by its cartoonishly large rear wing. Only about 7,000 street-legal versions of the RS Cosworth were built, and most of those were sold in Europe, where many likely wound up in the hedges. A handful were imported to the U.S.—by Sun Speed in Torrance, Calif.—where they retailed for just under $50,000. That figure is almost exactly what the latest example sold for in September on BaT.
Ford’s beloved “Cossie” will remain rare, but because foreign-market cars older than 25 years can be imported without legal restrictions, it’s a cinch that more of these coveted beasties will wash up on our shores as they become eligible. With a 0-60 mph acceleration of about 6 seconds and a top speed of around 140 mph, the Escort RS Cosworth is also the hardest-core of my list. Emoji: feeling shamed.
With exterior styling by the great Tom Matano, the third-generation Mazda RX-7 sport coupe was a stunner in its time that only looks better now against the pale backdrop of modern cars. The shape was remarkable: with glass-blown curves and kohl-black eyes, often dressed in shades of emergency, red and yellow. It drove like a Mazda Miata on steroids. It could corner like a snake down a garden hose. (Take a drink, Tim Cahill fans.)
The Mazda’s powertrain was, um, ambitious: Tucked up in the front was/is the 13B-REW engine, a 1.3-liter rotary with sequential twin turbochargers—one for the low-speed spool-up and one for higher engine speeds (above 4,500 rpm). Although automatics were available, I lust for the five-speed manual transmission, if only to keep the revs on the boil. The sound of these cars at wide-open throttle is unforgettable, a razziness like a buffalo-sized whoopee cushion. That will bring them running at Cars and Coffee.
A glorious 1995 RX-7 sold on BaT this month for $30,250, including the obligatory 13B engine replacement therapy. Some are sicker than others.
With a boost from their appearance in ‘The Fast and the Furious’ movie franchise, sporty cars like these have become newly collectible
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