One of the podcasts I listen to religiously is called Southern Vangard Radio. A hip-hop-centric broadcast, ‘Vangard features three, six-to-eight song mixes separated by talk breaks.
During one of talk breaks about 15 episodes back, the two hosts lamented missing their life from the 1990s. I found the segment both hilarious and relatable. I was pretty young throughout the ’90s, so truthfully I don’t miss all of my life from then. But I do miss how much cooler the cars were.
The summertime Friday night street orchestra was a mix of Flowmaster-equipped Fox Body Mustangs and Hondas with AEM cold air intakes that sounded immense when VTEC kicked in.
Every third Acura DC Integra seemed to have an ultra-rare JDM front end swap, and the latest club hits could be heard clearly through the T-tops of many third-generation Camaros.
Any right-hand drive car that rolled up to Tim Hortons – Canadian doughnut shops that were the local hang-out spots in the ’90s through to the early-’00s – was instantly mobbed by onlookers.
Air suspension? Well, that was mostly just sorcery for those guys running around with murals on their tailgates and their J-body friends.
To use current vernacular, the ’90s was most certainly ‘a vibe’.
Can It Be All So Simple?
Twenty-four years removed from then, it’s a bit shocking what we’ve lost in the name of ‘progress’. The beautiful simplicity of vehicles that either started or ended production from 1989 through to 1999 no longer exists.
In-car entertainment used to be a digital dolphin swimming across your Pioneer single-DIN head unit screen, not a giant in-dash tablet that controls next to everything. Manual transmissions were plentiful, and blind spot detectors sat in the passenger seat. Most importantly, compact SUVs didn’t dominate North American streets.
But alas, the only thing constant in life is change, and for better or worse the cars around us today have indeed changed.
Thankfully, cars from the ’90s are starting to receive proper classic treatment. The respect that was given vehicles from the ’60s and ’70s in the 1990s is being paid forward. It’s now not at all uncommon to see ’90s cars being torn down to their foundations and built back up as either restorations or restomods.
As an example, this rather simple-looking EF Honda Civic hatchback stole a disproportionate amount of my attention. Seeing it instantly took me back to the period I described in the intro, and I loved it for that.
Compared to some of the other cars in attendance at the 2023 Motorama Custom Car & Motorsports Expo, it had a very short modification list and, truthfully, that’s what made it so damn good.
The body looks almost completely untouched, save for shaved emblems, a very subtle front lip and immaculate paint. It’s lowered, but nothing too drastic, and you simply can’t go wrong with polished GSR blades on a 4-lug Honda.
Under the hood, things have been cleaned up for sure, but again a mature level of restraint has been used. Most, but not all of the holes have been filled, and a mix of chrome-plated and polished accessories have been added.
A B-series motor replaces what was likely originally a D-series, and atop the smooth valve cover is a pinstriped logo of the shop that built it.
It’s the perfect ’90s-era cruiser.
Chevy vs. Ford
On the domestic side of things, Fox Body Mustangs and third generation GM F-bodies have started to hit their stride.
There was one example of each in Motorama 2023’s Front Hall, for what I believe was their first time.
Most of you probably know what a 1992 Camaro Z28 looks like, so we’ll start with the Mercury Capri. There are no less than 15 different variants of Ford’s Fox Body platform, with the Mercury Capri being the one that most closely resembles a Mustang without actually being a Mustang.
The quad headlights and love-it-or-hate-it bubble rear end are unique to the Capri model. While Ford didn’t give the Capri a mid-run update, standard Fox Body Mustangs lasted until 1993, so I feel including this car isn’t entirely out of line with this post.
The owner of this ’86 sold it in 1993 before buying it back in 2017 to build it into what it is today. Under the hood is a Craft Racing 347ci Dart V8 block with Brodix cylinder heads, Holley induction and a ProCharger.
Eight hundred horsepower makes it to the wheels through a Tremec 6-speed transmission and Strange Engineering Ford 9-inch, 3:37 rear end. It’s also the first Fox Body Mustang in Canada to sit on a Roadster Shop chassis – a significant undertaking considering these cars were of unibody construction.
Staggered Schott 18-inch wheels, styled like the original Ford ’10-hole’ rims, hide Wilwood 4-piston brakes.
Fresh paint and a re-trimmed, factory-like interior round out the visible modifications.
The BDC custom-built Z28 isn’t quite as subdued as the Capri in terms of its colour palette, and the same can be said for its motor.
Under the hood is a 6.9L V8 stroker built by Kong Performance, equipped with an Eaton TVS (Twin Vortices Series) supercharger. The placard mentioned the car puts down 1,000+ wheel horsepower via a 6-speed manual and GearFX 9-inch, 3:50 rear end.
The exterior is repainted in Designó Mystic Blue Pearl from its original white with red stripes. Hidden within the deep blue are several carbon fibre accents.
Even new, these cars were not expected to have a high-quality interior. They were pretty plastic-laden (something you were thankful for if you had a T-top version) and had their fair share of squeaks and rattles. Here those issues are fixed with an interior that’s been re-trimmed in Nappa leather.
The ’90s might be long gone, but builds like these make me hopeful the era won’t be forgotten anytime soon.