1990s Sizzlers - What Do You Reckon? 447

By: Glenn Torrens

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ford laser tx3 ford laser tx3

The cars of the 1990s are things to be treasured, says GT

A few months ago, I wrote about 1990s Commodores and Falcons being a solid foundation for what could eventually be regarded as the most exciting, interesting and best-remembered decade of our terrific Aussie car industry. During the 1990s, so many great new models arrived: Clubsport, XR8, the reborn SS (that was ’89, but…) , GTS and GT, the XR6 and Grange, plus some now less-remembered stuff such as the XU-6, the T-Series, the XU-8 and SLR5000 (yep!).

Alongside those cars we had – and yes, I know that not everyone will regard these cars with much passion! – the Aussie-made Mitsubishi Magna (including the terrific AWD and Ralliart versions) the Ford Capri plus Toyota’s respected Camry. Our Aussie-built cars were exported: Mitsubishis to the USA; Commodores, Statos and Camrys to the Middle East. The Capri also went to the USA and Nissan sold a few Pintaras in Japan.

There was plenty going on… which really highlights the tragedy of the industry that we’ve lost.

But one of my mates got chatting to me about the other cool stuff the 1990s brought us, too. I couldn’t write 1990s World Car History in one page, so I chose to write about our Aussie stuff but – yes – the 1990s gave us lots of other stuff, too.

Nissan’s GTR provided astonishing grunt from its injected 2.6-litre twin-turbo DOHC four-valve straight six. Its formidable four-wheel steer and all-wheel drive chassis was wrapped in a conservative – almost boring – body. The fact that it arrived not much more than half-a-dozen years after our own Holden and Ford made their first ‘high-tech’ baby-steps with optional fuel-injection for the VK Commodore and XE Falcon reminds us of the huge advances Japan made with automotive development during the 1980s.

The GTR was made (in)famous by motorsport success and it wasn’t the only one: The early-1990s Bathurst 24 Hour race was where the stunning Series VI Mazda RX-7 continued racer Allan Moffat’s early-80s legacy of the RX-7 in Aussie competition by winning the second, third and fourth Bathurst 12-Hours. The first 12 Hour in 1991 was won by Toyota’s Supra Turbo, another respected – but maybe not quite as adored – Japanese booster rocket.

No list of great cars of this era would be complete without the Mazda MX-5. Sure, it doesn’t have 180kW killer-wasps like an Aussie V8 nor the (‘alleged’) 206kW of the GTR, Supra or RX-7 , but with its inspired blend of tradition and innovation, the tactility of its pure-breed suspension and the willingness – if not outright potency - of its twin-cam 1.6-litre’s performance, it’s a ripper.

In 1994 *BOOOM* the Subaru Impreza WRX arrived. During the mid-1980s, Subaru changed its focus: from a farmer-friendly four-wheel drive wagon, Subaru created a rallying rocket. That did wonders for the brand!

Unfortunately, in Oz the WRX gained infamy as an easily stolen and fast crooks’ car but for people acquiring them legitimately, it was priced around $42k: that was similar money to Commodore SS and Falcon XR8… and less than half the ask for the 1-of-100 Nissan GTRs just a few years before.

The Subie WRX isn’t the only AWD turbo rally rocket of the era that we can now hang H-plates from. Ford’s humble Laser – your older sister’s car during the 1980s – spawned a respected turbo (and some were AWD, too) Laser TX-3. Mitsubishi did similar with its Lancer GSR. I reckon it’s always great to see these 1990s icons at a cars n coffee morning with the GTSs and GTs.

 

From Unique Cars #447, December 2020

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