By on February 6, 2014


The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of two of God’s most perfect creations: The Mazda Miata and the Acura NSX. Long-time readers will know that I have a strong affinity for both of these cars. The Miata was the first car I ever owned, while the NSX remains a focal point in my relationship with the automobile.

Automobile Magazine takes a look at both of those cars, as well as three others – the Lexus LS400, the Infiniti Q45 and the Nissan 300ZX – in what is considered to be a very strong draft class for the Japanese auto industry. Four of the five cars still exist in one form or another, with the NSX said to be just around the corner – though that’s been the word since it was discontinued roughly a decade ago.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect is that even today, these cars still stand the test of time, whether it’s a pristinely preserved Miata or a tired LS400. Get behind the wheel of any of them, and they still manage to thrill and excite, even if they don’t seem quite so fresh.

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33 Comments on “Chicago 1989: Where Are They Now?...”

  • avatar

    I have a 2-inch stack of 3×5 photos from the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. I should scan them for you.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Hey, if Abenomics really has legs, who knows what may happen. A growing Japanese economy on a consumption binge would encourage a lot of ego-feeding by Japanese manufacturers.

  • avatar

    I’m glad this site doesn’t look like that one.

  • avatar

    I was in my late teens when this wave of Japanese slam dunk-mobiles were landing one after another.

    My favourite was the new-for-’89 Nissan Maxima, I wanted one of those 4DSC’s dearly.

  • avatar

    The LS400 could be introduced right now with the current Lincoln Navigator front clip and a 400 hp V8 and we would sing it’s praises.

  • avatar

    In 89 the auto show also had the first year MN12 platform the Thunderbird SC (Super Coupe) which has alot of technology for an American Automobile during that era!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Blah. The previous Fox-body aerobirds were better looking cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Personally, I prefer ANY car that is even marginally successful at copying a 1985 BMW 635 coupe.

      • 0 avatar

        I rather like the 1994-95 redesigned MN12 with the 4.6 V8 and uprated 3.8SC V6, but I don’t like the front bumper change for the 1996-97 models, and those cars also suffered from a failure-prone composite intake manifold on the 4.6.

        So if I wanted a T-bird, either an 80s Turbo Coupe (or V8 car with the aero nose) or 1994-95 V8 or Super Coupe would be what I would go after.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          I own a 95 with the 4.6. It is a fine vehicle, very reliable a gentleman Mustang so to speak. The failure-prone composite intake manifold was on 96-97 models.

  • avatar

    Evidence that the obsessive compulsive change in autos is not always necessary. I would go further and say it’s often a negative. Toyota ruined the Scion xB after the first generation, and GM ruined the Saturn after the first generation.

    The original Taurus probably would have been best left alone, stylistically.

  • avatar

    There are two more Japanese entries into the 1989 draft class (actually, all the described models were 1990 models, introduced in the 1989 calendar year, but whatever); the first Mitsubishi Eclipse (and Plymouth Laser and Eagle Talon), a sport coupe which was extraordinarily equipped and praised at its time, and the 1990 Honda Accord–the first midsize Accord, which was cited as a reason that Oldsmobile no longer exists.

  • avatar
    Dweller on the Threshold

    Proper design criteria, not features = desirable longevity.

    Hell, the design criteria don’t even have to be innovative, as the Miata was a very derivative car.

  • avatar

    It’s a great time to buy an old Miata.

    Last fall after extensive searching I bought a first year, 70k miles, completely unmolested,and absolutely no rust car for $4300.

    I think they may be the 67 Camaro of the 2035 era. At the very worst a free fun ride for as long as I keep it.

  • avatar

    Also at that show was a black Vector, a red Avanti convertible with square headlights, a yellow Diablo (I think), the Geo Storm, a Penske Indy Car… gosh what else, I can’t even recall.

  • avatar

    Quite a throwback Thursday…I guess its a generational thing but like Derek I also grew up in awe of Japanese engineering and performance. I remember the days when they were more than just appliances. Sad to see that excitement, passion, and quality lost. Disappointing that automobile didn’t give the NSX credit for it’s special pedigree – it is the only streetcar haunted by the spirit of Sennna. Indeed, it is a bit of a sad irony to see both Senna and his road going legacy as fallen icons.

  • avatar

    P.S. Quite a lot of game-changers that year, weren’t there Derek? :-P

  • avatar

    The Subaru SVX concept car debuted in ’89, but I’m not sure if it was at the Chicago show. It would be another two years before it hit dealer lots as a ’92 model.

  • avatar

    I remember first seeing the 300zx at the 1989 New York Auto Show, I was 19. I had the 3-page “centerfold” of a silver 300zx from the brochure on my wall. I bought a one year old, 12k miles 1996 model in 1997, still have it. With the JDM ’99 front fascia, the car still looks very fresh. I think its looks have held up well because there’s nothing trendy about the design that you can point to and say “that’s so 1990”. The headlights and taillight panel are unique to the 300zx. The body is very clean, free of extraneous creases, cuts, or trim. I’ve never warmed up to the design of the 350Z or 370Z. I’d love to see a modern interpretation of the 1990 design for the next Z.

  • avatar

    By coincidence, a cousin of mine met the designer of the NSX one time on a Honda factory tour in Japan. They exchanged a few words, but something clicked and they corresponded and became friends after that. He even attended my cousin’s wedding in Hawaii. I’m told he’s an extremely humble man and is the only designer at Honda who stayed from beginning to end on a design project. He and his family visited him at his home recently for lunch, and judging by the pictures on Facebook, he’s also an excellent chef.

  • avatar

    Speaking of “Where are they now?”, since you guys are in the Windy City is there any plan for a member meet-up?

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of two of God’s most perfect creations:”

    What a conceited statement. I’m sure the eight million or so Shinto Kami are duly insulted by the attribution of their work to a middle-eastern sun deity.

  • avatar

    Not only the NSX but the entire 1990 model year line up of Honda was amazing. NSX, Legend, Vigor, Integra, Accord, Civic, CRX, Prelude, Beat, Ascot, City, I can’t think of anymore at the moment but that era of Honda cars (in Japan from 1988 to 1991) had the best looking designs, best all around driving visibility (thin pillars, really low hoodline, big greenhouse), 4 wheel independent double wishbone suspension, vtec, 4ws, etc. And they were winning in Formula 1. Senna and Honda were both still alive. Truly the golden years.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to mention, they all looked similar. Like a Family of completely different cars. From the Beat to the NSX it looked like every car was designed by the same person, and that they spawned from the same genes. Indeed golden years. (well, we do know now that most of them would rust eventually)

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