By on June 28, 2017

1995 Ford Explorer Limited, Image: Ford

Back in late May of this year, I inquired which modern automaker was the most daring. While I posited it could be Nissan or Volvo, many of you replied it was actually Dodge, followed by Kia and Mazda.

This week, let’s turn back the clock a couple of decades and see if all our answers require a bit of reworking. We’re off to everyone’s favorite car decade, the 1990s. Which automaker was most daring in the era of the neon and teal fanny pack? I’ll give you two specific model examples, much like I did before.

A strong case for many daring 1990s vehicles can be made here for various reasons, but let’s talk daring Asia first. Between 1986 and 1991 Japan experienced a valuation bubble on real estate and business assets, and companies found themselves with lots of extra money. Of course, the car companies threw some of that cash into the development of expensively engineered new models. By the time the resulting vehicles were released, the bubble had burst and Japan was in big trouble. North America benefitted from many of these special full-fat Golden Age (TM) Japanese vehicles. Case in point:

Toyota Supra

The Mark IV Toyota Supra. Shaped like soap, priced (as new and now) like a block of gold, it had great handling and performance, an optional twin-turbo inline-six and “This is a sports car!” looks to back it up. It hit the market at full-charge in 1993. This new Supra was a sporty and engaging replacement for the aged Mark III version, which was rather unexciting and often found in fully loaded, automatic brougham guise. The Mark IV Supra was a hit — try and find an affordable one for sale today.

At home in North America the Big Three were having their own daring phase in the 1990s, but perhaps not by choice like yen-soaked Japan. The middle-America SUV craze was starting up, and domestic automakers were confronted with the fact that big, lazy brougham sedans sold by the pound couldn’t compete with more athletic offerings from elsewhere. Sports sedans, Euro handling, and edgy styling — that was the place to be! Enter the following:

Image: 1992 Cadillac Seville Touring Sedan, image via YouTube

Now before you all make your typing fingers bleed, hear me out. Obviously this is a Cadillac Seville Touring Sedan, which in a couple years’ time became known as the Seville STS, and then just STS until the end in 2011.

At the time, in the early 1990s, Cadillac was Daring Greatly, or at least mostly. The new for ’92 Seville was an entirely new styling direction for the Cadillac brand. As their flagship sedan, the angular, sharp styling left the vertical lamps and vestigial fins of the Fleetwood Brougham and Sedan DeVille in the rear-view mirror. Under the hood (for ’93) was the brand new Northstar V8 engine which, despite future woes, was a very advanced and engineering-intensive design. On the inside, the stately stalks, digital gauges and switches of ye olde Cadillac were replaced with a real instrument panel which actually provided information to the driver.

Daring by force is still daring.

Tell me your pick for the single most daring automaker of the 1990s.

[Images: Ford; Toyota; YouTube]

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81 Comments on “QOTD: The Most Daring Automaker of the 1990s?...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Lexus. They actually created a new brand in the 90s.

    They built what might be the highest-quality sedan and coupe ever, built a good RWD sports sedan with the 2nd gen GS, and showed the upside to badge engineering with the ES.

    They also came out with the RX luxury CUV in the late 90s, which is a template for all the crossovers we get to “enjoy” today.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “They also came out with the RX luxury CUV in the late 90s, which is a template for all the crossovers we get to “enjoy” today.”

      That would be the Mercedes M-Class that inspired the modern CUV, which Lexus swiftly copied, and to a lesser extent Honda with the CRV.

      Tis also one of the first “pseudo luxury” Benz, well before the CLA.

      • 0 avatar
        Carfan94

        @Ryoku75

        Incorrect, Toyota did not copy Mercedes. Toyota started development of the RX in 1994, with final design approval in December 1995, And an on sale date of March 1998. The M class was originally going to be a joint venture between Mercedes and Mitsubishi, But the joint venture was abandoned, and in 1993 Mercedes started development of the SUV on their own, It went on sale in February 1997, The same month the RX was revealed at the Chicago Auto Show, They did not copy off of the M class.

        Honda didn’t copy it either, the CR-V was designed in 1993, and went on sale in Japan in 1995. It didn’t arrive in US until 1997, But it was the same design.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Mercedes began work in 1993 on that design. They released it in ’97, followed a few months by the identical RX and CRV.

          Coincidence? I think not, especially when the earlier Lexus LS was heavily influenced by Mercedes. The styling is virtually identical between them too.

          Alternatively you can read Doug’s word on it:
          http://jalopnik.com/the-mercedes-m-class-is-one-of-the-most-important-cars-1713411044

          • 0 avatar
            Carfan94

            @Ryoku75

            Apparently you didn’t read my comment clearly. Both the Lexus RX and Honda CR-V were designed years before the Mercedes ML was shown to the public. The Idea that Toyota or Honda copied it is absurd. You cannot design a car from start to finish in just few months, It is impossible. I have read two books about the history and development about the Lexus brand, and the RX was in no way inspired by the Mercedes ML, it was Toyota’s own idea. This concept was shown the month Mercedes began producing the ML.

            http://testdrivejunkie.com/1997-lexus-slv-concept-car/

            All the luxury brands were developing car based SUV’s in the mid-late 90s. However Volvo, and Audi did get off to a late start.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I did read your comment clearly

          Mercedes started testing ML prototypes in 1995 (having designed them in ’94), by no coincidence Toyota learned about these prototypes and began work on their copy that same year, ditto Honda.

          This is nothing new, Mercedes and Lexus were fierce competitors back then so one copying the other should be no surprise.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        The first M class did not inspire the modern crossover. It was a body on frame truck, designed to compete with the Explorer and Blazer. Mercedes thought that’s what customers wanted and built accordingly. Toyota figured out what they actually wanted. This was the first modern crossover. Then, with the second generation ML clearly copied the Lexus.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    AM General HUMMER 1992-1998 (the civilian version).

    Who knew America needed a vehicle that could get passed any obstacle except a diesel fuel station?

    :-P

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The Mark IV Supra may seem daring compared to the Camry and Corolla, but you have to consider it with all the other over-the-top sports and touring cars that Japan was cranking out at the time.

    The Seville was “daring” in the sense that Cadillac finally gave up on the ’70s in 1992.

    The correct answer is, again, Chrysler: Viper, Prowler, ’94 Ram, Neon, and extra credit for the DSMs.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The Ram of the 90s definitely deserves a mention.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        My bias toward a MOPAR is no secret, but they really were doing some great things in Auburn Hills back in the early-mid 90s.

        Also don’t forget that Chrysler was using modular architecture well before the 1990s. The Stratus(which Chris Bangle aped for his ‘groundbreaking’ work over at BMW) was just a blown-up neon, which was a low sedan/coupe that also gave us the PT Cruiser– one of the early CUVs. There’s a reason their(neon and PT) chassis codes are PL and PT.

        Let’s not forget, as well, that the LH chassis with it’s north-south engine orientation (designed for front, rear and all-wheel drive) is still living in 2017 as the LX chassis under the 300, Charger and Challenger.

        Chrysler (Corporation) set the standards we’re still following today.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I don’t see any relation between the cab-forward Stratus and anything Chris Bangle designed at BMW.

          As far as the LX platform being a child (or grandchild) of the LH platform, I don’t think that’s true either. Based on my limited research, it seems there was a longitude-engined platform designated as LX that was developed alongside LH. Rumor has it that this particular “LX” was merely the longitude-RWD / AWD version of LH—whereas, like you said, LH itself was longitude-FWD. Some LH-based LX prototypes were featured on the TV show “Viper.”

          But when the DaimlerChrysler merger took place, the company began the development of a new platform that would support performance engines, yet use existing Mercedes-Benz components (like part of the floorpan, transmission and suspension), and that became the modern RWD LX platform on which the 300, Magnum, Charger and Challenger sit. Since that was Chrysler’s first RWD sedan platform, it’s safe to say that this original LH-based “LX” platform never made it to production and was scrapped.

          So I would think that the only things the LH platform and production LX platform share is that they both were used to underpin Chrysler’s largest cars during their respective tenures. Even if you look at the proportions, they aren’t at all close enough to suggest that they share architecture. I won’t even say that LH’s longitude-engined layout was an inspiration for the production LX platform; as I said, DaimlerChrysler wanted to use existing Mercedes-Benz components for cost-savings, and that was probably their reason for using a longitude-RWD layout. Otherwise, Chrysler’s full-sizers may have gone transverse-FWD, like everything else in the market at the time.

          I do absolutely agree that Chrysler was the most daring automaker in the 90s. It was also doing rather well for itself and showed numerous signs of promise before Daimler gutted it in the merger and flipped the husk onto Cerberus and the US bankruptcy court just 11 years later, in 2009.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Sorry but that is far from the truth. The LH cars were developed as a longintudinal FWD layout so that it would be easy to add AWD, Subaru style and to be RWD as well. When it came time to replace them they dusted off the plans for the rear differential and drew up a new transmission.

            They were near completion when the “merger” occurred. Daimler then said stop work, you are not tooling up for that new transmission and differential you will make the changes necessary to use our existing components and while you are at it here are some suitable brake and suspension pieces that you will make work w/o spending to much time or effort.

            So no chance the LX would have been FWD.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            That sounds like what I said. The LX platform we know today is not a descendant of the LH platform.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            These guys don’t start over if they’re given the choice of anything decent to work with. The LX most certainly is an LH-derived car. It’s just you’ve been so conditioned to calling refreshes all-new by marketing that you can’t fathom anyone saying the contrary.

            LX’s roots run even older if we decide they’re from France– and they are.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Not really. I’m the one who calls automakers out for refreshing and continuing to sell the same old car (although lately, they’ve taken to making cars that are actually all-new, but look ridiculously like their predecessors…like the new 5 and 7-Series).

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Yeah, I’m going to join the Renault -> AMC -> LH -> LX club. Daimler forced Chrysler to incorporate some MB parts in the LX, but there’s still a lot of LH in there.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Yes, the ’94 Dodge Ram 1500 was a styling revelation. Aerodynamics that made one think of long-haul trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      You can also add the PT Cruiser (went on sale in early 2000, but designed and first shown in the 90s…). Huge initial success and response that help start the retro craze of the 00s.

    • 0 avatar
      boozysmurf

      Bumpy ii beat me to it – Dodge was still making some garbage, but some of their concept-to-production work was truly magnificent. I remember drooling over the Prowler and the Viper, and the Neon, Intrepid, and Ram were design daring of the highest order (as was the PT Cruiser – whether you like it or not).

      They defined design properly – you should love it or hate, never be indifferent.

    • 0 avatar
      Polishdon

      Chrysler.

      Even if you want to discount the Ram and Viper, we cannot forget the groundbreaking LX cars (Intrepid, Concorde, LHS, New Yorker). Even now, their styling hold up. They set the standard for large cars, even forcing FoMoCo to jellybean the Taurus/Sable to outdo the LX cars.

      As the prior owner of three LX cars (two Eagle Visions and a Chrysler Concorde) they were a great car.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Those are LH cars. Not LX.

        I also (unfortunately) owned two, a Dodge Intrepid ES and a Chrysler Concorde LXi. The Concorde was a nightmare from hell. One (female doctor) owner, dealer serviced its entire life, and it gobbled up money for repairs and then proceeded to $#¡Г its engine AND trans in one day:first the trans went into limp-home mode, showing “incorrect gear ratio gear 3, incorrect gear ratio gear 4”, so I did limp home at 35-40 mph, only to have the oil light come on as soon as I pulled in the driveway, with the engine coming to a halt about 3 seconds later.

        Junkyards didn’t want it. “We have half a dozen of them that look just like it, everyone one is looking for drivetrain parts and none have them, including yours”. I gave it away for free to a scrap hauler.

        The Intrepid I bought with minor issues and resold it after I repaired them within a week or so. I didn’t give it time to screw me over like the Concorde did.

        Oh, I had a Cirrus, too. It ended up in the crusher as well.

        Its pretty daring to build a car with a built-in self destruct mode that’s triggered after one dumps thousands of dollars under the hood in a few months time.

        • 0 avatar
          PentastarPride

          That’s too bad that you had such bad luck with your LH cars. I’ve owned two, a ’97 and an ’04, never had trouble.

          I like the LH so much that I bought a ’93 Concorde sight unseen a few weeks ago in Portland Oregon (well, a trusted friend in that area checked it out for me). I figured that they are super hard to find in even halfway decent condition, so better to snag up one of the best examples now rather than later.

          So, suffice it to say, this is my first “classic” car purchase. I live in Utah so it’s being shipped here, should be here Friday next week.

          I know that the LH is prone to problems which is why I am prepared to spend whatever it takes to prevent any issues from popping up. As soon as it gets here I have already lined up a mechanic to go over the mechanicals with a fine tooth comb and repair/replace whatever it needs (which shouldn’t be much).

          This will not be my daily driver, of course, but will be my equivalent to the ’67 Charger or ’57 Thunderbird, a car that is driven in good weather and driven a couple of times a month and garaged when it isn’t.

          I will say that I do want to take a road trip with it but I am having a hard time convincing my wife to allow me to take a 24-year-old car 2500+ miles, even though it will be thoroughly checked out and as good as new. She’s puzzled as to why I bought it in the first place when I could have bought a “real” classic (her words, not mine).

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      I agree on Chrysler – totally replaced all models, plus adding some specialty models, with entirely new architecture that was mostly pretty good stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        Yesac13

        I agree on Chrysler.

        Seems that many have forgotten one truly important Chrysler vehicle: The Jeep Grand Cherokee. That one came out in 1992. It was a big hit and made Chrysler lots of money. Both the JGC and the Ram truck still makes most of the moolah for Chrysler today.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    I’d like to make a vote for the GMC Syclone. A pickup truck that could beat a Ferrari in the 1/4 mile. That’s pretty daring.

  • avatar
    Pantherlove

    My first thought was GM/Saturn, even if it wasn’t successful long term.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      As daring?!

      • 0 avatar
        Pantherlove

        They had their own plant, frame and engine designs, dealer network, and price structure, so in that sense I’d say yes even if the cars were as bland as paste.

        • 0 avatar
          Corey Lewis

          Hmm. It was a new venture, but I’m not sure all that daring. Subaru had all those things at the same time.

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            But Subaru had been around – they just started to go mainstream in the ’90s. Saturn was definitely daring, and of course, Chevrolet hated them for it, because Saturn was handed the small car development funds that Chevy thought should have been theirs. But then after building turkeys like the Cavalier, what did they expect?

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            It seems to me like by then, GM wasn’t developing cars—especially cars like the J-Cars—by division anymore, so it was probably the whole of GM’s traditional brands that were upset, not just Chevrolet.

            Currently, I know that Volkswagen still has individual divisions leading specific platforms and cars. For example the MQB (transverse-FWD / Golf-based) platform was led by Volkswagen, the MLB platform (longitude-FWD / most Audis) was led by Audi, and the new MSB platform (longitude-RWD / new Panamera; upcoming Conti GT) was led jointly by Porsche and Bentley.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. The first gen Saturn was “the practical person’s sporty car,” as some reviewer wrote. It was very distinctive (they never showed it in ads before it appeared), but the first time I saw one–on a reporting trip to California, where they appeared before other places–I knew exactly what it was, immediately. The high end models had very sporty handling. A former race driver friend used to love to drive mine. And the plastic panels were very helpful for avoiding dings and scratches.

      And the first gen sold well–nearly 300,000 in ’94 or ’95, with just one model. Unfortunately, in ’96, they pulled Saturn back into the mother ship, and dumbed it down–probably due to GM internal politics–and they never sold nearly as many, even with four or five different models.

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-truth-about-saturn/

  • avatar
    JimZ

    pretty much all of the Japanese car makers. The twin-turbo 300XZ was the start, then the 3000GT, the bonkers Subaru SVX, the Honda/Acura NSX, and so on.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    It’s hard to argue with the Viper and Prowler.

    But, in the early 90s we were still feeling the effects of leftover Malaise (copyright Murilee Martin) except you could buy what was arguably the best car ever built. Was it a Mercedes? A BMW? A Cadillac? Well obviously it wasn’t a Cadillac. It was a Toyota Camry. Not a Lexus, no, it was a midsize affordable car. Toyota put it all on the line with that car and we’re STILL talking about that generation Camry 25 years later.

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      Meh I’d much rather have a b-body Buick Roadmaster Estate than a Camry of similar vintage. The Roadmaster is just as reliable and amazingly useful.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Those were the “Junior Lexus” Camrys, whereas a Lexus today is a “Senior Toyota.” Certainly a level of high quality materials we’ll not likely see again in our lifetime.

        Regarding GM 1990s RWD platforms, give me a Cadillac Fleetwood or an ultra-rare bubble Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    I second your view that it was Cadillac.

    For all the trouble down the road, the Northstar was a true engineering feat when it came out. It took Cadillac out of perdition of its own making and got it out into purgatory. The old Cadillac engines were the epitome of Cadillac resting on their laurels – Elvis was long dead, there were no more pink Cadillacs of the stars, and Cadillac didn’t know what it was doing. The Northstar V8 – built like a race car engine! – was a brilliant plan, executed without consideration for the expected longevity of it.

    It was like a race car engine – fun, exciting, and temperamental. Recall that Junior Johnson won a lot of races where his cars had engine disasters on the post-race parade lap.

    Art and Science has been a dead-end for Cadillac – they do not know what to do next for design – but Northstar was the old man strength of a brand, now moribund and mostly dead, as it sallied forth one last time with a GM division-exclusive and division-engineered engine that you could not get in a Chevrolet.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I loved the new Seville and Eldorado, and the Seville that launched for ’98. My only disappointment at the time was that they were FWD, and should have been RWD.

      Also, when the Seville and Eldorado launched for ’92, they were still saddled with the HT4900, and didn’t get the Northstar until the second year (’93).

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My footnote on the Northstar is that Cadillac wanted an engine that would compete with the Europeans, and by golly, they got it. It was as powerful, as sophisticated…and as unreliable, at least until about 2003 / 2004. Versions after that were pretty robust.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Typical of pre-BK GM. screw the pooch out of the gate, then by the time they got it right, cancel it.

        -Olds diesel
        -Fiero
        -HT4100
        -Northstar

        • 0 avatar
          Corey Lewis

          You just have to buy end-of-run vehicles from them. After bugs are worked out, and before final year decontenting.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            You’ve got a point, Corey– one I won’t ignore again, even if I want the full suite of current ModCons. My previous two cars were great and they were end-of-run cars. Coincidentally, both had year models ending in 8.

            The current one is a middle-run 2015 car and couldn’t feel more different. It hasn’t cost anything more than those two yet, but we’ll see about that. I’m a keeper– so y’all are likely to hear how a princess of a Dart holds up long-term.

            That may change. I’m superstitious as all get out, and may do something in 2018 to re-start that lucky numerology.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @MrGreenMan: Agree 100%. From 1982 to 1998, The Old Man leased a new Seville every year. Exclusively STS’s once they became available. Due to the rapid turnover, he didn’t experience the reliability problems with one exception. A 3 month old N* that crapped out in Muskoka. GM took it away on a flatbed and the dealer presented him with a brand new vehicle for the remainder of that lease.

      Even though we had VW’s in the family for 15 years and many of his employees drove Mercedes and BMW’s he could not equate German with luxury.

    • 0 avatar
      W210Driver

      Agreed. Cadillac gets my vote.

      Imagine the sensation that was the Catera. A RWD Cadillac sedan that promised European-style handling and performance at a much cheaper price. We know how that turned out, but the Catera was a pretty ballsy move on GMs part, in my opinion.

      Second place goes to Chrysler with their pioneering cab-forward designs of the early to mid-1990s.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        Rebadging an unreliable, mediocre-performing Opel was gutsy?

        • 0 avatar
          W210Driver

          The idea to offer a RWD sedan once again was great, and daring. Daring because at the time Cadillac was pretty much a FWD brand and its buying demographic had one foot in the grave. So it seemed like a great idea to offer the Catera and appeal to younger buyers and breathe new life into the brand..

          In retrospect it was a typical GM move; brilliant idea, mediocre execution.

          Well, they did eventually get it right with the first generation CTS.

  • avatar

    I’d say GM. They had the gall to continue pushing 80’s tin with cheap plastic interiors and “daring” the public to continue buying them.

    Ford was daring with their Taurus and revamping their truck line. Even though Taurus sales imploded and the nameplate never recovered, the new F series truck was a hit and spawned the Expedition and Navigator, leading to a surge in large SUV popularity.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Taurus and Sable were definitely daring. Search YouTube for the Chevy dealer training videos where they tout their boxy Celebrity with the formal rear window, and crap on the new Taurus, which kicked their butts.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Taurus sales didn’t exactly implode, it just lost the #1 position after 1996. It remained one of the top 3 selling cars during the rest of the 1990s.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        The Taurus’s fall from glory was…tragic…to say the least. The original one was very, very good…easily the best car on sale at that time for a family. But Ford had profit margins to meet. For the 1992-1995 second-gen, largely a facelift, they cut some features and materials, right as the most premium Camry ever, the 1992-1996 XV10 Camry, hit the market. For the 1996 “ovoid” Taurus redesign, Ford added back the premium features and quality…right as Toyota de-contented the Camry significantly for its 1997 redesign, to hit a lower price-point. In order to compete, Ford hastily cost-cut the ever-loving sh*t out of the Taurus mid-generation…and the nameplate still hasn’t recovered.

        It continued to sell well, but didn’t manage the same magic combination of affordable-yet-good that the Camry did, which just made it feel cheap. Its ubiquity in the rental / fleet market also didn’t help.

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe not an implosion, but a gradual decline through about 2006.

        Still, it was a good car. I would have gladly taken a ’95-97 Taurus over the ’97 Olds Cutlass I drove until a few years back. But the Cutlass came from a family member, was cheap with low miles and I was nostalgic for the Cutlass name.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      GM had some daring cars, design-wise. The final (1995-1999) Buick Riviera was daring. So were the 1994 and later F-Bodies. But for the most part, the company was following market trends, and struggling to bring back the dominant market position that it had let slip over the previous two-and-a-half decades. Besides, GM continued to sell downright-80s cars like the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera and the B-bodies (which, curvy or not, looked extremely dated) through 1996. I think, even including Saturn, that there were companies more deserving of “Most Daring” than GM during that time.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Toyota Tundra.

    This was the most daring car.

    Toyota decided to challenge Detroit in the full size arena.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I live in a large urban area so it’s shocking to see a 1990s Seville without the gold package, a fake convertible roof and 40″ rims. I thought these were hotter than Georgia asphalt when they first came out.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Chrysler without a doubt. The Japanese were in their heyday and had some really cool stuff. Lexus(and Acura) forever changed luxury and near luxury from being a European or American only ideal and did it well. The oval Taurus, which I liked, was a giant leap for Ford, but it didn’t work out so well sales wise

    But the original LH cars, the original Neon, the 1994.5 Ram and even the “Cloud Cars” were really fantastic leaps forward for Chrysler. The wild-stuff like Prowler and Viper were just incredible to see from the company which sold some variant on the K car for 20 years. It’s a shame that the reliability and spotty build quality also followed these cars and chased many folks from the Pentastar for good.

    I drove a fair amount of LH’s, Cloud Cars and Neons working as a car prep for the Big E. They weren’t great cars, but they really weren’t much worse than anything else from the domestic category anyway and better in some ways. The cheap and cheerful Neon drove better than most J bodies and the Intrepid was a better driver when it had the 3.5 than most anything from the General. The cloud cars were certainly more desirable than a Corsica, though the Contour drove better,especially with the V6.

    But none of them compared well to a mid-90’s Corolla or Camry, especially in the terms of holding up to rental abuse.

    At least, through it all, there’s still some glimmer of “fun” at Chrysler. There’s not much REALLY interesting for the common man of common pocketbook from the Japanese anymore. Th

  • avatar
    smapdi

    Chrysler for the reasons everyone mentioned. The Ram was a vastly different styling direction then any pickup of the day. The Prowler and (eventually) PT Cruiser combined the retro look with the rounded 90s stylings. The Viper, Intrepid & variations, Neon… all stood out. The Chrysler vehicles that were redesigned and replaced in the 90s looked completely different from the outgoing models.

    I would put Ford as a soft second for the bubbling of their biggest badges as well (the F150, Taurus and Escort) and then the new edge styling at the very end of the decade (the Focus looked radically different from competitor’s options).

    As a business model, and not the actual vehicles themselves, I would put Saturn at the top. A complete rethinking of auto sales.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Chrysler Corporation, without a doubt in the North American market. Japan Inc., may have building their best cars ever, but with few exceptions, they were as bland as possible.

    I sold Toyotas for a dealership group in the early 90’s. I was the “car guy” at that location, but it didn’t help my sales numbers. Everyone came in for a Camry, Corolla or Truck. The 3 or 4 people a week that would come in and look at a hot Celica, Supra or MR2 were tire kickers looking to see if they could test drive a car while asking me to let them sleep on it…

    In the 90’s Chrysler had it all, except a truly good RWD full size car. Small cars, minivans, compacts, FWD full-sizers, trucks and… JEEP! That the merger with Daimler would unwind them nearly completely was something that was never imagined in 1998…

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    Chrysler. From the LH cars, the Ram, the Viper, and the all aluminum Prowler. It is never mentioned anywhere that the people worked on the Aluminum Prowler were hired by Ford to eventually create the Aluminum F150.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I consider these three to have been fairly daring:

    Infiniti: Unlike “Notice me Mercedes!” Lexus, Infiniti put out some fairly weird stuff at the time. A car with a stubby trunk, a beefed up Euro-market compact, even ads that rare actually showed cars.

    Chrysler: The reasons have already been stated, their cars were a bit iffy reliability-wise but they were certainly bold as they moved away from K-Cars. Arguably THE most bold of the 90’s.

    Volvo: They built the 850, a more competitive offering than previous models with a Porsche-designed 5 cylinder, passive 4-wheel steering, all the while costing less to build than previous models. Shame the cost-cutting became apparent in little time. Then there was the V90 which gained a Corvette-inspired rear suspension (though I doubt this made up for that platforms handling issues).

  • avatar
    RangerM

    Don’t know that it’s the most daring, but Ford….

    ….dared to ditch the Mustang in favor of the Probe (wisely didn’t).
    ….dared to sell the 1997 F150 in alongside the 1996 (pretty bold design at the time).

    I agree the ’94 Ram was a pretty bold design, too.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Although I think the Mopar boys win this round, I want to put in a second-place vote for Honda, for daring to make an f-ton of very solid, fun to drive Accords and Civics that are still running to this very day. Third place: Ford, for the Oval Taurus…someday I am getting me one of those gorgeous wagons, and throwing a Pentastar drivetrain in it. Also for daring to roll out the Mistake/Detour with engines and transmissions (even the manuals – how did they do it?) guaranteed to grenade between 90 and 100K mi. Good thing the Explorer was taking over by then, or things might have turned out very differently for Ford.

  • avatar
    Yesac13

    Would like to point out again… Chrysler definitely was the most innovative.

    One model that seems to be forgotten constantly when posters talk about Chrysler is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It itself wasn’t that particularly innovative but did give the whole SUV craze a big shot in the arm. That one was one of Chrysler’s most important products. It along with the Ram truck made most of the dollars at Chrysler. Still true over 20 years later today!


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