By on April 17, 2019

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS - Image: ChevroletLast week, we accepted suggestions for our readers’ least favorite front-drive cars from the 1990s, but commenter Art Vandelay (an importer/exporter) wanted more. We’re back a week later to repeat the same question, but with a focus on rear-drive rides. Let the aero-infused criticism begin.

Don’t worry, we’re not picking on that Purp Drank Impala SS. The rules this time around will be the same as the last edition of this game, mostly:

  • Only vehicles with model years between 1990 and 1999 are eligible for submission.
  • Vehicles from any manufacturer qualify.
  • Qualifying vehicles were sold as new in North America.

Though there were still many rear-drive sedans in the Nineties, lots of other things were rear drive, too — keep that in mind. I’ll stick with a sedan criticism here, one which may surprise you.

Before you is the second-generation Infiniti Q45. Infiniti’s first flagship debuted for the 1990 model year, aimed directly at HMS Lexus LS400. Contrasting with the Lexus, the Q45’s rather avant garde grille-free design was paired with a minimalist interior. Free of ruched leather and wood trim (which its competitors had), the Q45 was also largely free of buyers.

Though the sedan impressed motoring journalists, Real People shied away from its beefy 4.5-liter V8. Consumers opted in droves for the more conservative, more luxurious, and more prestigious Lexus. While Lexus spent more than a decade developing a car to suit the American luxury market, Nissan chose to bring over a revised version of its President executive sedan, which debuted in the Japanese domestic market that same year. Marketing of the Q45 was also an issue, as Infiniti opted for modern and minimal advertisements that featured trees, but not the car for sale. Time to try again, Infiniti said.

In 1997, a new Q45 arrived in North America. This one was slightly smaller than the original, placing less emphasis on modernism and sports and more on conservative luxury, just like Lexus. Suddenly, there was lots of ruched leather and wood trim, and a fancy clock which looked upon a top-tier interior of Nissan Maxima parts. Based on the less expensive Japanese market Cima, the Q had a lesser engine as well. Though the “45” remained on the back, a more accurate representation would’ve said “41.” Under hood was a 4.1-liter V8 from the VH engine line. It produced 268 horsepower (a respectable number), but the unique sporty proposition was gone. This second Q45 was broadly labeled as a Japanese Buick and forgotten by most everybody. Infiniti tried for sports luxury again in 2002, but it was too late. Infiniti never went all-in with attempts to tackle Lexus for sedan dominance, and it showed. The second generation Q45 was a great example of what happens when an expensive car is developed half-heartedly.

What rear-drive Nineties ride doesn’t do it for you?

[Images: General Motors, Infiniti]

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104 Comments on “QOTD: Your Least Favorite Rear-drive Nineties Ride?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    But, but we LOVE rear-drive 90s cars

  • avatar
    JimZ

    the 1990 Caprice Wagon. Why? I was a wrench back then, and we had a number of customers with them. Apparently GM decided to use up the Olds 307 V8 by putting them in the Caprice Wagon, but didn’t change the VIN code (only decoded to “5.0 liter.”) never-ending fights with parts jobbers who insisted the cars must have a Chevy 305. I’d say “look, you sumb*tch, it’s got an oil fill neck up front and Olds valve covers, it’s a godd*mn 307.”

    9 times out of 10 they’d relent, yet still give me a part for a 305.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Oh dear, there’s that GM sense of humor shining through :)

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The better question was why they were selling the anemic 307 in 1990.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Or why it took until 1989 to get TBI on ANY (non-performance) GM PASSENGER CAR V8! (SBC 305 FYI)

        The fact that you could get a 4 barrel eQudraJUNK Olds 307 in a Cadillac until the end of the square Brougham is a freaking travesty. Especially given the engineering talent that GM has and then refuses to use.

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      Speaking of getting the right part, is it me or is ordering a part from any brick and mortar national chain other than NAPA getting to be a futile endeavor?? If it’s not on the computer and older than 5 years, oh boy. Also, why do you need to know what engine size is to order wiper blades.

      Try getting a trans filter for a 63 Cadillac and saying it’s a hydromatic, and they say “ya a turbo hydromatic 400”. ….. argh. Or telling them the motor is a 390, and then they say with authority that only Ford made a 390.

      Also, why the new stock photo B body as the headline pic? Needs to be a Clapped out 3 series Beeemer. CRUSH THEM ALL!

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        Wait until you blow their minds by telling them there are two different Cadillac 390s…

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          eh, the Ford 351(s) would like to have a word with you.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Windsor, Cleveland, Modified. You can put the Cleveland Heads on a Windsor and build a “Clevor”

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            My 351 is a GMC.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Or 351 heads on a 302. I guess either 351s just have a longer stroke, same bore and the bolts line up.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            351 heads on a 302 would be a boss 302, more or less. If I remember to put the Cleveland heads on a Windsor some holes have to be enlarged, a special intake used, and some sort of coolant crossover utilized. The Cleveland intakes are dry and the Windsor’s has coolant passages so some work has to be done there.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            It was mentioned by two different mechanics my ’79 5.0 Mustang had 351 heads, otherwise stock and 4v carb. I was 16, 1985 and didn’t really know what it meant, but the car went like stink once I changed the Ring & Pinion to 4.10:1 and posi.

      • 0 avatar
        ravenuer

        Imagine what they’d say if you said it was an AMC 390!

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      Wrench? You mean a mechanic? Haha….parts jobbers. Wow, that must have been a living hell. How did you get through it?

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Not an absolute answer, but the first Mercedes C-Class (W202) comes to mind. It was the first decontented Benz after their massive investment in the W140 S-Class, and there’s plenty of rusty examples around to back up the biodegradability (the W201 190E that came before it tends to have held up so much better). Outside of the AMG versions that came later in the 90’s, they just don’t have much going for them.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Those little German a-hole machines that spent the tail end of the decade tailgating me. Crush them all. Owners too.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    What rear-drive Nineties ride doesn’t do it for you?

    – 1990 Bronco-II

  • avatar
    jack4x

    This is going to be a hard one for a lot of people here…RWD 90s vehicles are their Holy Grail.

    For me, I’m going to say the ’97 F150. The looks were polarizing at the time and have not aged well IMO. Next to a GMT400/800 or the ’94 Ram, they looked silly. I also don’t have data to back this up, but just observing what’s on the road it seems like the GM trucks of the time have held up a lot better. There just aren’t a lot of jellybean Fords still rolling around by me. Heck, I see more 80s-early 90s Fords. I might also have just a bit of lingering bitterness at Ford for moving to overhead cams in a truck.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      jack4x – I was thinking the same thing. Ford sold those F150s by the hundreds of thousands and I have to agree, the remaining ones you see out there really haven’t held up well and at least in my neck of the woods, you don’t see many on the streets any longer. Same with the Expedition of that era…and they just look old now. And don’t get me started with the Excursion.
      Having the half door on an extended cab really was their selling point, but the jelly bean styling on a truck looks odd now, especially given Ford’s current love for all things “huge, more, bigger, chrome-ier grilles!!!”

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Love it or hate it, that truck was the blueprint for where we are today with trucks. It pioneered the whole leather lined 4 door half ton with a 5 foot bed deal. That will be enough for some to make it their least favorite. It also blazed the “truck needen’t be a box” trail, again, for better or worse.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    BMW 318ti. I think this was the first attempt at the Germans to crack the REAL cheap section of the American market (dominated by the A3, CLA, A-class, and 2-series now). Let’s just lop off a few feet from a 3-series, make it a hatch, put next to no luxury features in it, put the weakest engine in it, advertise it for under $30,000 (or even cheaper leases), and pray the buyers will come. Well, it barely made it one generation, so there’s your answer!

    I’m not totally sure why I am so against this car, but when I saw this headline, this was the first car that popped in my head. I think it just stunk so much because this really was peak BMW in terms of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and this 318ti was nothing a BMW was supposed to be.

    And don’t go knocking the Impala SS up there! A co-worker friend of mine got one fresh off of the lot (same color), and while it looked like Shamu got beached, having the Corvette engine in that thing…well, he did the drive to lunch with us hanging on a lot! It was big, brash, and American.

    • 0 avatar
      Nikolai

      You’ve got the right answer here!
      Most of the other cars in this list have some redeeming values, some interesting character to them even if they failed.
      But the 318i was shameless cash grab for people who care only about labels.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Some people thought it was better than the proper E36. Smaller, lighter, and while it used a cheaper rear suspension, It was the E30’s set up so it isn’t like it was terrible. I like these. Certainly from a sales perspective they were failures though.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I bought a 318ti a few years ago and went into it eyes wide open. I wanted a cheap car with a manual transmission, hatchback, and rear wheel drive. I liked the benefit of the less sophisticated E30 rear suspension and thought it was a better alternative the the little Mercedes C230. I thought the 318ti was an entertaining, practical, and efficient car.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I’m adding this to my Fiesta ST lease up nostalgia fueled I need a 90’s car shopping list. I never see clean ones, but I’m more likely to see a clean one than the B13 SE-R I really want.

        • 0 avatar
          theflyersfan

          Art…I’m not sure there are any half-decent B13 SE-Rs left. The downside of being an inexpensive car built over 25 years ago. (…sniff…) They will be missed. My God, they were fun.
          At least you’re keeping the small, fun econocar (save the manuals!) movement alive (while you can) with the Fiesta ST.
          I sometimes look myself – if the 90’s car shopping nostalgia really kicks in, there are still some garage queen 300ZX Twin Turbos out there. You’ll probably have to “Do a Corey” and travel cross country, but it’ll be worth it.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            No, the SE-Rs are all either used up and/or in the hands of people who know exactly what they’ve got. (Mine’s only 1/4 decent, and I’m not letting it go.)

            And there was no Japanese version, so you can’t go the import route either. Closest you can get is a SR18DE Sunny, or a SR20DE Presea (if you can find one).

    • 0 avatar
      glwillia

      I owned one of these when I lived in Switzerland, a 1998 318ti M-Sport. It was fuel-efficient, simple, reliable, and a blast to drive. It was, however, a car designed entirely for Europe where it was ridiculously popular; Americans wanted a luxury status symbol with an automatic transmission, rather than an actual driver’s car. I also don’t understand why online commentors love the E30 so much but hate the 318ti, the E36/7 is basically a 1991 318iS with a more useful cargo area and a more modern front suspension (and it’s not like E30s had luxurious interiors…)

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        Wanted to add an extra two cents…
        I drove one also, and the reason I “nominated” the 318ti was that, at the time BMW was flying sky high with the E36 3-series, the gonzo M5, and the loaded to the gills 7-series, all of a sudden, here comes this 90 pound weakling out of nowhere (in the US market). Its rear end looks like it got hacked by a cleaver, the rear suspension was changed to fit the new dimensions, and it wasn’t powered by that oh-so-smooth I-6 that we still worship today.
        I’ve said this before in previous comments, and it really applies to this model – it came across as to be built to a price point, not to be world class. At that time, BMW was making world-class automobiles that people aspired to get. This came around when cheap leasing was becoming the norm and it reeked of BMW trying to get in on some easy sales based on the badge and not how it actually looked and drove.
        And I do remember many of them being painted forest green with the awful at the time non-painted black bumpers – both paint and bumpers seemed to fade in record time and they didn’t look all that good in a couple of years.
        glwillia – have to agree with the E30 interiors – for as much praise as we give them, the sheer amount of creaking hard plastic and plastic-feeling seats shows where BMW really spent their money – under the hood and around the wheels.

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          That 318Ti does look oddly stunted, but that was a very interesting car for me in the 90s. It was a BMW with most of the goodness, but priced so that it was kind of affordable. If I came across one in good shape, I would consider buying it.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            If you’re old enough to have imprinted on US-market 2002’s and E21’s as then-new cars, the 318ti is something of a charming throwback. I guess I can understand the reaction of someone born after 1980, but I don’t share it.

            I disagree with the criticism of the E30’s interior. E30’s and E28’s had simple interiors–incredibly simple by 2010s standards–but they generally* were well assembled and, by my recollection, of pretty good materials. They held up well for five-plus years of daily use; I haven’t ridden in one since the ’90s, so maybe they go sour at some point. The particular examples I remember had cloth seats, and I’ll concede it’s plausible that the leather upgrade for E30s netted you something plasticky (perhaps foreshadowing the industry’s move to over-processed cheaper leather in the 21st century).

            – – –

            *Exception: Longtime commenters may recall my parents’ “had to have been built the first Monday morning after Oktoberfest” E28. Amongst its litany of issues was a spring end that popped through the front of the rear seat cushion, i.e. not under your butt but behind the right calf of the left-rear passenger. It wasn’t broken; it was a smooth U-bend. And it only extended a millimeter or two through the material, so it didn’t touch your leg. I’ve never seen that on any other car that wasn’t really old or really abused. The dealer and BMW both were mortified, and apparently somebody in Munich got reamed but good for the defect. They actually replaced the entire seat, perhaps out of contrition and perhaps to do a post-mortem on it.

            That actually was the only interior issue in terms of materials quality. The interior probably was the best part of the car apart from how it looked and how it drove *when* it was operating.

        • 0 avatar
          glwillia

          theflyersfan – in Europe you could get the E36/7 with a 2.5L M52 engine (although fuel/displacement taxes being what they are over there, the most popular variant was the 316i). The 318ti was a fine car, but it was a fine car for Europe (where it basically competed with the likes of the VW Golf), and bringing it Stateside was as much a mistake as bringing the W168 A-class would have been for Daimler (or indeed, bringing over the W203 “coupe” was a few years later)

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      The 318ti MSRPed for a little under $20k, so it’s like $34k in 2019 dollars.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    I find it kind of amazing in retrospect that the Ford Aerostar minivan not only existed into the ’90’s, but was sold all the way up until 1997.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      I knew people who loved them. They were heavily abused and neglected where I lived; and not retired until they were totally worn out. A lot had a second life as sub-contract trades haulers; especially the LWB and AWD versions.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I’m one of those who loved his Aerostar, well built, rear-drive, road great. I crisscrossed the US a couple of times with kids and all our stuff all pleasant, problem free experiences. I only gave it up when the last kid left for good, because I just didn’t need it anymore

    • 0 avatar
      hpycamper

      I am also an Aerostar fan. Mine travelled well, was sturdy and surprisingly pleasant to drive. Would have one now if Ford still made them.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        Count me in for Aerostar love. I briefly had a 93 that I ran for business. It was a “shorty” with the 3.0. It was comfortable and decently quiet for what it was, a Ranger with a van shell.

        I think Ford only killed it because Explorer was so popular. And that it could no longer be made to pass safety standards. But they still have a cult following, much like the only other RWD minivans: Astro/Safari and Eurovan.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      It was basically a Ranger Van. People would tow boats and stuff with them and be able to fit their family. The Explorer eventually took over this market niche.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I had one too, a 1991 XL Plus, which was a step above the base model. I used it to tow my Formula Ford. I had it for 10 years and 120,000 miles. It never let me down, and didn’t ask for all that much in the way of maintenance or repairs. I pulled the seats out and hauled sheetrock, put ’em back in and took my family on vacation. It was a very versatile vehicle.

      It was much more utilitarian than today’s sleek people mover type minivans. For many years, I saw them being used by tradesmen on a daily basis. I suppose the closest analogue in today’s market would be the Transit Connect, but it doesn’t have as much towing capacity.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Yeah, it’s hard to understand how a vehicle that sells well (consistently second only to the Chrysler vans), has a loyal following (so loyal that the company headquarters was flooded with letters upon news of its initial cancellation in 1994) and makes money is made for as long as it can be. It’s just baffling how that works.

    • 0 avatar
      salmonmigration

      I loved the Aerostar. My family had a 3.0 automatic and it would haul 3 kids and 1000lbs of camping gear over the Great Smokey Mountains without a hitch.

      Of course a brake line blew out in 2006 leading to a low speed accident with a semi trailer, and you did have to change out the cam position sensors every 40,000 miles. But for a Ford, she was a tank.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I had one as a first car. As such it will always hold a special place in my heart. It had this ghastly beige over turquoise Eddie Bauer paintjob and the 1993 version of a digital dash.

      The only real demerit was that it was a thirsty bugger maybe eeking 12mpg if I was lucky. Also, I can’t believe the thing was sold with anything less than the 4 liter because god was it slow (at least from current me’s perspective) I pity whoever had one with the 4 cylinder.

      It was entertaining enough, found out it topped out at 90.

    • 0 avatar
      Oreguy

      In about 1993 I had the pleasure of driving a rented AWD Aerostar on a 3000-mile ski trip out west (living in MN at the time). Amazingly capable vehicle with all of the creature comforts we could have hoped for during that era. Fond memories. Many have survived out here in the west, still see them.

      Also had a 1993 Astro van as a company vehicle. While the 4.3 V6 was solid, I do not miss it. Compared to the Aerostar, it was miserable to drive.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I agree. Those final B-bodies were barrel-sided and plain hideous; I don’t see what people like about them.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      Between 1994-1996 when the police package with 5.7 liter was tested against the 1993 Fox body Mustang at the Michigan Police testing grounds, the giant Caprice was within a half second, if not faster in some of the tests. It also beat the Crown Victoria at the time in speed and acceleration. It topped out at 141 MPH without a light bar. I got this from the testing manual my dad gave me years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        My main criticism of those cars–and I’m inferring Kyree’s as well–is how they looked. With the Panther cars, Ford took an angular late ’70s style and evolved it into a rounded boxes. GM, OTOH, took the B-body chassis and dropped blobby whale bodies onto it.

        I’m not criticizing the functionality of the car; most objective-ish commentary seems to indicate that the ’77 GM B-platform was better than the Panther. (The Panther’s fame as a police car and cab didn’t gain traction until after the retirements of Chrysler’s M and GM’s B cars.) I think the styling of the ’91s-’96s, though, was a panicky overreaction to the sales success of Ford’s 1980s aero cars. GM could’ve done better with a more conservative smoothing of the ’77-’90 bodies.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      the 91-93 were the worst of the breed. The terrible “skirted” rear fenders and the TBI motors that while reliable, drank fuel and lacked power. At least the post 94 cars got LT1 motors (the 4.3 was a baby LT1) and had the worst of the styling addressed. People like the Impala SS, but give me a Roadmaster with a warmed up LT1 and I’d drive it today. Keep the wagons…they are plain ugly.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        GM had the same problem as Chrysler did, being run by old men who thought people still wanted the same things they did. “Whaddya mean? Of course people still want padded vinyl roofs, wire wheel covers, and gold pinstripes!”

        I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ anymore and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Had a used ’91 Caprice with the TBI 305 – and a bench seat. Truly a stripped down model with no F41 suspension upgrade or towing package. It was uh unusual to drive – very floaty on the highway. With a “mighty” 170hp and nearly 2 tons of weight, it sure was not fast – even by 90s measure.

      A few years later a used ’94 Buick Roadmaster replacement was bought. Now that was one heck of a brown bomber. Surprised a lot of people with the power of the LT1. Sure it wouldn’t hold a candle to today’s V6s or even turbo I4s in a straight line (or a curve!) but the Roadmaster had real “presence”. I would buy a new one – with an updated engine – if I could.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Q45 love it except for a failure prone V8.

    Don’t mind the final Bs, just wish they came with better factory braking (they gained weight from the last generation but basically used the same brakes.) Dad has a 1996 Caprice with the small 4.3 V8 (yes V8 not a typo) and I’d love to have it when he’s done with it. (Likely to be an estate sale.)

    I don’t like the design of the initial “AREO” Town Car, however if I could get my hands on a genuine TOURING trim level car from those first couple of years I’d take it in a heartbeat.

    I’m going to be a contrarian and say I also don’t like LT1 powered Fleetwoods. Engine doesn’t match the character of the car. I’d rather have the truck based 350 V8 that was in the earlier part of that production run.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Ford MN12 Thunderbird, Cougar and Mark VIII. RWD with independent rear suspension.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    My uncle in Cambridge bought the photo car Q above new. It lived pretty much the hardest automotive life possible. Never garaged, pure city miles with occasional blasts to Conn. for Mohegan Sun trips. He never had a single mechanical issue for close to 200k.
    The interior was heavily worn but all electrics, hvac worked well at this age. He never believed in leather conditioning and it showed.I’m pretty sure it never saw the dealer either. He trusted only his local mechanic. Who knows , maybe it was Click and Clak.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    ‘93-97 Blob-Stang. Holy monkey, that car is absolutely HIDEOUS. Not since the vinyl roofed, wire wheel cover broughamy Mustang II has that car looked more craptastic. The mechanicals were decent enough but they’re harder to look at than a Rosie O’Donnell center spread. The ‘98-ish ones got noticeably better looking with some of the flabby styling chiseled up and a return to some wheels like the ‘Bullit’ and ‘Mach One’ which heavily recalled proper muscle car wheels. Still, that generation of Mustangs made me lament the lack of a Mopar option and appreciate the 4th gen F bodies that much more.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

      +1. New Mustang GTs were cemented to the showroom floor at the dealer I worked at in Central California back in 1998. The de-blobbing came in MY1999.

      • 0 avatar
        MoparRocker74

        Yup I think you’re right, it was MY ‘99 but the de-blobbed cars hit the streets in 1998.

        FWIW, while the ‘90’s struck a perfect balance between modern technology upgrades and old school familiarity/simplicity the aero, ‘organic’ styling was terrible then and it’s dated and hokey now. I want a car/truck to look like the machine that it is, not like Im driving around in the womb of a platypus or something.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          I believe the softer “blob” Mustangs were designed mainly by a chick as a way to draw in more female buyers, with very limited use of straight lines, vs the macho looks of the earlier Foxes, and boy racer (’87+) GT.

          I’m not sure it worked, but the “New Edge” ’99+ Mustang’s design team was mostly male. The blob Mustang GTs are growing on me though, but still my 3rd favorite of the ’90s Mustangs. The blob Mustangs are smaller than they look.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Yes, the SN-95 hasn’t aged well and I remember hxcited I was to see the new “Cammer” motor replacing the old Windsor back in the day only to have the dpointment of it being slower.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      I felt claustrophobic driving or riding in those Mustangs. My friend also had a Cougar/Thunderbird from the same era and it also felt very tight with the thick plastics, etc. I swear the door cards are at least 3″ thick.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        The MN-12 platform( T-bird/Cougar/Mark VIII) was a way more expensive platform for Ford than the SN95 “Fox plus” Mustangs. I don’t know how much was shared between the platforms, but my 95 Cougar V8 was a very solid car for the time.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          I’d assume the only thing shared between the T-Bird/Cougar (and the Lincoln Mk VIII) and the Mustang was the Engine/Transmission (3.8 and 4.6).

        • 0 avatar
          Oreguy

          +1 MN-12 T-bird/Cougars were great cars. Hertz stocked a lot of them for rental in the LA (and other) areas in the 90’s. I frequently traveled there on business and was always relieved when I found one waiting for me.

          Even better when it was a V8, which happened on occasion.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I loved the Bullitt version of that Mustang, especially the exhaust note. 98+ were much better looking cars.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Many choices, despite this being the era that produced some of my favorite cars.

    I mentioned the 996 911. Take a seemingly bulletproof legend, give it a cheap interior and throw in some catastrophic IMS faults and sprinkle in a lack of character and darn near destroy a legendary reputation in one swoop.

    But alas, one could still get a third gen F body in the 90’s. At least the 4th gen was fast. I love em’ because nostalgia, but they are terrible and should be on this list.

    Mentioned the SN95 Mustang. I am constantly amazed by how much of the standard Fox body stuff wont fit and the mod motor made it slower when introduced.

    The gen 2 Explorer would probably be my top pick though. It is only redeemed by the fact that the 5.0 they had is probably the best junkyard swap windsor motor you can come by. It was literally best when in a junkyard! It was ugly with the Dodge Diplomat headlights, cheap, and managed to get a worse rap for keeping the wheels pointed downward than the old Bronco II did. The Gen 1 at least looked decent, but this car in my mind dukes it out with the 996 and because they were everywhere I’d give it the nod.

    • 0 avatar
      MoparRocker74

      Agreed on gen 2 explorers. I’ve never liked ANY explorer…ok the SporTracs are neat in Adrenaline trim.

      I say harvest any 5.0 motors, the 8.8” rear ends as they’re an easy upgrade for Jeeps using the D35 and junk the rest.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Ah yes, I think you could get rear disks on those 8.8’s. I,ve heard of the entire drivelines of those finding there way into old Mustangs as well. But when a vehicles most redeeming thing is that it has some great parts when it gets junked for other stuff, it probably sucks (See Lincoln Versailles…9 inch rear axle with disks and a swap friendly width).

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I’d also add the post refresh 97-98 Lincoln Mk VIII to the list. Not because they were terrible, but because I liked the 93-96 design so much and I think the subtle front end changes wrecked it. This makes it a personal “Least Favorite”

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        Reminds me of my feelings towards the 1996 Thunderbird refresh.

        As a comparison, I had a 1992 Thunderbird SC with the supercharged 3.8. I absolutely loved that car even though it was a money pit.

        Couldn’t believe how bad the 96 Thunderbird was, sloppy handling, a cheap fisher-price looking interior, and they wrecked the front end styling. It was also slow with the 4.6 V8.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Yeah, they really made them cheap on the inside towards the end and that last refresh made it look terrible…like someone took the purposeful BMWesque lines of the 89 and overinflated it. Terrible.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Plymouth Prowler. I can’t decide if that thing was a car, or a cosmic joke.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    All the vehicles mentioned so far are deserving in some manner, but I find it hard to “hate” anything that at least has some style to it that doesn’t involve crossover or faux-macho style.

    We complained back then at “all cars look the same”. Now they really do.

    I didn’t care for the “whale” Caprice, but when they took off the old man side skirts and cleaned it up for its least few years, it’s really a very clean design.

    I don’t care for the 98+ Town Car. I liked the square-aero Town Cars from 90-97. But the mishmash of styling cues, the “bird” front end ruined the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Man you are messing with Sasquatch bashing those Ford Panthers in this place. Slam the GM 3800 too and you may provoke a full on riot.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        No, no. I respect the Panther cars and I’d love to have a 90-97 Town Car. But the 98-02 cars were an awful mishmash of styling.

        I have prayed to the church of 3800, but I’m no longer a practicing member.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    You guys are all wrong.

    None of the cars mentioned above is worse than a 1990-93 Mustang 4 cylinder. The absolute worst variant being the automatic drop top version.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Yeah but it is redeemed by the V8 versions and the books fupp of parts to make a Fox Body not suck. And while it was quicker, the V6 Third Gen Camaros available from 90-92 still managed to be worse.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        But the 4 cylinder versions don’t have the redeeming V8.

        If my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle and all that.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The 5.0 V8 option was basically forced, at least for retail buyers at just $1,895, and included “GT” suspension, drivetrain, speed-rated Eagle VRs (you can thank Ford in an other life), Recaro style seats, etc, and of course exponentially better “resale”.

          • 0 avatar
            nels0300

            And yet there were 4 cylinder Mustangs all over the place.

            I had a 91 LX 5.0L notchback, manual.

            I’ve driven the 4 cylinder version.

            It’s a different car. It’s more RWD Tempo than Mustang.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I’m sure the rental agencies had a lot to do with the decent percentage of 4 cylinder Mustangs, and it was absolute murder getting insurance on the 5.0/GTs unless you were over 24 with a decent driving record, married with children, etc.

            There simply wasn’t anything (late model) faster and in so many (irresponsible) hands. I was 19 (in ’88) and generally quoted over $12,000 a year in today’s money, single, perfect driving record.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I worked at a Ford dealer, Service, ’88-’90 and unlike the 4 cylinder Mustangs, I only saw one V8 Mustang come in for warranty work on a tow truck. No offence to Johnny, but the #1 to come in on a tow truck (unofficially) was the Taurus (grenaded transmission usually) and a fairly busy dealer service.

            The one 5.0 (LX notch manual) to come in on a flatbed, the guy always hammered on it leaving the service dept (following strict, by the book, service/oil changes). Full (probably 3/4) throttle redline up-shifts every time, probably hoping for a fresh engine, coming out of the warranty.

            Funny each time he came in, he either had bald rear tires or a fresh set. I’d see the guy (around 30 years old) around town beating on the poor thing like it was stolen, for no reason.

            So anyway, he only shattered the rear end (ring and pinion, 8.8″), right near the end of the Powertrain warranty.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I dont really like any Mercedes from this era, on top of being overpriced-image cars, many of them started adopting softer styling cues (small grins below the grille, soft square tailights) and the overall quality went from okay to trash.

    Then theres the Volvo 960/S90, your engines choices were as follows:

    1. A Turbo charged engine that was usually reliable, barring Volvos water pump/radiator issues with age.

    2. A DOHC 4 cylinder prone to self destructing (though this may’ve just been higher end 940s).

    3. A 6 cylinder with recycled rubber-bands as the timing belt.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The only engine ever offered in the Volvo 960/S90 in the US was the 3.0l inline six – agreed about the timing belt, initially it was a lousy design with a 30k change interval. Later years were 70k. On the plus side, it can be changed by an experienced wrench in 30 minutes. Technically, the ’91 940SE was a “960” in body and suspension but with the turbo 4. Otherwise, the turbo 4 was only offered in 740s and 940s. I’ve owned a ’92 745T and a ’93 965. The 960 is a significantly different car than a 940. Different front structure, different dash architecture, different electrical system, and in all sedans and later wagons, IRS instead of a live axle in the back.

      The 16V 4 was ONLY in the ’89 and ’90 740GLE and ’91 940GLE – I own a mint condition 80K mile example of the later, it is a lovely thing. But change the timing belt on time or else, just like the 960. And this one is a lot of work to change, and has a separate balance shaft belt too. I also owned a ’90 740GLE years ago. It went to 250K+ before a large tree branch fell on it and totaled it. The 16V is the nicest motor for these cars – nearly the same power as the turbo, but with the balance shaft near modern levels of NVH compared to ye olde tractor motor 8V. But as always, TANSTAAFL – they cost lots more to maintain. Really, oil leaks from the heads are a bigger issue with either twincam motor than the timing belts. You just have to change the belt on time and those are fine.

      My vote for worst car is of course any Ford Panther. Nobody should have to drive one of those wretched arks unless they are wearing a uniform and getting paid.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Compared to my ’94 Roadmaster, I thought the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis of the era were second fiddle cars. The cloth seats on the Ford products were worse, and the SOHC 4.6L engine couldn’t hold a candle to the LT1. The 2001 MGM I owned, however, did handle a little better and did return better gas mileage on the highway. Even knocked out 29.x on an trip through Ohio.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The cloth seats could be better yea, I think they re-used an old rough carpet for the seats in my CVPI. Though my biggest beef with these is the design of the cat thats right underneath the floor panel.

      They were good if not seriously dated cars though, I still see plenty of them on the road.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    B-body whales, most Panthers aside from the 95-7 Town Car, F-body death traps, some others but a bad internet connection killed my first post, and I cant remember now what I put haha.

    Not really surprised to see several of my favorites listed here, including the second gen Explorer, Aerostar, 318Ti, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Height of TC was in ’96, with several special editions like the Anniversary something, the Spinnaker, and the Cypress.

      In ’97 they started stripping things off as they used up spare parts to prepare for the ’98 whale look.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    For me it was the highly anticipated final version of the 300z. The 80’s version was quick, light, reliable, and priced reasonably.

    The 90’s version was a bloated fat blob of a car that, despite twins under the hood, was not all that fast or reliable and was for sure heavy and cost a mint. Hence they are pretty rare today.

    Respectfully, this to me was the beginning of the end for Nissan. They had some wins but really adopted a mediocre is best strategy by the mid to late 90’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      It looks positively sexy by today’s standards and I think has aged well. Plus that commercial with GI Joe picking up Barbie in a toy one to a Van Halen soundtrack alone redeems it. This car is actually on my list…it’s like the third gen F body (t tops and all) but not crappy.

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    The Caddy that Zigs followed closely by the terrible facelift and interior update given to the MN12 Thunderbird/Cougar siblings.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    ’96 Clown Victoria. Though it was a better car in some ways than the 84 Olds 98 Regency Brougham 307 that it replaced,

    brakes were terrible, window risers were delicate, had a water leak along the parking brake release cable that soaked the carpet, 2 blown heater cores that soaked the carpet in antifreeze, 4.6 couldn’t get moving until 4000 rpm, door cards split near the inside door pulls, oh yeah and the famous plastic intake manifold that couldnt support the alternator without splitting open.

    C4C’d it at 170k and dont miss it AT ALL.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Good guesses but you are all wrong. The Hyundai Pony was still available in Canada as a 1990 model.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      We have a winner! At least in Canada.

      I worked for a courier service in college that had a couple of first year Hyundai Excels. Given how dog-awful those were, I can’t even wrap my head around what utter garbage the antediluvian Pony must have been. The Excels made the rest of the fleet – 80s Ford Escorts – seem like Mercedes Benz products.

  • avatar
    DownUnder2014

    In Australia…

    1. The 1990-92 Ford Falcon (EA II/EB I). The 3.9’s in these sucked, far worse than the 4.1 it replaced and the 4.0 that would replace it…
    2. 1989-92 FSM Niki. It was a 1972-80 Fiat 126 built in Poland…
    3. 1996-2006 Ssangyong Korando. I dislike the front end on these…just looks weird to me.

    Dishonourable mentions:
    1. Any 1994-2000 MB (especially the 1G Sprinter). Why do 1G Sprinters rust so badly?
    2. Volvo 940/960 (particularly the sedan). It didn’t look as good as the 2s or 7s. not to mention, the belts on the I6 and also the PRV was still initially available. The door panels don’t seem to age well…many I’ve seen aren’t in great condition…


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