The Coolest Supercars of the 1990s

Supercars come in many different shapes and sizes. The question is, where do they come from and when did they get here? But first, let me ask a different question. When did we start to use the term supercar?
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The term has been first used in a paper ad for the 1920 Ensign Six, published in the British newspaper The Times. On the other side of the pond, in the U.S. of A., the term is older than the classification of muscle car. Among others, it was used to describe the affordable performance cars with dragstrip credentials, a powerful V8, and RWD. But then the Italians had a go at making a supercar, one that has inspired all since.

Of course, I’m referring to the Lamborghini Miura of the 1960s, the fastest production car of its era. The Miura hasn’t invented the supercar genre, although it changed it forever. To this day, all supercar makers follow the basic ingredients that were pioneered by the glorious Miura.

Engine in the middle, a bite-the-back-of-your-hand beautiful design, and a price tag that makes eyes water. The Raging Bull of Sant’Agata completed its revolution of the supercar in 1974 with the wedge-shaped Countach. Fast-forward to the 1980s and its stupid music and fashion sense. In this decade, Ferrari and Porsche duked it out in grand style.

However, forget the pioneering F40 and the 959. The decade that saw the supercar bloom into the mainstream is the 1990s, an epoch that gave us the Spice Girls, the dot-com bubble, and Dolly the sheep. This is autoevolution, though, so let’s focus our attention on the cars. Instead of babbling about the Diablo and how mean the 5-valve per cylinder V8 of the F355 sounds, what do you say about trying something different?

In this story, we will remember ten of the coolest supercars of the 1990s, as voted by the editors of autoevolution. Not the fastest, not the quickest, not the most significantly important, not the most expensive, not bedroom poster material, but the coolest of the lot. In no particular order, here are ten of the coolest supercars that came out in the 1990s.

Bugatti EB110

Bugatti EB110
Manufactured from 1991 to 1995, the Bugatti EB110 is a supercar with a 3.5-liter quad-turbo V12 and a top speed of 216 miles per hour (348 km/h). Only 139 were made. It pains me to say this, but the EB110 came around during a time that saw Bugatti battling a personality crisis.

Romano Artioli, an Italian entrepreneur, was the chairman of Bugatti at the time. After he set up a holding company that bought the brand in 1987, Artioli took the reins of Bugatti, tried to Italianize the French brand, then veered the iconic automaker into bankruptcy in 1995. Happily for us car nuts, the Volkswagen Group saved Bugatti from eternal rest in 1998 and the rest, as they say, is history.

When Bugatti applied for bankruptcy, there were unfinished EB110s lying around in the factory. The liquidators sold the remaining EB110s to a company called Dauer Sportwagen, including the parts stock. As such, the final units of the EB110 were built in Nuremberg, Germany.

Dauer 962 Le Mans

Dauer 962 Le Mans
Dauer, the same outfit that assembled the last of the EB110s, has also manufactured a seriously impressive machine. What I’m referring to is the Dauer 962 Le Mans, the street-legal version of the Le Mans-winning Porsche 962. Dauer Sportwagen built this thing from 1993 to 1997.

Compared to its track-bound sibling, the Dauer 962 Le Mans didn’t have to meet racing regulations. As such, Dauer engineers removed the air restrictor, allowing the 3.0-liter engine to churn out something close to 730 HP. Now look at the shape of this thing. It looks sleek, doesn’t it?

That aero-conscious body shell and the savage engine allowed the Dauer 962 Le Mans to hit a top speed of 251.4 mph (404.6 km/h) and accelerate to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 2.8 seconds. Impressive as it may be, Dauer Sportwagen ultimately went the way of the Dodo in 2008.

Lotec C1000

Lotec C1000
Founded in 1962 and still going strong, Lotec is a fairly obscure outfit with an incredible machine under its belt. The 1995 Lotec C1000 is a one-off that was commissioned by an Arab oil sheik. The price for such a four-wheeled extravagance? $3.4 million or $5.29 million adjusted for inflation.

That’s a Mercedes-Benz badge up front, alright, partly because a 5.6-liter Mercedes-Benz V8 motivates the rear wheels with twin-turbo get-up-and-go via a Hewland 5-speed manual transmission. On the other hand, the cabin design is not one of this car's strong points. The theoretical top speed is, though, 268 mph (431 km/h).

Last time I heard of the Lotec C1000 was in June 2015, when the car was listed for $650,000. That’s as cheap as a 1,000 horsepower car gets, one that prides itself on more exclusivity than a Bugatti Veyron SS.

Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR

Mercedes\-Benz CLK GTR
There are many exotic cars to choose from these days, both new and old. The thing is, few have that all-enveloping aura. If you don’t get what I’m on about, look at the pic above. How do you feel from looking at it? What does the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR inspire? For me and many others, the CLK GTR is the Magnum Opus of Mercedes-Benz and AMG.

The SLR McLaren, SLS AMG, and the Mercedes-AMG GT all pale in comparison to it. In total, Mercedes built 26 road-going units of the CLK GTR: 20 coupes and 6 roadsters. When it was launched in 1998, the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR was the most expensive production car of them all, with a price that started at $1.54 million. That’s about $2.24 million adjusted for inflation.

As incredible as this may sound, a 2016 Audi R8 V10 plus walks the CLK GTR to 62 mph (100 km/h). Then again, almost two decades separate the two. Furthermore, the R8 can’t hold a candle to the Merc because Audi will not sell you a GT1 class racecar converted for the road.

Jaguar XJ220

Jaguar XJ200
Initially presented to the public as a V12-engined AWD concept, the Jaguar XJ220 debuted in 1992 as a twin-turbo V6-powered rear-wheel-drive supercar. Of the initial 1,500 deposits taken for the promised design, many of the prospective buyers had ultimately backed out.

As such, the British manufacturer made a mere 271 examples of the breed. Looking back to what the supercar scene offered in 1992, those who chickened out were fools because the Jaguar XJ220 held the Nurburgring production car lap record between 1992 and 2000.

The Sultan of Brunei loved his leaping car so much, he commissioned Pininfarina to modify his XJ220 with fixed headlights, a double-vane rear wing, and a much more luxurious cabin. The purpose-built plant where the XJ220 was made was transferred to Aston Martin in 1994, which used it to assemble the DB7 until the model's demise in 2004.

Jaguar XJR-15

Jaguar XJR\-15
The XJR-15 preceded the XJ220, being built between 1990 and 1992. 53 were made in that time span, all of them based on the Le Mans-winning XJR-9 racecar. Believe it or not, the XJR-15 has been penned by Peter Stevens, the same man who designed the awe-inspiring McLaren F1.

Even though Jaguar prides itself on the XJR-15 being the first fully carbon fiber production car in the world, many motoring publications have described the handling characteristics of the XJR-15 as being a bit like a dog’s breakfast. The XJR-15 is hideously unpractical as well.

For the driver to enter the car, he needs to step onto the driving seat while getting over the wide door sill. As if this weren’t inconvenient enough, the XJR-15 features little in the way of sound insulation. That’s why Jaguar sold it with headsets for both the driver and the passenger.

Vector W8

Vector W8
If it’s weird and wonderful you’re after, look no further than the Vector W8. “The what?” The short answer to that is an American supercar that was built in 22 examples over the life of the Vector Aeromotive Corporation. 17 of those Vector W8s were made for customers, each priced at $448,000.

Regarding bragging rights, my favorite isn’t the retro-futuristic styling or the 650 horsepower twin-turbo Chevy V8 engine mounted bang in the middle. What I find most fascinating about the W8 is that everything in the car was designed to last the life of the owner. Now that’s a bragging right.

Vector went overboard even with the chassis. More specifically, a semi-monocoque held together with approximately 5,000 air industry-specification rivets. The thing that lets the Vector W8 down is the Turbo-Hydramatic 425 three-speed tranny. This slushbox had been first used by the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado and the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado.

Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion

Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion
Of the 144 races it entered, the 993- and 996-based Porsche 991 GT1 won 47. Because it competed in the GT1 class of the FIA GT sports car championship, Porsche had to build a street legal version of the thing for homologation purposes. Cue the GT1 Strassenversion (or Street Version).

The 996-based Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion from 1998 is the most desirable of the two. Compared to the racecar, the force-fed flat-6 engine had to be detuned from 592 to 537 HP to meet European emissions standards. That is enough grunt in my book, especially if you consider that this racecar-turned-road-car has a dry weight of 2,535 pounds (1,150 kg).

25 examples were built in total. These days, one will set you back at least $2 million at auction. If you want a yellow one, you’ll have to do some digging and convincing because only one has been finished in canary yellow. The other 24 were painted either white or silver.

TVR Cerbera Speed 12

TVR Cerbera Speed 12
Now that TVR is back in business, readying an all-new model, the time is right to remember the jaw-dropping and bone-breaking Cerbera Speed 12. The 7.7-liter V12 animating this beast was developed with GT1 class racing in mind, albeit the Cerbera Speed 12 never got to compete.

The top-of-mast version of the Cerbera failed to enter mass production as well. As fate would have it, one of the prototypes was rebuilt to road-legal specs and sold to one lucky bastard. Thanks to a curb weight of 2,205 lbs (1,000 kilograms) and nigh on 1,000 horsepower, the TVR Cerbera Speed 12 is one of the most breathtaking cars of all homologation specials ever made.

Evo magazine loved it so much, it gave it 11.5 stars on a scale of 1 to 5 and it described it as “terrifyingly quick.” TVR mentioned on one too many occasions that the Cerbera Speed 12 is capable of over 240 mph (386 km/h), but this unicorn never got to stretch its legs to the fullest. Which brings me to the last model to make our list of the coolest supercars of the 1990s.

McLaren F1

McLaren F1
With the rev limiter removed, the McLaren F1 can reach 242.8 mph or 390.7 km/h. Take that, TVR Cerbera Speed 12! Conceived by Formula 1 racecar designer Gordon Murray, designed by Peter Stevens, and put into production by Ron Dennis, the 1992 McLaren F1 has paved the way for the Bugatti Veyron and the hypercar subspecies itself.

Who can say no to a three-seater layout? Or to gold in the form of gold foil used as heat reflective material in the engine bay? The 618 HP (627 PS) 6.1-liter BMW S70/2 V12 engine isn’t too shabby either. Call me a weirdo, but one of the most interesting things about the F1 is a modem.

Indeed, ladies and gentlemen. Before the dot-com bubble became a thing and modems sang the song of their people, McLaren equipped the F1 with a modem that sends vital information from the ECU to the McLaren customer care. In the event of a mechanical failure, McLaren knows what to do. Dear McLaren, could I have one in LM form and Papaya Orange paint? Wait, what's that? How many millions? No deal, sorry!
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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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