16 February 2016

Don’t look now, but the Class of 1991 is antique

If you’re still mistakenly writing 2015 when dating your checks, wrap your head around this one: a fresh batch of vehicles just turned 25 years old, which makes them antique cars according to state legislatures, the Antique Automobile Club of America and a number of automotive mavens.

And that year? 1991.

It's an annual event, but one that's not always welcome. But the calendar has flipped the page on another year, so it's worth considering the Class of ‘91’s notable cars and trucks.

Get ready – you’re about to feel a bit older.

Acura NSX
Now that a new NSX is set to arrive, let’s not forget Acura’s first mid-engine sports car that debuted with much fanfare 25 years ago. Some described it as a reliable Ferrari 348. A 270-horsepower aluminum 3.0-liter V-6 and five-speed manual transmission allowed it to reach 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Opting for the automatic transmission reduced output to 252 horsepower. It also boasted details that were production car firsts, such as an all-aluminum semi-monocoque unibody and titanium con rods, which allowed for continuous high-RPM use. Additionally, Formula One drivers, including Ayrton Senna, guided its chassis development.

BMW 850i
Boasting the 1991 BMW line’s highest prices, this successor to the 635CSi coupe was a luxurious 2+2 coupe powered by the 5.0-liter V-12 engine shared with the 750iL sedan. Mated to a four-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, the 850i was rated at 296-horsepower. Interestingly, this was the first BMW to mount seatbelts onto the front seats (rather than door pillars). It also has its share of microchips, thanks to standard antilock brakes and an optional electronically controlled suspension with sport or comfort settings.

Buick Park Avenue/Oldsmobile Ninety Eight
GM’s full-size, front-wheel-drive C-Body line was fully revised for 1991 and unlike the models they replaced, the ‘91s were tailored to look different from each other. Despite a 9.5-inch lengthening, the platform was unchanged and differences between models were minimal. A 170-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 and four-speed automatic transmission composed the sole driveline. Anti-lock brakes, a driver-side airbag, and an automatic load-leveling suspension were standard.

Buick Roadmaster/Chevrolet Caprice /Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser
Fourteen years after their last redesign, these full-size, rear-wheel-drive sedans and wagons gained fresh, organic styling. Each model boasted a distinct cabin and front fascia, while the Oldsmobile and Buick wagons revived the much-adored rear seat Vista Roof. Like the crossover SUVs that Americans now swoon over, the wagons can swallow a 4×8-foot sheet of plywood or eight people. Chevrolet’s 170-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 and four-speed automatic were standard.

Dodge Spirit R/T
Don’t laugh. This 224-horsepower K-Car derivative may look dull, but it could run with contemporary Ford Mustang GTs or Ford Taurus SHOs. Yup, the limited edition Spirit R/T is a sleeper, thanks to its vigorous turbocharged 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with a Lotus-designed head, a Getrag five-sped manual transmission, bigger four-wheel disc brakes and color-keyed wheels. Crude yet affective, it is clearly the Charger Hellcat of its day; a grocery getter with an attitude.

Ford Explorer/Mazda Navajo
Designed to take the place of the Bronco II, this is among the most important vehicles of the 1990s. And, in case you’ve forgotten, the Explorer was available in either two-door and four-door models and rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. A 155-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 was the sole engine, matched with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Strangely, although the Explorer had rear antilock brakes, they worked only in rear-wheel-drive mode. Mazda sold a short-lived two-door version through 1994.

Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4/Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo
Opt for a hot ride these days, and no doubt you’ll find that the car has twin turbochargers and all-wheel drive. In that regard, the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 and the Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo proved prescient, as they had both. And let’s not forget they boasted four-wheel steering, a 24-valve dual-overhead-cam V6 that generated 300 horsepower, an electronically adjustable suspension, a limited-slip differential and spoilers that extend at 50 mph. Ignore the tamer variants; these are the ones to have.

Toyota MR2
Redesigned for its second generation, Toyota’s mid-engine, rear-drive sports car may have resembled a small Ferrari, except under the hood. There you’ll find two engines from the Toyota Celica: a 130-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine or a 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with a five-speed manual or, on the smaller engine, a four-speed automatic transmission. Although it gained 9.3 inches in length, trunk space is still only big enough to hold a family-size bag of chips and a clean pair of underwear, which you might need as the MR2 tends to snap oversteer.

Best of 1991

Top movies

  1. “Beauty and the Beast”
  2. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”
  3. “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”
  4. “The Silence of the Lambs”
  5. “City Slickers”

Top TV shows

  1. “Cheers”
  2. “60 Minutes”
  3. “Roseanne”
  4. “A Different World”
  5. “The Cosby Show”

Top albums

  1. “Gonna Make You Sweat” – C + C Music Factory
  2. “Out of Time” – R.E.M.
  3. “Mariah Carey” – Mariah Carey
  4. “Shake Your Money Maker” – The Black Crowes
  5. “Unforgettable With Love” – Natalie Cole

Sport champions
Super Bowl
: New York Giants (1990 season champs)
Winston Cup: Dale Earnhardt
World Series: Minnesota Twins
Stanley Cup: Pittsburgh Penguins
NBA: Chicago Bulls

25 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Edmund Nowak Licari Grand Rapids, MI February 17, 2016 at 17:26
    Somebody overlooked the Ford Super Coupe supercharged V-6! One of the 10 rarest Ford's ever according to MSN. 220 HP V-6, high 15's quarter at 25-27 MPG. All that with a custom interior and special driver controlled suspension. who does these lists????
  • 2
    Richard seattle February 17, 2016 at 17:38
    Don't forget the '91 Lotus X180r. Only produced in 1991 looks as good as ever, and now an antique.
  • 3
    carl Sunny California February 17, 2016 at 18:28
    So my mercedes 560SL 1986 model is now classed as antique must mean my car insurance premiums should decrease.....right?
  • 4
    Paul Brozen NYC February 17, 2016 at 18:42
    New York State requires a vehicle be in it's 26th year to be considered "antique".
  • 5
    Grumpy1946 Wheaton,Il. February 17, 2016 at 19:12
    In 1990 Cadillac ad celebrating the win of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the 1991 Cadillac STS with its 4.9L V8 proved itself to have the all around quality standards to meet and exceed anything produced by any other US, European or Japanese car company in the world.I know that as a fact because I drove them all in those years and my 1991 STS at 180K miles was as good at that mileage as the first day I drove it.Please do not ignore the beginnings of a US car manufacture that went on to produce a sedan that still holds the record for the best time around the Nuremberg circuit today. The '91 STS was that car !
  • 6
    Rick Md February 17, 2016 at 20:15
    How about the Mercedes 560SEC 1991 Was the last year and probably one of the best cars ever made by the brand. Still looks cool 25 years later.
  • 7
    Thomas Pettie north Mississippi February 17, 2016 at 22:02
    Noticed writer failed to mention the Chrysler T C (touring coupe) built on a very limited production ; 1989-1991. Very well built and a joy to drive! Looked similar to Le Baron but workmanship and drive were so advanced.
  • 8
    Catherine Klimenkov North Las Vegas Nevada February 17, 2016 at 22:37
    You did not list the 1990-91 Ford Crown Victoria as an antique car. Parts are hard to come by as "no longer "avalable". Even the junk yards Crown Victoria's are picked clean.
  • 9
    adam WA State February 17, 2016 at 22:47
    What about the Nissan Figaro?
  • 10
    Joe Olds Little Falls, NJ February 18, 2016 at 01:09
    Honorable nention: '91 Oldsmobile Quad 442 W41 limited Homogulation special With a total production run of 204 cars produced during the single month of Match '91. It boasted 190 HP non-turbo HO Quad 4 motor mated to Getrag 5 Speed, 3.91 Final Gear and standard ABS Brakes. Tested by Motor Trend in March '91 issue & performed 14.6 seconds in the 1/4 mile. This car was raced as part of the Oldsmobile Factory sponsored team and won & won every IMSA & SCCA race that they competed during the '91 season!
  • 11
    Scott Allred Chico, CA February 18, 2016 at 15:15
    Those Spirit RTs were cool! I test drove one in Reno, Nevada; must have been in '91. As I was accelerating onto the Freeway on the on-ramp, the salesman said, "Hey, slow down!" I said, "I'm only in third man." He replied, "Look at your speed." I was doing 72! Did not feel like it at all! I thoroughly enjoyed driven that car and wanted to buy one, but my situation changed a few months later so it never happened. Today I consider the body rather ugly, but it would be a unique car to take to a Mopar show!
  • 12
    doc NJ February 18, 2016 at 07:04
    Explorer / Navajo collectible? What are you guys smoking?
  • 13
    Dale Brown Louisville, KY February 18, 2016 at 08:18
    You know that you are getting old when you see cars from the 1980's and 1990's with historic plates. I was driving to work the other day and I saw a mid to late 1980's 4 door Toyota Camry with historic plates. Although Toyotas are very dependable cars, it looks weird to see cars from the 1980's and 1990's with historic plates.
  • 14
    Steven Spielberger Queens, NY February 19, 2016 at 16:08
    Nothing from the Saab family? How about a 1991 900 Turbo?
  • 15
    Dean Champine Wausau, WI. February 19, 2016 at 20:11
    How about those little DSM turbo cars like the Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, Plymouth Laser R/T and, my favorite, the Eagle Talon TSi which all had turbo and All Wheel Drive. We searched and searched to find our Son an Eagle a few years back. Finally found a really nice example with a manual trans. They really have quite a cult following already, are very nice cars, even by today's standards and one set up right will hold its' own with any of today's little turbo cars.
  • 16
    Jerry O Mid-Atlantic February 20, 2016 at 13:52
    My daily driver '90 BMW 325i convertible, their last small, light, sporty 4-seater, end of an Era. BMW extended production into '91 with the same car; new '92 not ready. It has the Inline OHC six that made BMW famous, a 5 speed trans, limited-slip rear, 4 wheel power disc brakes w/ABS, full Independent suspension, Fuel Injection, integrated dash computer. Timeless Looks still bring comments. Mine's black, black manual top, tan leather. My Only change confuses many: I powder-coated the aluminum bumpers gloss black to match the body. Usual guess: was it "European delivery" and you got 'their' bumpers? Nope. At 217,000 miles, O.E. driveline never out or repaired. I'm 3rd owner, have it 9 years. Classic
  • 17
    William New Jersey February 21, 2016 at 10:16
    Please don't forget the only car with a rotary engine. The Mazda RX7. This was the last year for the RX7 convertible.
  • 18
    Bradford B. Owen Jr. Old Fort, North Carolina February 23, 2016 at 10:42
    My mint 1991 (manufactured in 1989) Toyota MR2 was just turned down by Hagerty for classic insurance - go figure!
  • 19
    Denis Linehan New York February 26, 2016 at 14:18
    And no mention of the Buick Reatta...nearly the best car GM made then...until the accountants took out the Grand National power plant...but it still looks great.
  • 20
    Steve Columbus, OH March 2, 2016 at 09:53
    1991 Geo Tracker here!
  • 21
    Art Florida March 11, 2016 at 01:48
    I bought my Nissan Sentra XE in 1994 used. It's a 1991 model with over 200,000 miles and still going strong. Another 5 years and I can get a Florida antique license plate.
  • 22
    Darcie Boelter United States March 17, 2016 at 14:59
    My '91 F250 with 64k original miles. The o nly new vehicle I've ever owned. Still beautiful, still just a truck. Meant to haul stuff not people at 12mpg! NOT an antique.
  • 23
    Deonte Merritt Suitland August 2, 2016 at 18:33
    I was born in 1991 that year was special to be in the cars and movies also music they had was nice the commercials is all flashback into that year I was born which was 1991 I love the 1990s I would love to bump the old music and everything now that I am 24 years old I'll be 25 years old this year that makes 1991 25 years ago same as my age love that 1991 song by musician "The One and Only" by musician artist Chensey Hawkes that take you back to that year when everybody had it going on and being born in it the world was a difference place the video games and everything including Super Nintendo System Terminator 2: Judgement Day playing at the movies also the music and Television shows on cable the news of Rodney King getting beat up by the police officers also other news about what happened in the world and the society so many things happened in 1991 they said it was a crazy year but I think it was good year love my birth year I'm sure a lot people did a lot in that year making history.
  • 24
    Deonte Merritt Suitland August 2, 2016 at 19:37
    I was born in 1991 I love the cars and the culture of it all the music movies and Television shows they had people laughing at that time the news they had going on which also happened in 1991 Rodney King trial getting beating by the police also the commercials they had that have my memory rewind fast in my head it was a good year some said it was a crazy year also Super Nintendo Entertainment system going on in that year the best top selling movie was Terminator 2: Judgement Day at the movies and the best 1991 song was Chensey Hawkes "The One and Only" also everybody memories which was the Class of 1991 from Kidgartden Junior High and High School it was good year everything about it was good every event of what happened in that year was some things it was like that I feel kind of old cause it was 25 years ago and I'll be 25 years old same as the year 1991 was long ago I love the 1990s those were the days being born in like everybody else that was in that year glad I was born in 1991 only that year it made history.
  • 25
    DC2 United States of America November 29, 2016 at 23:03
    25 years is a quarter of a century and do not forget the Honda CRX. 1991 was the last year it was made. Makes me feel historic as well because cars that were launched when I was growing up are growing old just as I am which only gives me stronger desires to own them to be able to relive my glory days!

Join the Discussion