Top five 1990s classic cars to buy now

There are still bargains out there, despite rising prices. Some are yet to be discovered, others have peaked then flattened-off in value. Which would you buy?

So many pretty special vehicles slipped under the radar in the mid-1990s – and we’ve rounded up five of them here. They weren’t all the best-selling machines, nor were they trumpeted as groundbreakers in their prime. However, as cheap investments guaranteed to climb the price ladder, these modern classics didn’t just move the game forward, they are astoundingly useable and surprisingly cool.

5. 1995 Volvo 850 T5-R

Volvos are usually as sensible as your school’s retiring, cardigan-wearing headmaster, yet sometimes the Swedish brand surprises even itself by going spectacularly OTT. The 850 T-5 R is one example of wide-eyed engineers endowing the traditional Swedish family tank with a weighty dollop of fervour and desirability.

Available in either comatose black or heroin-tinged banana yellow, this Volvo can hit 60mph from a standstill in only six seconds and continue all the way to an electronically limited 155mph. Not foregoing the brand’s world-famous safety ethos, the 850 T-5 R is credited as being the first production car to provide an integrated child booster seat.

But never mind the mundane stuff; with over 240bhp to play with, this is Noomi Rapace on wheels. It’s also now hotter marketplace fodder than a flaming, spicy Swedish meatball.

Cool rating: Glacier

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4. 1996 Peugeot 406 Coupé

Barings Bank appeared to have lady luck on its side compared with the turmoil Peugeot suffered throughout the 1990s. Yet while in-house disgruntlement began during the era of excess with the much-forgotten 309, and stretched to fever pitch in time for the 1998 football World Cup, the brand’s designers managed to style one of the finest modern, affordable coupés ever made in their frantic anguish to revive the lion’s fortunes.

Providing a hefty slice of well groomed European chic at a price so competitive it left rival salesman quivering in their loafers, the 406 Coupé offered a wide array of trim and enthusiastic engines – including a diesel option for those seeking to combine image and penny-pinching thrift.

Pininfarina even styled the lines, leaving it as the true underdog within the modern classic world. The car is proving ever more popular with petrolheads as the years march on and good examples fall by the wayside, so bag one while you can before prices escalate towards silly money.

Cool rating: Jean Reno bellowing ‘sacré bleu!’

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3. 1995 Porsche 993

Boxster-hating purists of deepest Stuttgart refer to the 993 as the final ‘real’ 911. As the company’s last aircooled flat-six, variants of the 993 have fast become collector’s items. Demand for the Turbo and RS models are so high that people have re-mortgaged their house in order to acquire one.

More characterful than the 996 that replaced it, any well heeled 993 allows you to indulge in the intoxicating aroma of retro-history offered by Porsches of this era. However, the GT1 is the most desirable of the lot.

There may have been only 25 examples of the Le Mans-inspired monster built, mainly to qualify for homologation rules and join the FIA GT Championship, but this never took away from its eye socket-abusing torque or 4-second 0-60mph sprint. Top speed was only just shy of 200mph, which was enough to leave your retinas watering – a bit like its original £500,000 asking price.

The 993 soared in value over the last five years, but it's dropped off a little lately. As it represents the end of the aircooled era it will always be highly collectible – so now will be a good time to buy.

Cool rating: Depeche Mode sharing Black Forest Gateau with a bear

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2. 1996 TVR Cerbera

The first production car to use Blackpool’s V8 engine, the TVR Cerbera was – at one point – one of the fastest production cars in the world. It knocked you about with the power of a wrecking ball, and was more difficult to keep in a straight line than Oliver Reed on a pub crawl. Complete with dubious levels of reliability, the Cerbera set the template for TVRs well into the new millennium.

Throw in unassisted controls, a murderous fixation on the wellbeing of the naïve and inexperienced, a distinct lack of comfort on wet roads and an overtly sexual nature – the Cerbera held all the trademarks of a true TVR, making it worth its weight in gold.

Cool rating: Bob Dylan powersliding in front of Buckingham Palace

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1. 1996 Lotus Elise MkI

Has it really been more than 20 years since Lotus’ fortunes changed with the launch of the Elise? Blessed with aluminium underpinnings and a wonderfully basic glassfibre construction, costing less than any decent Mercedes yet handling like a scalded cat on Velcro curtains, the roadster pushed the boundary for road-going cars like never before. It may have offered less in the way of creature comforts than your average MOT-station waiting room, but it was the ultimate driver’s car.

With near-perfect balance thanks to a mid-engine set-up, a stunning body and a road stance most Ferraris would kill for, the model’s ideal ratio of modern fantasy and weekday usability projected an image of what rivals should have been. The first-generation Elise is not just an epic driving machine, but also one of the most solid classic-car investments for the years ahead.

Cool rating: Alan Partridge/Calvin Harris Dance Remix

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