Throughout the 1990s, we were living in anticipation of the new millennium and wondered just how everything would unfold. That decade gave us our first hybrid cars, but none of those vehicles could claim iconic status in an era when fast cars, big SUVs and trucks, and a one-of-a-kind Batmobile captured our imaginations. Here are seven iconic cars of the 1990s – including one that resembled a Dustbuster.
1. 1989/1992 Batmobile – Batman Returns
The second installment of the Batman films, “Batman Returns” was released in 1992 and featured the same Batmobile showcased in the 1989 film. This one-of-a-kind, low-slung sports car was actually built on a Chevrolet Impala platform and featured a jet turbine engine with an output of 1,750 pound-feet of torque. Side-mounted grappling hooks supplied quick launches. An internal carjack enabled the Batmobile to rise up, quickly rotate, and head in the opposite direction. Oh, if only our cars had this last feature!
2. 1995 Dodge Ram 1500 – Walker, Texas Ranger
Chuck Norris was the star of Walker, Texas Ranger, a hit TV show that aired from 1993 to 2001. A tough guy demands a burly truck and that’s exactly what Walker drove, starting in the second season and lasting until the show’s end. Newly redesigned for 1995, the Dodge replaced a GMC Sierra driven in the first season. The 5.2-liter V8 Dodge had an output of 220 horsepower, certainly tame by today’s performance standards, but suitable for that era. Besides, what other truck could outrun a helicopter attack?
3. 1993-1998 McLaren F1 – Bugs
In 1993 the world’s first carbon-fiber road car was created – the McLaren F1. Powered by a BMW V12 engine and designed with butterfly doors, there were only 64 F1s built. Because the vehicle is so extraordinary, any appearance on TV or the big screen has always been a special occasion. In 1993, this McLaren made an all-too-brief appearance in an episode of Top Gear. Two years later it starred in the British action series, Bugs. Named the “Tronix Transit” in keeping with the show’s futuristic theme, nothing about the vehicle suggested it was anything but a McLaren F1. In addition, Top Gear fans will remember additional appearances of the F1, most occurring after 2000.
4. 1992 Hummer H1
It’s hard to think of another vehicle that more accurately portrays American excess than the Hummer H1. Based on the Humvee military vehicle, the civilian version rolled out in 1992 and was produced until 2005. At 86.5 inches wide, there was nothing like it on or off the road. Its 16 inches of ground clearance and stellar approach and departure angles allowed the Hummer to go places no ordinary SUV could travel. Although not popularized in TV or the movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger greatly influenced manufacturer AM General’s decision to make a civilian version. It also didn’t hurt that the Humvee was widely used in the 1991 Gulf War and featured in news reports.
5. 1992-1994 Jaguar XJ220– Fast Masters
With only 271 cars built, the Jaguar XJ220 sports car is almost as rare as the McLaren F1. In 1992, Jaguar tested it and reached a top speed of 217.1 mph, making it the world’s fastest production car at that time. Its most notable public appearance was on the 1993 “Fast Masters” TV show, where drivers 50 and older drove the Jaguar and other sports cars on the Indianapolis Raceway track. Although it was approved for road use in Europe, U.S. regulators restricted the XJ220 to track use only.
6. 1993 Toyota Supra Turbo – The Fast and the Furious
Produced from 1978 to 2002, the Toyota Supra remains one of the most beloved models ever offered by this Japanese automaker. 2001’s Fast and Furious movie, the first installment of what has become one of the most successful franchises in big screen history, showcased a 1993 Supra Turbo. The Supra Turbo appeared in stunt scenes before closing out the flick’s final drag race scene. Actor Paul Walker got his big break in the film and was also the owner of the featured Supra.
7. 1994 Oldsmobile Silhouette– Get Shorty
Widely panned by critics as resembling a Dustbuster vacuum cleaner, the Oldsmobile Silhouette had an important role in the 1995 hit “Get Shorty.” John Travolta’s character, Chili Palmer, orders a Cadillac, but the rental company supplies him with a ’94 Silhouette – “the Cadillac of minivans” – instead. Danny DeVito’s character, a famed actor named Martin Weir, is so impressed by the Olds and its automatic rear sliding door that he asks to take the Silhouette out for a spin. Apart from the movie, this Olds was nothing to write home about, but the interaction between Travolta and DeVito is what’s forever etched in our minds.
Best of the rest
Other iconic cars of the era included the Acura NSX, Ferrari F50, BMW M Coupe, Plymouth Prowler, and the Lamborghini Diablo. None enjoyed the media attention of the other seven, but all five showcased an era when manufacturers pressed hard on the performance pedal.