I am a child of the 1980s, which meant that by the time the ’90s rolled around, two things consumed all my time: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and cars. Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were permanently strewn across one of my play mats replicating a town (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you missed out as a kid!).
As I’ve grown older, my appreciation for the ’90s era has only increased. This decade was, in my opinion, when the last truly analogue cars existed. Think cable throttles and minimal invasive safety systems. With the rise of Group N in various forms of motorsport, the cars you saw on TV likely had a performance-oriented counterpart on the dealer floor too.
Upon hearing that WeAreScramblers’ next theme would be ’90s cars (following the recent rally-themed ‘Brekkie Recce’), I made sure to attend. The format would be slightly different this time round, with the event in its entirety taking place in Hanger 113 at the Bicester Heritage site. Built in 1936, this colossal building with over 45,000 square feet of open space was originally designed to house aircraft such as the Bristol Blenheim bombers.
By mid-morning, the venue had reached near capacity, with a wide variety of ’90s cars forming part of the ‘Hagerty In The Hangar’ meet. Walking through the neatly lined up aisles presented me with supercars to hot hatches and everything in between.
One thing I noticed was that the majority of the cars in attendance were in a stock or very lightly modified condition and well presented. This seems to be a recurring theme at events I’ve attended recently.
Two reasons come to mind: Firstly, the value. Cars of this era have in some cases increased in value 10 to 20 times what you could buy one for out of the back of a printed Autotrader publication once upon a time, with the cost of spare parts having gone up proportionately too. Perhaps those who have spent a considerable amount for the ownership experience are mindful they don’t want to diminish that value?
Secondly, with cars becoming more and more reigned in by electronics, are buyers electing to keep them as close to the original driving experience as possible, minus some subtle updates? I’d welcome some thoughts in the comments section on this.
Hagerty brought along a couple of arcade classics for everyone to have a go at, with a prize for the fastest time on a Sega Rally stage.
This base-spec Porsche 993 Carrera 2 was a particular favourite of mine. Everything from the solid white paint to the original 16-inch wheels and lack of sunroof made it hugely appealing. I can imagine someone buying this car new and having to omit any and all options, just to be able to purchase what was likely their dream car.
This was in stark contrast to the 993 Carrera RS nearby, which had limited appeal when it was new because it sat in the shadow of the 911 Turbo. How things have changed, with the RS model hovering at around £250,000 now when it was only £9,000 more than a Carrera 2 when new.
I had to do a double take when peering inside this Audi RS6. These were originally only sold with an automatic gearbox, but this wagon now has a manual swap as well as a set of re-trimmed Recaro seats from a later RS4.
A Lotus Carlton in any colour other than the model’s signature green is rare, but an example built for motorsport even more so. I’ll be dedicating a spotlight to this car because of the unique racing history it has.
While brand collaborations have existed in the automotive space for many years, this is likely one of the most oddball. Peugeot has been a main sponsor of the Roland Garros Tennis Tournament since the 1980s, with special edition 205s one of the first collaborations. Unique colour, part white leather sports interior along with power tinted windows and a tape player made it fairly upmarket when compared to other hatchbacks of the time.
Audi UK brought along a completely original Mk1 TT; a car which I think has aged incredibly well. It is unheard of for the concept and production models of a car to bear such an incredible resemblance to one another, but the TT accomplished this with minimal changes. The more observant will notice the car is also devoid of its rear spoiler, an item retrofitted by dealers to give the car safer handling at higher speeds after an Audi recall.
Having so many unique cars to peruse during the course of the morning – some I’d not seen an example of for years – was genuinely refreshing. Modern motoring seems to have gotten to the point where cars are treated as consumable white goods like a TV, fridge or microwave, in that they are used, then traded in for the next new model a few years later. While there are exceptions, perhaps the key to automotive culture is always going to be the past.