Payne: The new Dream Cruise classics, Class of '93
It’s Dream Cruise reunion time, and that means we welcome the great Class of ’93 as the new antiques.
When your classic turns 26 years young, Michigan’s Secretary of State office extends historic license privileges and eligibility for more-affordable car collector insurance. In exchange, the state frowns on using your collectible as a daily driver — except in August when antiques take over Woodward.
So slip Meat Loaf’s ’93 hit “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” in the ol' CD player, slip on your “Myst” computer game shirt, and watch out for these ’93 notables.
Emerging from the horsepower-strangling government mandates of previous decades, early '90s muscle cars got sexy again. The fourth-generation rear-wheel drive Firebird and kissing cousin Camaro were outfitted with V-6s, snarling V-8s and anti-lock brakes. The Pontiac, taking design cues from the outrageous Banshee XII concept car, was particularly striking with its anteater nose and recessed headlights.
With sleek aerodynamics and lightweight, composite body panels, the Firebird was optimized for speed. A 160-horse V-6 came standard. Upscale Formula and Trans Am models were stuffed with a 275-horsepower V-8 shared with big brother Corvette.
Ford SVT Mustang Cobra
What’s a Dream Cruise without a new Mustang antique? The iconic Ford badge has been in production since 1964, but the '93 model introduced a new performance badge from Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) positioned above the GT.
Using the same 5.0-liter V-8 as the GT, the SVT turned up the wick to 235 horsepower, which was good for 5.9 seconds zero-60. (In a sign of how far engineering has come, a modern Focus RS cranks out 350 horsepower from a turbo-4 and hits 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds). Ford sold nearly 5,000 in 1993. For more exclusivity, a SVT Cobra R was offered stripped of niceties like radio and power windows, and strapped down with chassis-stiffening braces to take on the race track. Just 107 were sold.
In the 1990s, Mazda’s wee Miata had a big brother, the RX-7. Featuring Mazda’s signature rotary engine — boosted with twin turbos to 255 horsepower — the third-generation RX-7 was the last, and most sophisticated, of its breed (an RX-8 would follow in 2002).
A mid-level sports car similar in price to the Porsche Cayman/Boxster today, the RX-7 was a tempting package of speed and style. Outfitted in base, touring or track-ready R1 trims, the '93 RX-7 ditched the previous generation's wedge shape for a jellybean body and modern trunk-width mono taillight.
Speaking of jellybeans, the Probe was Ford’s entry-level front-wheel drive coupe. Cheaper than the revered, RWD Mustang, the second-gen Probe started at just $13,000 (about $4,000 under the pony car). Other than its awkward name — which made its way into Jay Leno's stand-up act — the Probe was notable for its GT version, which upgraded to a 2.5-liter V-6 pumping out 164 horses.
The GT earned Motor Trend’s 1993 Car of the Year award and also landed on Car and Driver’s 10 Best list. A joint collaboration between Mazda and Ford, the Probe was axed in 1997.
Chrysler Concorde/Dodge Intrepid/Eagle Vision
Ah, the days when Chrysler made sedans! The creative LH platform created a sensation with its cab-forward styling, sleek aerodynamics and roomy interiors. Coming on the heels of the aging K-car platform, the LH sent departing chief Lee Iacocca off in glory.
The cars immediately landed on Car and Driver’s 10 Best List. The magazine called them "the all-round best execution of the classic American sedan that we’ve yet seen.” The cars still turn heads today, even as Eagle is no more — and Chrysler and Dodge (Charger hellion excepted) have largely abandoned sedans.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Chrysler president Bob Lutz memorably debuted the Grand Cherokee at the 1992 Detroit auto show by driving it through Cobo Center’s front window with Mayor Coleman Young riding shotgun. The rest is history. An upsized version of the Cherokee, the unibody-based Grand Cherokee went head-to-head with the popular truck-based Ford Explorer to ignite an SUV revolution.
Available with a 190-horse straight-6 engine and two four-wheel drive systems, the Grand Cherokee was an instant hit, selling 84,600 copies in its first calendar year. By 1994, it had sold more than 212,000. In a portent of things to come, the Grand dropped its manual tranny after just two years.
Lincoln Mark VIII
The luscious Mark VIII coupe was the last of the brand’s halo-badge Mark cars. Draped across a 113-inch wheelbase, the luxury diva was longer than today’s Mercedes S-class coupe. The distinctive, wraparound front end mirrored the innovative interior with a wraparound dash stuffed with modern electronics including keyless entry.
Powered by a smooth 4.6-liter V-8, the rear-wheel drive coupe received critical raves at its New York debut as a European luxury-fighter. Alas, the Mark VIII would not live past 1998.
Speaking of Mercedes, the C-class made its debut as the successor to the brand’s successful BMW 3-series fighter, the 190. The C-class would be the Stuttgart marque’s entry-level U.S. sedan until the CLA 4-door coupe debuted in 2014.
The ’93 C-class was powered by a 148-horse four-banger — about the same ponies as a Subaru Impreza today. The original C was stodgy, but it had softer lines than the boxy 190 and started the evolution to the sexy, swoopy Mercedes of today.
Here’s a neat little secret. In addition to Michigan’s antique license law, the federal government will allow you to import 25-year-old cars that were previously ineligible. For the Class of ‘93, that means you can now bring in an MG RV8 (among other things).
Built by the Rover Group as a successor to the famous MGB, the RV8 hottie was stuffed with a throaty 190-horse V-8 and rocketed to 60 mph as fast as the Mustang SVT Cobra. Rear leaf-springs and drum brakes made its handling diabolical. But, hey, it’s British.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.