Do you remember the Harlequin, Ibiza and Diablo? We present seven young-timers which rekindle memories of the colorful 90s.
The last decade of the 20th century was a special moment in history. The Cold War was over; Germany was reunited; globalization and digitalization were gaining momentum. A fresh and optimistic mood prevailed in Germany. The styles, too, were bright: platform shoes, glitter shirts and neon leggings could be found in almost every wardrobe. Of course, two decades later, some of the highlights from those days seem more like embarrassing missteps. But it’s still fun to travel back in time. We have picked out seven car models which stand for the spirit of that era, and which in some cases are now coveted young-timers. The classic vehicles of tomorrow impress with their own unique charm and character. To become true old-timers, by the way, they must be over 30 years old.
Seat Ibiza – Sporty Mediterranean Type
Sun, sea and sand – Ibiza embodies a leisurely, Mediterranean lifestyle. The suggestion of carefree island living surely contributed to the success of the Seat Ibiza. In 1993, the second generation came onto the roads in the shape of the 6K. Giorgetto Giogiaro is responsible for the typically angular, boxlike exterior. He is regarded as one of the most influential automobile designers of the 20th century. The technical equipment for this model came exclusively from Volkswagen. The gasoline engine version of this nimble small car had a performance of 45 to 115 PS, and some special models had even more power under the hood. The diesel version of the hatchback saloon had 64 to 75 PS. Seat sold around 1.5 million Ibizas between 1993 and 2002. Even today, customers love the sporty small car with the Spanish flair: Seat makes almost two thirds of its turnover with the Ibiza.
Golf VR6 – King of the Highway
The Golf generation could step on the gas. The 150 PS-strong Golf GTI 16V was the thing to have for sporty drivers. But even more speed was possible: The top model in the range was the Golf VR6 with six cylinders and 174 PS under the hood. The characteristic rich sound when accelerating was due to the special construction with a cylinder angle of 15 degrees. This mixture of a V-type and straight engine was necessary because the Golf has a rather slim build. In 1991, Volkswagen brought the most powerful Golf to date onto the roads in the form of the VR6. Nevertheless, drivers did not have to relinquish the familiar Golf comfort. The third model series stood out from its predecessors chiefly because of its more striking form and the new front headlights. Crash behavior and safety were considerably improved, including having airbags as standard. At around 40,000 DM, the VR6 was not exactly cheap. On the other hand, the king of the highway offered tons of driving pleasure.
Porsche 911 Carrera RS (964) – From the Race Track onto the Road
Although the nineties were chiefly a time of maximalism, in this 911 only the essentials stood between the driver, car and road. Sitting behind the wheel, you feel directly the 260 PS. The engine of the 911 Carrera RS (Type 964) roars huskily when accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds. By the way, RS stands for Rennsport, or car racing. And it’s meant literally: the aluminum front hood and thin glass panes were otherwise only found on the race track. Omission of the underbody protection and insulating mats brings the unladen weight of the RS down to just 1,220 kilos. Its performance was enhanced to 260 PS, and it was also equipped with the braking system from the 911 Turbo. The interior was utterly purist: Leather-covered bucket seats and loops instead of handles to open the doors conveyed motor sport flair. With only 2,282 units built, the 911 Carrera RS now has true cult status.
Lamborghini Diablo – Devilishly Fast
Three sports cars on lonely mountain roads: They approach the bends elegantly and then accelerate, with first one and then another taking the lead. Particularly eye-catching in the sparse landscape is the violet Lamborghini Diablo. And the man behind the wheel is Jay Kay, the singer in the band Jamiroquai. For the making of the video for “Cosmic Girl” in 1996, he drove around the bendy roads of Spain in the Diablo. Not only that, but he also owned the super sports car. Its performance is cosmic, too: from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.1 seconds, and starting in 1993 it had four-wheel drive and a maximum speed of over 320 km/h. Some special models were even more powerful. The legendary car designer Marcello Gandini was responsible for the elegant exterior. Lamborghini produced almost 3,000 units of this cult car between 1990 and 2001. The name Diablo, by the way, refers to a particular bull. The four-legged role-model for the sports car was apparently particularly nimble, fast, bold and fearless when defeating a Torero in the arena.
Skoda Felicia – Versatile Everyday Companion
Not everything in the 90s was big and strident. It was also the decade of the solid small car. One of them was the Felicia. For Skoda, it marked the start of a new era: it was the first car that was built under the direction of the Volkswagen Group. There is a lot of Wolfsburg in the Felicia: for example, it has the exterior mirrors of the Polo III. The 1.6-liter gasoline engine and the diesel engine also powered the Polo and Golf. Two airbags and ABS made the Felicia safe. Between 1994 and 2001, 1.4 million units were built – as a hatchback, estate, van plus and pickup truck. The two-seater with an open loading area could even, with a few tricks, be converted into a four-seater in the Felicia Fun version. However, the weather had to be favorable, because the second row of seats was in the open air. Those who think the Felicia was just a staid car with no glamour should know that, in 1994, it was the first Skoda to make it onto the cover of the Czech Playboy.
Audi RS2 Avant – The Best of Both Worlds
“Everything is possible” was the motto of the optimistic nineties. So why not build the fastest five-door estate, thought Audi. By 1994, they were ready: Owners of sports cars were pretty astonished to see a conventional Audi 80 suddenly zooming past them on the highway. What they didn’t see at 260 km/h was that it was the new RS2 Avant. From the outside, it resembles the 80, but there is a lot of Porsche on the inside. The two car brands jointly developed the fastest Audi on the road to date. Its 315 PS-strong five-cylinder engine accelerated to 100 km/h in 5.4 seconds. The exterior, too, gave a few hints of this cooperation: a small Porsche logo adorned the radiator grille and tailgate. The exterior mirror, indicators, fog lights, wheel rims and the inner-ventilated brake discs are Porsche originals. Nevertheless, the sports car still had enough room for luggage and children. At 98,900 DM, it was probably not the first choice for a family car. Nonetheless, the first power estate was a success. During its two-year construction period, just under 2,900 units were produced in Zuffenhausen.
VW Polo Harlequin – Time for Some Color
In the decade of burgeoning individualism, only one thing was still lacking: a personalized car. And so, in 1994, Volkswagen introduced a new modular design for the equipment of the Polo III. The advertisement had to be a real eye-catcher to draw everyone’s attention. A few trainees had the idea of creating a Polo from different-colored body parts. 20 prototypes were built, just as a marketing gag. Volkswagen hadn’t reckoned with their customers’ enthusiasm: they wanted their own personal Harlequin. A special edition of 1,000 units was planned to satisfy the demand for the colorful Polos. Eventually, 3,806 Harlequins in four color combinations left the Volkswagen plant. Those who wanted one of the trendy small cars did not know exactly how the body would be put together. The only thing they knew for sure was that it would be a mixture of Chagall blue, Flash red, pistachio green and broom yellow.