Showing posts with label 1990s Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1990s Cars. Show all posts

Renault Sport Spider

Renault Sport Spider 1990s French sports car

The Renault Sport Spider came fully-focused. It was built with just two objectives - to go like stink in a straight line and through corners with a minimum of fuss. Both of these goals it achieved. Top speed was 134mph. Roll was near to non-existent. In weight terms, just 1,740lb tried to rein in the Spider's free-revving spirit. It did not stand a chance. Four cylinders were all that were needed to overpower it. Output was 150bhp. The Spider was equally unburdened by the weight of expectation. Renault never intended that it sell by the shedload. Rather, it was an exercise in performance and aesthetics - specifically, the trade-off between the two. Hopelessly impractical, there was no way the Spider was ever going to cash in on a mass audience. On that basis, Renault Sport's design team swung into action. Patrick Le Quément led the way. With the creative dust settled, stylish minimalism had reached a new level. No roof, no windscreen, no side-windows. Exposure as an art form, so to speak. To be fair, there was a wind-deflector ... and a roll-bar!

It was a gimme that the Spider would take to the track. Renault Sport set up a one-make race series for it. Compared to the roadsters, competition cars were boosted - to the tune of 25bhp. Renault Sport Spider racing was fast and frenetic - to say the least. Many a top driver took part. Motorsport fans loved it - and turned out in droves. Renault's top brass were ecstatic. The number of Spiders exiting their Dieppe Alpine facility was small. The buzz they were creating, though, was anything but!

The Sport Spider's chassis was aluminium. That meant not only light weight - but high rigidity. It was supported by rose-jointed double wishbone suspension. Outsize vented disc brakes were borrowed from the Renault Alpine A610. The Renault Clio Williams supplied the Spider's two-litre engine. 62mph arrived in 6.9s. So, the Renault Sport Spider provided you with the quintessential driving experience - and not a lot else. Though a later model did sport a windscreen and wiper. Oh, the decadence!

Plymouth Prowler

Plymouth Prowler 1990s American sports car

The Plymouth Prowler was a hot rod for the new millennium. Tom Gale was head of design at Chrysler - Plymouth's parent company. He had long been a hot rod aficionado - and was especially enamoured of those made in the 1930s. Gale picked up his pen - and drew a modern variant on the classic theme. Fast forward to Chrysler's stand at the '93 Detroit Auto Show. Gale's sketch had been turned into 'dream car' reality. The public's response was favourable, to say the least. Chrysler's top brass immediately saw an opportunity to reinvigorate the Plymouth brand. They reckoned hot rod culture was deeply embedded in the American psyche. Lots of folk would love to own one - but did not have the time or know-how to build it. Why not build it for them? Feasibility studies duly completed, the Prowler project was given the green light.

According to Chrysler, customers were getting the best of both worlds. The Prowler provided the practical benefits of modern technology - as well as retro-style good looks. Whopping 20″ rear wheels were wrapped in 295-section rubber. The front wheels were 17″. The nose of the car was iconic hot rod - high cheek-bones, jutting jawline, and a slimline grille. Only the bumpers on some models gave the chronological game away. They were a plastic concession to modern-day safety legislation. Consummately-crafted suspension components were in plain view. Bodywork was steel and aluminium.

The Prowler was powered by the Chrysler Vision V6. The 3.5-litre engine produced an impressive 218bhp. Purists would probably have preferred it to have been a V8 - but you cannot please everyone. Top speed was 125mph. 0-60 was reached in 7.7s. Acceleration was assisted by light weight - just 2,900lb of it. 11,702 Plymouth Prowlers were sold - in a five-year run. Chrysler were proved right ... the hot rod was still an integral part of the American Dream!

TVR Griffith

TVR Griffith 1990s British sports car

The seaside town of Blackpool, England, is famous for its Illuminations. Similarly, TVR - the sports car manufacturer, based in the resort - lit up the motoring world. It did so, not with a dazzling display of neon lights - but with the gorgeous Griffith. The new TVR heralded a return to raw V8 power. The TVR brand itself did not need rejuvenating - but the Nineties sports car market did. The Griffith played a pivotal part in that. In five-litre form, the Griffith 500 produced 345bhp. That gave a top speed of 163mph. 0-60 arrived in a tad over 4s. Such fierce acceleration reflected plenty of mid-range poke - as well as gargantuan low-down grunt. The Griffith was inspired by the TVR Tuscan - a pure-bred, blood-and-guts racer. The latter had first appeared in the late Eighties. The iconic TVR Tuscans tore strips out of each other, in a one-make race series. Even TVR chairman Peter Wheeler dived headlong into the high-speed fray. He battled it out with the best of them, in his own racing Tuscan. A fresh take on the company car, as it were!

Design-wise, the Griffith came with a full complement of curves and subtle touches. Most notably, the air ducts - on the bonnet and doors - were cutting edge cute. The interior, too, was impeccably styled. Copious amounts of leather and wood were inlaid with aluminium. Not surprisingly - with all its technical and aesthetic assets - the Griffith sold well.

With its RWD system maxed-out, the Griffith's exhaust note was ear-splitting. With hood down - and revs up - British sports car drivers had never had it so good. The Griffith prototype debuted at 1990's Birmingham NEC Show. To say it wowed onlookers would be understatement. Automotive folklore has it that 350 deposits were stumped up that same day. Which translated to an order every eight minutes! The first production cars swanned into showrooms in '92. The Griffith was designed, developed and built almost exclusively by TVR. Given its relatively small operating scale, that was an astonishing feat. TVR went one step further, though. At £24,802 new, it even managed to keep the Griffith competitively priced!

Caterham 21

Caterham 21 1990s British sports car

The Caterham 21 debuted at the Birmingham Motor Show - in '94. It marked 21 years of Caterham Seven production. Design niggles delayed the launch of the new car for two years. The 21's enhanced equipment levels posed an engineering challenge to Caterham. Respected in the industry though it was, Caterham had not hitherto taken on a car of such complexity. The 21 prototype dazzled show-goers - clad, as it was, in silver-polished aluminium. The production car's finish would be a little more prosaic - standard paint on glass-fibre. The aluminium job, however, could still be had as an extra. The prototype was fitted with a Vauxhall JPE engine. Production models had Rover K-series 1.6-litre motors. There was also a 21 with a VHP - Very High Performance - version of the MGF 1.8-litre mill.

When the 21 did hit the road, it was to great acclaim. Aerodynamics were especially well-sorted. A top speed of 131mph spoke to that. Chassis-wise, the 21 was similar to the 7. The new car thus inherited the impressive handling characteristics of its predecessor. An important way, though, in which the two cars differed, was in terms of practicality. The 7 - while amongst the most exhilarating four-wheelers ever built - was not exactly user-friendly. It was geared pretty much entirely toward the 'pure driving experience'. The 21, though, came with much more in the 'all mod cons' column. So, as an all-round motoring package, it was streets ahead of the Seven.

Caterham passed the 21's styling brief to Iain Robertson. He doubled up as a journalist. Robertson was inspired by the race-bred lines of the Lotus Eleven. The 21's interior was equally well-crafted. Though the cockpit was narrow, wide sills kept it the right side of cramped. Visually, the vertical strip of switches was a deft touch. Caterham limited producton to 200 cars per year. That kept it from biting off more than it could chew. And, of course, there was always the Lotus legacy to consider. The Norfolk marque was the progenitor of the Caterham line. For sure, the 7 had done Lotus proud. The 21, then, upped the number of its talented offspring!

Dodge Viper

Dodge Viper 1990s American sports car

Chrysler recruited Carroll Shelby as consultant for their Dodge Viper project. Previously, he had been linchpin of the AC Cobra. Shelby lavished what he had learned from the Cobra onto the Viper - in terms both of its venom-spitting power and serpentine lines. On its début - at the '89 Detroit Motor Show - the Viper mesmerised all who saw it. Such was the frenzy that the concept car created, that Chrysler hastily hatched plans to put it into production. Fast-forward two and a half years - and the Viper was sliding onto the highway. Its 8-litre V10 gave 400bhp. Top speed was 180mph. Its wheels featured wide 13″ rims - helping transfer torque to tarmac. And torque there most certainly was - a churning 450 lb ft of it.

Indeed, the Viper's motor began life in a truck. That was before Lamborghini got hold of it, though. They re-cast the iron block to aluminium. And topped that off with a bright-red cylinder-head. Even so, it was far from a cutting edge engine - comprising just two valves per cylinder, plus hydraulic lifters and pushrods. Which is when Carroll Shelby came in. Basic though the set-up was, he coaxed big numbers out of it. Thankfully, the transmission, at least, was state-of-the-art. A 6-speed 'box was still a rarity, in the early '90s.

Styling-wise, the Viper hit the spot. Its sinuous bodywork was seriously aerodynamic. 'Enthusiastic' drivers loved it. Seals of approval do not come much bigger than selection as pace car for the Indy 500. Stateside, the sports car sector had been in the doldrums. The Viper reinvigorated it. As for Carroll Shelby - the Cobra was always going to be a tough act to top. Tribute to him, then, that the Dodge Viper had 'em dancing in the aisles. Well, in the passenger seats, at any rate!