Has the world forgotten about 1990s coupés?
They were once the most fashionable cars you could be seen in, but these days the cars of the 1990s fad for swoopy coupés are disappearing fast.
It was the 1990s. Curtains haircuts were in, the New Romantics were out, and The Simpsons were on everyone’s TV. And if you were any sort of follower of fashion, you had a coupé on your driveway.
This was an unexpected turn of events. In the late 1980s, outside the realms of serious performance cars, coupés were utterly passé; few even existed on the market any more, and those that did were slow sellers, their popularity usurped by the far more happening hot hatch.
But then an odd thing happened. As the next decade began, people started buying coupés again. It seems buyers didn’t just want the status and performance of a hot hatch; they wanted a car that looked good – and one that, by extension, would make them look good too.
Certain manufacturers were perfectly placed to satisfy this new-found appetite. Volkswagen had just replaced its ageing Scirocco with the sharp, pert Corrado; Vauxhall’s new Calibra, meanwhile, emerged in 1989 with scalpel-sharp styling and aerodynamic curves that looked like the future. Soon the trickle became a stream; Toyota’s curvy Celica, Rover’s petite 200 Coupé, and a freshly re-invigorated Honda Prelude joined the party. And the coupés kept coming. By 1998, almost every major manufacturer had a coupé on offer; some even had more than one, to cater for those who wanted their cute coupé a size smaller or larger.
But then, almost as soon as the rush to buy coupés had really got into its stride, it dried up again. At the turn of the millenium, it was as though a switch had been flicked; affordable coupés were suddenly out of favour, and while a few soldiered on regardless, the party was over. So it has remained to this day; the SUV is well and truly in, and the affordable coupé has become a thing of the past.
That doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy these cars, though. In fact, there’s every good reason to do so. For starters, many of them are still as brilliant as they were in their time. Take the Fiat Coupé, which remains one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars ever made, or the Ford Puma, which is similarly stimulating on a twisty B-road. Or the Peugeot 406, whose super-smooth V6 made it a junior grand tourer for a cut-down price.
What’s more, these days, against a backdrop of more modern, more bloated cars, these old coupés look absolutely terrific. Take the Alfa Romeo GTV, for example, its beady eyes and beaky nose giving way to a fabulously wedgy waistline, a cute glasshouse and chunky hind quarters. Or the beautifully-proportioned Volvo C70, a car whose styling even now defies belief given its roots in the fantastically boxy S70 and V70 twins. And happily, most of these cars are modern enough to be usable, with power steering, anti-lock brakes and, in some cases, air conditioning and cruise control.
It gets better, though, because the vast majority of these cars are now available for a pittance. Just look at these prices: £1000 for a decent Ford Puma or Peugeot 406; less for a Volvo C70; £2000 for a tidy Alfa Romeo GTV or Honda Prelude VTi; £3000 for a clean, low-mileage, historied Fiat Coupé Turbo. If you’ve got £5000 to spend, meanwhile, you can bag yourself a tidy Volkswagen Corrado VR6. At these prices, values can’t fall any further. In fact, with numbers steadily dwindling, there’s a chance prices of cars like these might start to rise in the next few years.
In an age in which everything interesting seems to cost the earth, then, these old two-doors make stylish, enjoyable modern classics that can be yours for peanuts. Best get in on the act, then – before everyone else remembers what a great buy one of these 1990s coupés can be.
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