Tutorial #3: I’m a 90s Kid
Again, a huge shout-out to @ramthecowy for helping me with this again.
Ah, the 90’s. A truly euphoric era, and it’s cars reflect this; it brought legends such as the Dodge Viper, McLaren F1, Nissan Skyline GT-R, and many others to the hands of the people. For this, we’ll run through the design ideas of the early 90s versus that of the strangeness of the late 90s. Diversity is lacking; rest assured, your car may be a little bland, but it’s difficult to get funky for the era. Overall, just focus on being era-correct over being unique, thanks to regulations and demands of the people.
Here’s some overarching themes to help you design a car in the 1990s.
1990s front design
The difference between cars in the early 90s and late 1990s are small, but easily noticeable. Let’s look at a popular example.
Here’s a small comparison between a 1990 Citroën ZX and a 1997 Citroën Xsara.
Let’s dive right in; the Bertone-designed ZX is clearly a much boxier vehicle with very few curves adorning it’s squared body. In comparison, the Xsara has a more aerodynamic and curvier style; aerodynamic looks were something that began to be popular in the late 80s for concept cars, but were in full effect during the mid-to-late 90s (i.e. 1993 Dodge Intrepid, 1993 Toyota Supra). Notice the use of larger grilles and usage of rounded, less sharp black plastic on the Xsara. The headlights on the Xsara are clearly much rounder and more shapely, and help to transition the car well into the early 2000s. Quickly note the less defined body lines of the Xsara (rounded front end, less prominent shoulder line); cars such as these begin the “blobby” stereotype of late 90s cars.
Let’s look at the differences between some sports cars; here, we have the traditional 1989 Porsche 911 964 (not 90’s, but a very iconic 1990s car) and the opinion-splitting 1997 Porsche 911 996.
As with the Xsara, notice the much, much more rounded body with less defined features such as the wheel arches and the more flowing and smooth fixture use. The newer car has a less muddled design overall, and as such is more pleasing to the eye. Again, the new car is clearly a bit more aerodynamic, with more sculpted side mirrors, a flatter hood, and recessed door handles. There is also quite a bit less amber on the newer car, with indicators being implemented in the headlights, which themselves are more daring in design.
1990s rear design
The designs of the rears of 90s cars are often characterized by bland, wide designs; these examples are no different. Let’s see the 1993 versus 1997 Toyota Cresta.
The rear of the older Cresta can be seen to be more homogenous than the newer model, with a full-width taillight; a very popular design choice in the early 90s, used to emphasize the width of a car (particularly popular on luxury vehicles). However, the new Cresta uses taller, split, and skinnier taillights in the back. The new model is also taller in general; like some plastic surgery, a lot of new models later in the 1990s showed a taller rear with tighter, more shapely features. Think of it the same as a person getting a facelift; you nip and tuck a few places to get rid of the fat, and then you make some of the features a little more appealing. The body is, as previously stated, more aerodynamic and flowing than before, with smoother fixtures. As with the Porsches, there’s some color-theory changes; the taillights have relegated any signs of amber in favor of a simple red and white contrast. This is right before the Altezza light craze, so keep your late 90s designs subtle with the color. Don’t forget that amber cheapens the looks of cars, and early 90s cars tend to look less refined.
Now, a little bit of a different take on design; the original 1994 SN95 Mustang compared to it’s “New Edge” facelift in 1999.
Now, a bit unlike the previous cars we’ve seen, the Mustang clearly has evolved into a much more angular design. That’s because of the 21st century effect which was mentioned in our previous tutorial; with the push to keep cars relevant for the 21st century, automakers rushed to create the newest trends with their cars. In this case, Ford decided to go edgy- think again about the “plastic surgery” facelift idea with the more sorted design, even if there are more elements added. With that being said, there are some parts of the more blobby, aerodynamic ideals added to the design. The original side crease is nowhere to be found, and the rear spoiler has been reworked to be more functional. All of this combined help to define the changes of 90s cars pretty well but of course not fully, so do your own research and find what you need to construct your perfect period-correct car.