The 1990s saw some huge successes and equally huge failures in the exotic car world, kind of like the decade as a whole.
Honda/Acura's first and pretty much only take on the super car came early on with the NSX. People of a certain age -- and you know who you are -- still have a crush on this car, and they're not wrong to cling to its toned-down-Ferrari style and Japanese reliability. After a decade of temperamental cars of the exotic and mundane variety, Japanese makers took over in the 90s, and the NSX sat on top of the heap. It not only went fast, it could crawl through traffic during rush hour without needing a $3000 oil change afterward. And fanboys rejoice: there's a new NSX for 2013.
What started as a designers' lark became a victim of compromise and a rotten economy. A group of Jaguar designers used to get together on weekends just to sketch cool things, and the result, eventually, was the XJ220, a certified super car that could challenge the best of Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. It was sexy, sweeping, and super car fast. In theory, anyway. By the time the prototype was set to become reality, the super car market had tanked and the XJ220 suffered from a slew of cost-cutting measures and parts-bin indignities that compromised the original design.
Twenty years after its debut, and fifteen after production was brought to an end, the F1 is still regarded by many as the greatest car of all time. It set speed records that held for years, it had a design that other super cars would give a Pirelli calendar for, and with only a total of 107 cars built, it was one of the most exclusive cars on the planet. (Of that 107, only 65 were built as street-legal cars to sell to customers; the rest were race cars for track use only.) Besides its to-die-for stats, the F1 was notable for its front-and-center driving position, with two passengers seats beside and a bit behind.
Ten years after the success of its fortieth anniversary car, Ferrari trotted out the F50, another undeniably super car. Ferrari figured they could sell 350 F50s the world over, so it built 349. Someone in Ferrari marketing loved playing musical chairs as a kid. Anyone who bought the F40 for its wing suffered some serious aerodynamic jealousy ten years later when they saw the sweep of the rear spoiler on the F50. The line of the spoiler seems to begin as far forward as the doors. Behind those aerodynamic bumps that keep your silly head from messing up the airflow sits a 12-cylinder engine that doesn't redline until the needle sweeps past 10,000 rpm.
The Countach was cool, and it got a lot of attention for Lamborghini. Its replacement could not be a dud. Luckily, the Diablo was next out of the gate, and a dud it was not. This is the car that really put Lamborghini on the map and brought the raging bull out of the shadow of the prancing horse. This despite the fact that in the middle of the Diablo's run, Lamborghini was purchased by Chrysler. Yeah, the same Chrysler that was recently purchased by Fiat. Chrysler softened some of the Diablo's sharp edges, but it didn't hurt the striking design too much. There were a couple of tuned and special-edition Diablos available before the final 6.0 version was ended in 2001.