A look back at the crazy and ridiculous modified car scene of the 90s
The 1990s brought us a lot of things. Guilty-pleasure pop songs, slap bracelets, Walkmans and some very interesting car modding trends that paved the way for what we see today. At a glance, it may not seem like much of an iconic decade for car trends, but on closer inspection, all of the colourful styles and flavours come to light. With things like personalised sunstrips, vinyl decals, body kits and two-tone paint jobs, the 90s really were an interesting time to be into cars.
One of the most recognisable trends of the 90s car scene was the use of 3 spoke wheels. Not just bought as aftermarket modifications, but also often found on cars as stock. Nowadays a set of 3-spokes would stand out like a pink Fiat Multipla, but 20 years ago they’d blend right in.
Although, this trend wasn’t strictly limited to alloy wheels with only 3 spokes, there were plenty of other alloys which had similarly round and plastic-looking designs which closely resembled their 3-spoke brethren.
Neon underglow was another fantastic trend that was birthed in the 90s and managed to seep into the noughties before it died down completely. Back before LEDs were cheap mainstream technology, passionate car modders would employ the use of neon to light up the underneath of their cars with that warm glowing aesthetic most of us have seen in the Fast and Furious films.
Although it looked cool, it was often problematic as neon tubes were fragile and could easily break whilst going over harsh bumps such as kerbs, potholes or speed bumps. But that didn’t stop anyone from lighting up their motors like Christmas trees, and boy did it look spectacular.
Tri-spoke wheels and underglow weren’t the only things being stuck onto the cars of the 90s, body kits were a big hit as well. Dimma kits were a particularly popular choice, well known for their Peugeot 205 kits which turned the plain-Jane car into a boy racer’s dream.
Adding a spoiler and a wider, more angular body, these kits created that RICE look in the most unsubtle way possible and looking back, we can see why this trend isn’t as prominent today. It was like each body kit of that period aimed to make your vehicle look like a life-sized Hot Wheels car and the closer it got to achieving that, the better.
Even though these modified cars looked the part, they weren’t always as powerful as they looked (or sounded). As true as it was 20 years ago as it is today, car modifiers were often young, still learning and limited for funds. When you pair limited funds with cheap and weak hatchbacks, you can soon see why the fantastic plastic motors of the 1990s were sometimes all bark and no bite.
Of course the nostalgia of looking back in time always makes you miss the “good old days”, but when you really think about it, most of the stuff that came from the 90s is probably best left there. But even if it was a bit of a tacky period for car modding, you can’t help but appreciate the vast amount of passion that was poured into these cars, a passion which cannot be as easily found on today’s roads.