There’s something about a manual transmission sports car, much like there was something about Mary, in the movie that is. While automatic transmissions are cool and take away the stress and effort of changing gears, here’s nothing like a Boomer-inspired stick shift, that can truly take your mind off everything else but conquering that road up ahead of you.
That said; with the advancements in automotive tech, manual transmissions are becoming a thing of the past, even in sports cars. Many cars, like the newest Chevy C8, the first-ever mid-engine Corvette have completely eschewed the manual transmission in favor of automatic.
For those of us who still like to think that we can control the car better than computers, these are the best manual-transmission sports cars of the ‘90s to indulge in. Which of these have your heart and is waiting to be in your garage?
10 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight
Considering the M3 Lightweight weighs about 200 pounds less than the standard E36-generation M3, it’s one sweet ride indeed. The hand-picked 3.0-liter V8 engines came mated to a responsive 5-speed manual, generating 240 horsepower and 225 lb-ft, although it did make more.
All Lightweights came painted Alpine White and bore a tricolor checkered “M” motif on the left-front and right-rear corners. There were lots of extra parts in the trunk, and you can still get some of these cars, with the extra parts still wrapped in plastic.
9 1992-1996 Ford Escort RS Cosworth
The Escort RS Cosworth was a homologation-special model, built for rallying, with a turbocharged inline-four that churned up more than 220 horses. The five-speed manual gearbox sent power to all four wheels and remains one of the most fun stick-shift drives ever.
It was the first Ford to win the Monte Carlo rally, and the manual transmission played a big part in its ease of handling as did that rear wing, dubbed the whale tail. Overall, one of the sweetest manual transmission sports cars of the ‘90s.
8 1990-1995 Chevy Corvette ZR1
The Chevy Corvette has always been an “able” car, the kind that many chose over good old’ American muscle. The 1990-95 Corvette ZR-1 bore a 5.7-liter, port-fuel-injected ‘LT5’ V8 with an aluminum block and heads.
With a manual transmission, the ZR-1 zipped 0 to 60 MPH in 4.5 seconds with a sizzling top speed of 175 MPH and did so in absolute style. The six-speed manual transmission withstood a massive 425 pound-feet of torque and performed like a maestro for that sweet engine note.
7 1995-1998 Porsche 911 GT2 (993)
The Porsche 911 GT2 is undoubtedly one of the coolest manual transmission sports cars from the 1990s, as it came based on the 911 Turbo but with way better looks. The 3.6-liter boxer-six made 424 horses and 400 lb-ft of torque, making it fly because of its low curb weight.
It flew 0-60 MPH in 3.7 seconds making it the ideal car to spend your track weekends in. Plus, being a Porsche it handles like a dream, meaning it simply cannot get any better than this.
6 1990 Acura NSX
For many years and still on, automotive enthusiasts prefer driving a manual transmission over automatic, because of sheer driving pleasure, even if we are stealing the slogan from BMW. One of the coolest manual transmission sports cars to come out of the ‘90s was the Acura NSX.
The original NSX was lightweight, came mid-engined, and was built for people who loved to drive. It had enough but not immense power, so it handled well and drove like a well-controlled rocket. And a rather obedient one as well.
5 1996 Dodge Viper GTS
With a 400-horsepower, 465-lb-ft, 8.0-liter V-10 engine, the Dodge Viper was all kinds of crazy, even as its engine came co-developed by Chrysler-owned Lamborghini. With a six-speed manual transmission, no creature comforts at all, and absolute nutty speed, things went even crazier with the Viper GTS.
The beastly GTS now made 410 horsepower and 488 lb-ft of torque and now also came with a fiberglass hardtop model. The manual transmission added to the whole raw appeal of the car designed to take your breath away.
4 Third-Gen Mazda RX-7 (FD)
Mazdas have always made the coolest sports cars, and the RX series has also been pretty cool. The RX-7 more so, with a twin-turbo rotary engine, and three generations worth of 800,000 sales. The 2.6-liter Wankel rotary engine, made between 236 and 276 horsepower depending on the trim, and worked well with a 5-speed manual transmission.
For a while, the FD RX-7 ruled as it won Playboy’s Car of the Year in 1993, and even now, it is one of the coolest manual transmission cars of the ‘90s.
3 1995-1998 Fourth-Gen Nissan Skyline GT-R (R33)
The fourth-gen Skyline GT-R, the R33, used the same R32 engine, and officially claimed to make 280 horsepower, although many say it made more than 300 easy. There’s a reason they call it the Godzilla. It’s only now become a legal JDM but the lure for it has always been strong.
With lovely handling and the most responsive five-speed manual transmission of all, the Skyline remains a JDM hero, even as the next in line, the R34, succumbed to the call of the automatic transmission.
2 1993-1998 Toyota Supra A80
The Mk IV supra is the original 10-second car from the F&F franchise and has forever gone down in history as one of the coolest manual transmission sports cars ever. The 2JZ straight-six engine is a legend, and the Mk IV Supra’s sleek looks helped further its cause.
The turbocharged variant could hit 0-60 MPH in 4.6 seconds, at top speeds of 160 MPH, and the car handled beautifully, meant to be driven by an automotive enthusiast. The base trim made 220 horses while the turbocharged one took this up by 100 horses, for 320.
1 1990-1999 Lamborghini Diablo
As the name suggests, this is a devil of a car, with a 5.7-liter V12 that works well with a five-speed manual transmission and was an absolute speed king. The Diablo replaced the Countach and while it did not go about breaking records, it was a cool enough car that drove fantastic.
The design was all new, and a bit of a step-away for Lamborghini, and the pop-up headlights only added to the car’s appeal. This may not have been a celebrity’s car, like the Aventador, but it made anyone driving it, feel rather special.
Sources: CarandDriver, TopSpeed, Autoevolution
10 Status-Symbol Sports Cars Of The ’90s No One Is Buying Anymore
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