Mustang, Prelude, 240SX, Supra, Firebird & More: The Speedvision Cup is Peak '90s Nostalgia
We all know what it's like to fall down an internet blackhole of articles, photos, videos and more—and for me these endless journeys always have something to do with cars. The other night I was browsing around the net for some information on the Ford Mustang Cobra R of the mid 1990s when I came across a YouTube link to a complete race from an old Speedvision Cup race series at Road Atlanta.
Intrigued by the thumbnail, I ended up sitting at my desk for an hour and half, watching and basking in the glory of some the most interesting grassroots road racing ever to happen in America. All with one of the most diverse grids of cars I've ever seen all racing wheel to wheel around one of the country's most famous race tracks.
This particular race was from the 1997 Speedvision Cup, a multi-class sports and touring car race series that was sponsored by and aired on the Speedvision cable network during the mid to late 1990s. I quickly found that for car lover who came of age in the '90s or just has an affinity for the cars of that era, this is some must-see viewing.
While I have clear memories of watching this sort of racing on TV as a young teenager, there isn't a whole lot of info out there on the Speedvision Cup today. A bit of searching shows that the series grew out of IMSA's Showroom Stock division and t lasted until 1998. Fortunately for those who want to relive things, a few of the complete races have been uploaded to YouTube in their full, low resolution glory.
As for this particular race, it was a timed three-hour event and featured a massive grid of cars spanning many different brands and bodystyles, and unlike most sports car series which consist of high dollar and heavily modified machinery, the cars of the Speedvision Cup have a very "weekend warrior" feel.
What you won't find on the track during this race are serious sports cars like Corvettes, Vipers and Porsche 911s. What you will see is just about everything else, with the most powerful cars still being lightly modified Pontiac Firebird Formulas, Toyota Supras, Mazda RX-7s, BMW M3s and the aforementioned Mustang Cobra Rs.
And while those more traditional entries make up the fastest Grand Sport Class, the roster gets even more interesting and diverse as you move into the less powerful classes. I wasn't able to find a complete entry list for the race, but watching the broadcast it's almost easier to count the cars you don't see on the track.
Always one to look for the oddities in motorsport, I was overwhelmed trying to spot all the different types of cars competing in the Speedvision Cup. Yes there are race track stalwarts like the NA Mazda Miata and the BMW 3 Series, but also obscure machines like the Oldsmobile Achieva, Chevy Beretta, Mazda MX-6 and Dodge Neon.
Just among the Hondas I spotted both fourth and fifth generation Preludes, a Del Sol and even an Accord. The Nissan roster meanwhile includes the Z32 300ZX Twin Turbo, S14 240SX, 200SX and Sentra SE-R. Not surprisingly, some of the clips from the race look like a replay from Gran Turismo 2.
Of course there's also plenty of for the European car enthusiast to look for as well, including numerous E36s, a brand new at the time Z3 Roadster, a MkIII Volkswagen Golf, several Audis and more.
As for the racing itself, it's great fun to watch thanks not just the variety of cars but also because of how relatively stock they are, with strict rules limiting their modifications, power and grip.
It isn't quite the super sideways narrow tire racing of the '60s and '70s racing, but the cars definitley look more lively than the high grip, aero-laden machines of today.
At one point in the race there's an especially great battle between an Firebird Formula and an FD3S RX-7 in the Grand Sports class, and it's cool to see the big V8 Pontiac and the nimble rotary Mazda fight it out using totally different styles.
Later on in the race, a rain storm moves in making for even more chaos in what was already a full contact competition. Several cars are claimed by the wet conditions and the higher powered cars struggle to use their performance advantage on the small radial tires of the day.
I could go on and on about just how enjoyable this was to watch, and will probably have trouble getting work done in the coming days as I can continue to watch these old races. That's just how great this stuff is.
Whether you are the kind of person who likes race cars that are very similar to road cars or just want to check out some of the greatest cars of the '90s doing their thing on the race track, you're going to love this.
The history and influence of Speedvision itself is another topic worthy of a story on it's own, and you can look for that in the coming weeks - but in the meantime, grab a drink, hit play and take a nice trip back to into the car culture of the '90s and the Speedvision Cup.
For another video nostalgia trip, check out our story on the JDM goodness that was Best Motoring.