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Classic Cars That Ruled Kenya's Highways in the 90s

  • The 1990s saw an increase in the uptake of vehicles among Kenyans. At the time, the importation of cars had become common with more Kenyans, especially those in the middle class, who could afford such luxury. 

    Among the cars that dominated Kenya’s highways in the 1990s was the Nyayo Pioneer car made in Kenya. 

    Nyayo Pioneer One 

    This was Kenya’s first car project, initiated in the 1980s and developed by a team of engineers from the University of Nairobi. 

    Nyayo Pioneer 1

    The Nyayo Pioneer I at Kasarani stadium in 1991.


    Nyayo Pioneer one was officially launched in 1991 by former President Daniel Moi.

    Nonetheless, the car did not stay in the market as its production dwindled within a short period over alleged interference by senior government officials in Moi’s administration.

    1990 Mercedes Benz G Class 

    Since penetrating the Kenyan market, the Mercedes model has been associated with class and prestige. Similarly, the 1990 Mercedes Benz G Class was one of the most expensive vehicles.

    Unlike other G wagons produced from 2000 onwards, the model only had two doors. Over time, Mercedes has maintained their outlook even with new modifications to the model.

    The car was also preferred as it could be used on off-road terrains.

    1990 BMW 5

    The BMW 5 series was also common in the 90s and was popular for its sleek shape, which helped its high-speed feature.

    The sedan car, launched in 1988, was an all-wheel drive vehicle with special features such as traction control, stability control and a 6-speed manual transmission that made it more viable to speed lovers.

    Apart from the sedan shape, the vehicle also had a touring shape.

    Mitsubishi Pajero 1990

    Another off-road vehicle that was common at the time was the Mitsubishi Pajero.

    A photo of a parked 1990 Isuzu Trooper model.

    A photo of a parked 1990 Isuzu Trooper model.


    The Parking

    The vehicle debuted in 1991 and made its way to Kenya years later. The 1990 model was of the second generation and had better features than the first generation.

    Some of the features included a larger body with options of canvas top convertible and metal top.

    The vehicle also had a 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine. To date, the vehicles are also still common on Kenyan roads.

    Isuzu Trooper 

    Among the Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) common at the time, the Isuzu Trooper was among those preferred by Kenyans.

    In the 90s, the outlook of the Japanese car was constantly changed given the revolution of cars, as many people were opting for family cars.

    The vehicle was also preferred because the model was more fuel efficient than other SUVs. Additionally, the cars were used for heavy-duty activities and, at times, for towing.

    Toyota Corolla Hatchback 

    As the importation of Japanese cars increased, the Toyota Corolla 1990 Hatchback model became common on Kenyan roads.

    The model improved from the 1989 model and had options for front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

    However, the car was common among speed lovers as it was designed as a sports car.

    “The hatchback incorporates the rear glass. This door generally hinges at the top end of the rear body panel. Thus, after opening the entire door flips upward and provides access to the cargo area,” Carbiketech stated in its review.

    A collage image of a 1990 Toyota Corolla 1990 Hatchback (left) and a section of the 1990 Mazda Roadster car (right).

    A collage image of a 1990 Toyota Corolla Hatchback (left) and a section of a 1990 Mazda Roadster car (right).


    Daihatsu Charade 1990

    Another hatchback that was also popular was the Daihatsu Charade 1990. The car was produced in Japan. Production of this model slowed down in 1992 as the uptake of Toyota increased.

    Mazda Roadster 

    In the ’90s, the Mazda Roadster was among the most luxurious car in the country and were convertible. The most common feature of these cars was that they had headlights that could pop up.

    Which other cars can you recall? 

Jay Ndungu

Jay is a computer scientist and journalist with a passion for the intersection of technology and society. He has a background in computer science, developing a deep understanding of the technical aspects of the industry, including programming languages and software development methodologies. Currently, He writes for Nairobi Times, covering a wide range of topics including technology, politics, sports, and entertainment. With his unique combination of technical knowledge and journalistic experience, Jay brings a unique perspective to the stories he covers, able to explain complex technical concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. His work is dedicated to bridge the gap between technology and society, and to make people more aware of the potential of technology to make the world a better place.

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