The average cost of a new car in the United States has now jumped to just a hair over $30k. You would think that for that kind of money you would be getting a little heart thumping excitement in your life. Sadly, in reality, most vehicles bought today are dreary duds. Often so bad they cause bouts of depression every time you send in a payment. Thankfully, if you are willing to do a little research and digging, you can have an exotic car. A little piece of driving joy that will make your heart race, and your spirit soar. Something that will make your neighbors turn green with envy every time they pass by driving their beige Toyota Camry in pleated khaki pants. Check out these affordable jewels.
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The V-8 Vantage is now one of the most agile sports cars on the market, and present models have a price tag to match its handling but if you are lucky enough to find one of them built before the 2008 redesign and engine upgrades you can steal it for the price of a new Honda. Even better, instead of dropping in value it is sure to climb as collectors are just now beginning to realize how few are left on the market. Just tell your partner its a better investment than your house.
With a power to weight ratio to 2.5 kilograms per horsepower the Lamborghini LP560, more commonly called the Gallardo, was an asphalt-ripping beast that went O to 60 mph in under 4 seconds and topped out just a hair over 200 mph. In its time, it redefined the term Supercar but was quickly surpassed by competition both from Lamborghini itself and other competitors. For us today, this is a great thing as they are available on the used car market at a fraction of what they originally cost. Just make sure the transmission is still in stable condition.
Audi R8s are still in production today but if you want the most bang for your buck you'll want to find a first generation type 42. It was patterned after the car that six-time 24 hour of LeMans winner Jacky Ickx described as "the best handling road car today." Available in both a hardtop and convertible “Spyder” guise and with your choice of V-8 or V-10 power the R8 is one of the most highly produced, easiest to find and most affordable exotic cars out there.
The Lotus Esprit was a car either before its time or after its time depending on who you talk to. It premiered before wedge-shaped cars became a big deal and from looking at the vehicle before they realized even air flows on a curve. It also came out before they realized that you could make the lightest car in the world, but 210 ci can only make so much power, so it was late to the big engine sports car revolution. It is a fun car though, with a perky nature that can be had at bargain basement prices.
When a model has been on the road for almost sixty years you can imagine that there have been a few changes in its design. That is more than true of the Porsche 911. Its original model featured a puny 130 hp engine but modern models have enough power to pull down a house and accelerate 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds. Probably the greatest testament to this gem's prowess is that across the board from Off-Road Rallies to Le Mans it is considered the most successful racer of all time, having always stayed one step ahead of the competition.
What, you didn’t know that BMW, the home of the ultimate driving machine, built an exotic car? Maybe you thought Beemers were all family sedans, but in the late 80s, they decided to spice up their line by dropping a 12-cylinder engine into one of the biggest cars they ever produced the 8 series. The result was a massive machine that had all the luxury you would expect along with performance that was more at home on the track than the highway. These damn things somehow even delivered decent gas mileage.
Probably the most affordable and least desirable car on this list is the Lamborghini Urraco. The last one sold at auction brought a mind-numbing 24k and had $5,000 worth of garage receipts in the front seat. This car is the embodiment of Lambo’s dream of bringing an affordable exotic car to the U.S. market and featured such innovations as plastic bumpers and body panels, a strangled 2.5-liter V-8 barely delivering 180hp and comfort that gave it a 1.5-star rating from ‘Car and Driver’ magazine.
The Porsche 944 is often confused with its poor relation the entry level 924, but beyond cosmetics, there is very little similarity between the two cars. The 944 features an all-alloy 2.5 L inline four-cylinder with twin balance shafts for smoothness and an intercooled turbo producing as much as 250 hp, an increase of more than 100 hp over the normally aspirated engine. This made it a spry little number that handled like you would expect a Porsche too.
One of the least known exotic cars on American shores, the Renault-Alpine A310 was a huge success in Europe where it won the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally and World Rally Championship. They featured styling much like the Ferraris of their day along with a sturdy tubular steel backbone chassis that gave the car superior handling characteristics and an advanced 4-cylinder engine that produced a surprising 125 hp at the time and a heftier V-6 as an option.
The Ferrari 400 is one of the least exotic Ferrari ever produced. Yes, it has a roaring V-12 under the hood a suspension that will take you through the curves like you're gliding on rails and a rumble that will let the neighbors know your prancing pony ain’t no Mustang, but when people see it they are likely to say “what the hell?" Ferrari's attempt at a family car, the 400 has a decent size trunk, roomy backseat and rides like a Cadillac.
Take an Italian designed body, place it on a British, nay, Lotus ripoff, frame, and suspension, then power it with your choice of a Chrysler 383 with a four-barreled carb or 440 cubic inches engine with a sixpack and you have the beast that was the Jensen Interceptor III. One of the fastest and most powerful cars ever produced. You would think they would bring a premium on the collectors market, but the last recorded sale of one was in 2016 for the laughable sum of $27,000. That is the bargain basement, my friends.
The base model NSX originally sold for $62,000 in 1991; the same car today in showroom condition will only bring around 25 grand. This is a sad testament to the American car enthusiast who has discounted this supercar as just another piece of crap. While many of its features are commonplace today, when it first hit the road with its all-aluminum 3.0-liter V-6, titanium connecting rods, dual overhead cams being controlled by Honda’s ingenious VTEC engine it was a giant leap forward and left even the storied Italian supercars scrambling to catch up.
The four-seat Maserati Indy is another of those cars that many fail to recognize as an exotic, but you have to take into consideration that it has the same engine, transmission, and suspension that is found under the famed Ghibli. Zero-to-60 times under 8 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph is nothing to sneeze at from a naturally aspirated seventies era platform. Best of all you will only pay about half the price of a two-seater and be able to carry your kids along for the ride.
Built to commemorate Bentley’s five triumphs at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mulsanne was based on the Rolls-Royce, Bentley’s parent company’s, Silver Spirit. This isn’t a fast car by any stretch of the imaginations, and at 2.5 tons it doesn’t exactly hug the curbs but it is hand built and even its most basic model comes with, the Connolly leather, Wilton carpets, and the burled walnut dashboard. Not a Supercar but definitely exotic compared to your average Ford.
Car writers have been singing the praises of the Porsche 928 for over twenty years now, and somehow people still can't figure out just what great cars these are. Yes, this is a Porsche, but no, it is not a sports car and was never intended to be. This car was meant to be a Gran Turismo, and with a 300 hp, V-8 mounted in the front and rear wheel drive it fulfills that role in the grandest and sportiest fashion that has ever been achieved.