Without European special order, performance, and classic cars, should be at the top of every gearhead’s wish list. Make them affordable too, and you can’t go wrong.
The good news is that there are hundreds to choose from. With fast sedans, coupes and many sports cars, the choice is vast and grows from year to year. We’re not just talking about mainstream stuff either. The obvious choice would be a Lotus Elise S1. But, with a little extra effort, you can find more rewarding Lotus cars worthy of your time and money.
Likewise, why settle for a BMW M-sport car when you could have an Alpina? The now in-house tuner has dozens of classics in a back catalog that are faster and rarer.
It’s about having your cake and eating it. Whatever badge you fancy, there’s a classic car on a budget. And it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
10/10 Ferrari 400i
Every dog has its day, so the unloved Ferrari 400i is gaining popularity. Even so, it won’t win any beauty awards, but there’s still plenty to love. All the important ingredients are there. A Pininfarina-style front-mounted V12 engine, and of course the Prancing Horse badge.
Still, it took gearheads a long time to see the merits of the Ferrari 400’s sporting credentials. Boasting a 306bhp front-rear-wheel-drive chassis, this Ferrari is quick when called upon, peaking at 149mph. Grab one while you can, prices are on the rise.
9/10 Alpine B11 3.5
Grab a capable BMW 7 Series, tweak the engine and stick on custom wheels and badges. Indeed, that’s all Alpina did, but the results tell a different story. Greater than the sum of its parts, the trump card of the B11 3.5 is its rarity with a seven-year production run totaling 332 cars.
Still powered by BMW’s M30B35 straight-six, tweaked to deliver 250bhp, up from the standard 7 Series’s 217bhp. The gains boost the top speed to 152mph while slashing the 0-60mph time by a few tenths. But, the exclusive is cheaper than its rarity would suggest, expect to pay $14,000 for a car from the late 80s.
8/10 Alpine A310 V6 GT
Taking eccentricity to another level, Alpines A310 is a classic that flies under the radar. Weird to have a rear mounted engine like a Porsche 911, but much less popular. Produced from 1971 to 1984, the A310 could be fitted with a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines.
By far, the V6 is the most capable with 190 hp, which translates to a top speed of 142 mph. Under the skin, the Alpine is similar in design to the DeLorean DMC-12. Only done better, cheaper and faster.
7/10 Bentley Turbo R
In terms of metal bang for your buck, the Bentley Turbo R represents unbeatable value for money at $20,000. The property comes with a few caveats. Not the least is the turbocharged engine’s thirst for gasoline, which can go down to single digits.
A turbocharged Bentley? In 1985, Bentley, aided by Garret-AiResearch, upgraded the 6.75-liter V8 engine with a T-04 turbo. As a result, power output jumped to 384 hp; almost double. Despite the big power gains, the Bentley is a beast of a car weighing 5400 pounds, hitting 60 mph in 6 seconds.
6/10 Lotus Excel SE
Fancy a Lotus bilge but don’t like the limitations of the Esprit’s cockpit? The Excel offers much of the same Chapman-era brilliance, with a few twists. Different by having a 2+2 cockpit makes the Excel more practical, although rear seat space is limited.
The biggest change is under the hood, the front one. The switch to a front-rear-wheel-drive chassis might have sports car fans racing for the hills. But Excel is just as capable and known for its 50/50 weight distribution and precise handling. True to Lotus form, Excel has undergone several changes over its lifetime. The later SE spec cars used a higher compression 912 type engine.
5/10 Volvo 850 T5-R
Swedes are diehard car junkies with a twisted sense of humor. Any gearhead turning on the TV to catch touring car action in the early 90s would be in for a shock. Volvo, the Swedish automaker famous for its tank-like constructions and safety, has gone racing.
Think a family wagon-based race car with a turbocharged engine, and you won’t be far off. Much of the credit belongs to TWR. Under the hood of this boxy wagon is a 2.4-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine developing 247 hp. Despite their rarity, prices start at around $20,000.
4/10 TVR Tuscan V8
TVR does not do things by halves. Big engines and lightweight constructions have been the norm since 1946. The Tuscan’s first outing in 1967 used Ford Windsor V8s varying between 4.7 and 4.9 liters rated at 275 hp and up.
If it’s drama and performance you crave, the Tuscan delivers that and more. Weighing 1900 pounds, the Tuscan is a lightweight rocket that hits 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Fast, light and reliable, prices start at $40,000.
3/10 Renault Sport Spider
The task of naming a Renault sports car is not a trick question. For a time in the 90s, Renault took on the Elise with the Sport Spider. Lotus won that one on driver dynamics. Both used a similar layout, an aluminum chassis and a mid-engine.
Renault’s ticket to the affordable sports car market has failed. More expensive to build, the gearheads soon realized how well the Spiders performed in the face of the price gap. However, Renault had a trick up its sleeve with a track version with a 2.0-liter engine developing 210 hp. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to save the car. The rarity has yet to inflate prices, expect to pay $28,000.
2/10 Jaguar E-Type S3 Coupe/Roadster
Dream ride or reality? Choose the right E-Type and you’ll save a lot of money. Jaguar needing a platform to launch its V12 engine tainted the E-Type’s reputation with the S3. A little more power and tons of extra weight didn’t sit well with buyers.
Classic collectors would be wise to seek out an XKE S3, which is cheaper to buy and still beautiful to look at. However, good deals follow one another. Swapping the sleek lines of Roadsters for the practicality of a 2+2 coupe can save you even more money. In a comparable comparison, there could be a difference between $30,000 and $46,000.
1/10 Porsche 928 GT
Porsche purists buy 911s for their bold handling. But if you want the most performance in a comfortable cruiser, the 928 GTS wins hands down. Almost all performance results in a top speed of 171 mph with sixty taking 5.1 seconds. The 928 is the neglected relative that everyone forgets.
Highway-smashing speed comes from a front-mounted 5.4-liter V8 making 350 hp. It was the Porsche that nearly killed the 911, and the car all gearheads should heed. Depending on the year, prices start at $35,000.