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Affordable Dreams: Exotic Cars That Won’t Break the Bank

Vukasin Herbez February 9, 2023

Photo Credit: Mecum

DeLorean DMC 12

Started by John Z. DeLorean in the late ’70s, DeLorean was briefly marketed as the next big thing in the sports car world. For a short time, it looked that America got a sports car brand that could rival Europe’s finest. DeLorean presented an exciting sports car concept with Gullwing doors, a modern wedge-shaped design, a mid-mounted V6 engine, and a stainless steel body (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

However, production was late, and when the car was finally revealed, it turned out to be slow, underpowered, and riddled with quality problems. Due to its prominent appearance in the ‘Back to the Future’ movies and numerous music videos, the DMC 12 is still a popular car and one of the automotive symbols of the ’80s.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Matra Bagheera

French company Matra is one of the most attractive automotive design and development outfits. For decades, this firm has delivered innovative solutions and new technologies. In fact, they work with some of the biggest names in the industry. In the early ’70s, in cooperation with Simca, Matra decided to produce a small sports car for the European market. They called it the Bagheera and introduced this cool-looking three-seater in 1973 (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Yes, the Bagheera had three seats up front. So even though it was compact and small, three people could sit comfortably next to each other. Unfortunately, the power came from a diminutive 1.2 or 1.4-liter engine that didn’t provide an exhilarating performance. However, the Bagheera was a moderate success with three seats and its French charm.

Photo Credit: Audi

Audi R8

The sports car world was very surprised when Audi presented the first-generation R8. Nobody expected such a bold move from Audi or such a great sports car. The R8 is a supercar with its mid-mounted V8 engine and design but at sports car prices that make it available to a broader audience (via Supercar Nostalgia).

Photo Credit: Audi

The engine itself is an actual piece of art, a naturally aspirated 4.2 liter V8 and 420 HP. Packed in a lightweight body and mated to a perfect dual-clutch gearbox, the R8 V8 was capable of attacking some Italian exotics with no problem.

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

Chevrolet Corvette C8

The 2021+ Corvette C8 is one of the most controversial cars of our era. It’s the long-awaited eighth-generation model and the freshest Corvette ever. That’s not only for its design but for a host of technical solutions, features, and advancements. First of all, the C8 is a mid-engined sports car that some consider sacrilegious. The Corvette was a front-engined sports car since 1953. Still, GM’s engineers realized that they needed to switch the position of the engine if they wanted to keep Corvette competitive and give it the handling it deserved (via Chevrolet).

Photo Credit: Arabs Auto

Apart from the all-new chassis and design, the C8 kept the small block V8 engine in the form of a modern LT2 6.2-liter V8 with 490 HP. This engine comes only with automatic transmission, which is another controversy, but the results are astonishing. The stock C8 can accelerate to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds and top 200 mph. The customers recognized how historically significant this model is and the C8 is a hot commodity at the moment. And the best thing is its base price of less than $70k, which makes it very affordable.

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

Panoz Roadster

Younger enthusiasts don’t remember the name Panoz. But back in the ’90s, this company was one of the best-known limited-production American brands. Successful in racing, Panoz was one of those brands that offered a lot of racing technologies in street-legal vehicles, which made them favorites with fans of performance driving. The Roadster model was introduced in the early ’90s and represented the modern-day version of the legendary Shelby Cobra (via Motor Biscuit).

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

It was a stripped-down open-top two-seater built of aluminum. which kept the weight down. Panoz used a lot of Ford Mustang SN95 components including the engine, drivetrain, and suspension. That meant the Roadster had 300 HP and brutal performance. Panoz received a lot of criticism for copying the layout of the legendary Shelby Cobra. However, its determination to make this car and sell it to power-hungry clients remained the same.

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

Lamborghini Urraco

You might be surprised to find a proper Lamborghini on this list but just look at the spec of this ’70s wonder. The mid-mounted 2.0-liter V8 with 180 HP is capable of reaching 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. Compared to later models and well-known Lamborghini supercars, this is not good but still a performer by ’70s standards (via Lamborghini).

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

Urraco was produced in dark times as a performance car and was also rumored to be assembled poorly. Lamborghini managed to produce over 700 of them and many drivers think those little, wedge-shaped cars deserve a better look.

Photo Credit: W Super Cars

Lotus Esprit V8

The Esprit was produced from the early ’70s up to the early 2000s. It was always a fantastic supercar despite the fact it had smaller engines than the competitors. The last and best version was the V8, which featured 350 HP and a lightweight body that could outrun many competitors while retaining that classic wedge look (via Supercars).

2004 Lotus Esprit - 2002 Lotus Esprit
Photo Credit: Auto WP

This was a bona fide exotic car, but current prices are relatively affordable. However, you should snap this piece of classic British engineering right now. For the price of a new mid-size SUV, you will get a Ferrari-beating performance and exclusivity. However, maintenance can be tricky, but it’s worth the time and investment.

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

Alpine 610/GTA

If you think France didn’t produce any relevant sports cars in the last 30 years, think again. The Alpine A610 started in 1991 as a replacement for the Alpine GTA and old A310 from the late ’70s. The fiberglass-bodied coupe featured several exciting features like the futuristic interior, rear-mounted turbocharged V6 engine from Renault, and vivid performance (via Autocar).

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

The 3.0-liter V6 produced 247 HP, enough to launch this lightweight coupe from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and close to 170 mph top speed. The Alpine cars have a small cult following but are mostly unknown to American enthusiasts, even though some models were sold here.

Photo Credit: Ferrari

Ferrari 348

Introduced in 1989, Ferrari 348 was a modern-looking machine and a successor to the popular 308/328 range. It featured a new platform, engine, and three body styles – coupe, Targa, and convertible with a wide rear track and a hint of Testarossa design. It was a handsome machine with good performance from the 3.4-liter V8 engine. The 348 was well received by the press as well as the customers. Ferrari managed to sell over 8,000 examples until 1995 when the F355 replaced it (via Ferrari).

Photo Credit: Ferrari

However, the quality could have been better in early examples. Its 348 owners reported massive maintenance costs since the car required extensive work to be fully functional. That is why Ferrari 348 costs just over $70,000 on today’s market, with the best examples going for around $90,000. The car is still great to drive. And if you get the convertible, you can fully enjoy the glorious V8 soundtrack. Still, beware of its high maintenance costs.

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