Want cheap speed? Buy used. You won't get the latest tech or the most luxurious features, but you will satisfy that need for speed—and do it without having to sell body parts to pay off the bill.
The first-generation , from its simple live rear axle to its MacPherson struts, but it's an analog driver's car of great poise and hardwired driving feel. The rotary engine is feared for baseless reasons. It's a simple beast, and if you can work on a piston engine you can work on a rotary.
People also make a lot of noise about the dead spot in the center of the FB's steering. Tighten the steer box up to a half-inch of slop, and enjoy otherwise sublimely communicative steering. The '84 and '85 GSL-SEs are king, with their fuel-injected 13B engines, limited-slip differentials, and better brakes. They're out there for a touch below $10k. If you can find one, take care of it.
The car that saved Porsche, again. Toyota gave the Stuttgart company pointers on slashing costs by reusing parts across product lines, which is how the Boxster ended up sharing in those fried egg headlights with the 996. It was Porsche's first mid-engine car since the 914 two decades earlier, and Porsche's first two-seat convertible since the '50s. The Boxster became Porsche's volume seller – 160,000 sold in eight years. It's a guaranteed future classic, and prices have just started to bottom out, . And it has two trunks, so that's neat for all your little stuff.
The U.K. put out in the '60s. Hardly any had the MGB's tight construction. Monocoque construction, in which the frame is part of the body, was relatively rare in 1962. While arch-competitor Triumph stuck with the sloppier body-on-frame construction, MG over-engineered the MGB into an incredibly rigid platform for its time.
Later-model rubber-bumper cars have bottomed out in price, and there are kits to convert their exteriors to classic '62-'74 chrome, which run $1,300. Acceleration be damned, there's not a person alive who wouldn't say 50 MPH on a good road in a raw little street sled is more fun than 80 MPH in a Cruze.
Overhead-valve engine and fiberglass-leaf rear suspension don't sound all that advanced, but GM Racing made a winning career out at 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the American Le Mans Series.
To return surprisingly good fuel economy (19/28 MPG city/highway) and avoid the gas guzzler tax, six-speed cars are saddled with a skip-shift that will force a 1st-to-4th upshift under certain conditions. For those still unconvinced, technological sophistication is not a necessary ingredient of a good driver's car—look at half the cars on this list.
We're cheating. , but the third-generation F-Bodies make our list for their awesome handling. Not quite the Jurassic '70s cars they replaced, the third-generation has sharp, firm steering and a curb weight just over 3,000 pounds – not bad for a beast with a cast-iron heart of eight cylinders. Reproduction parts are cheap, and parts cars are plentiful.
Good for the '80s, its power is modest today, but you can work cheap magic on a small-block Chevy and turn the third-generation F-Body into a rocket. Like its forefathers, the 3rd generation Camaro came in a lot of rare package combinations that are sought-after today, such as the B4C police package, 1LE race package, and Z03 heritage package.
The best car Porsche ever designed was for Volkswagen out of Audi parts. It was a joint project between Porsche and VW/Audi, but VW lost its Fahrvergnügen and sold the design back to Porsche. Traditionalists still make twisted faces at the water-cooled four-cylinder in the front end, but the 924 saved Porsche from riding a 911-shaped lead weight into bankruptcy.
More or less the same car, the narrowbody 924 continued alongside the '. The original 924 is a dog. Even back in 1976, the press was brutal. Porsche came out with turbo versions of both, but the naturally aspirated, turbo-lag-less 944S of later years supplanted the Turbo as it closed in on its performance figures without the added weight, cost, and complexity. If you want utter lightweight, dig up a 924S. The 944S motor in a 200-pound-lighter narrowbody finally made the 924 scoot.
hit the market just as the Japanese economy went pear-shaped and took away our 300ZXs, Supras, 3000GT's, and RX-7s. Except for the late RX-7, it had more claim to being a hard-edged sports car than any of them. Drool on its sharp handling, respectable 2,800-pounds, and screaming 8,800-RPM redline (for the '99-'03 237-hp 2.0L engines).
Honda loved to create world-beating sports cars when the competition was playing it safe, and then let them wither on the vine without attention or updates. There's not much difference across the range from its first year to its last; Honda lessened its tendency toward snap oversteer in '04, but there's little other reason to prioritize one model year over another.
If we started going on and on about the CRX's legendary fuel economy (43/47 MPG), you'd know we were full of it. because it turns like a go-kart on Velcro. Weighing one cool ton, give or take depending on options, it's merely 12 feet-and-inches long—never mind the front-wheel drive.
Around the time of the CRX's introduction, Lotus determined a front-wheel-drive car would always be faster than a similar rear-driver on certain roads and tracks. Honda built solid cars. There aren't any particular problem areas on these hatchback sports cars of theirs.
Mazda wanted to build a modern MG, the kind of that anyone could afford and enjoy on twisty backroads. Twenty-seven years of constant production, race wins, awards, and good sales made the Miata the torchbearer of modern sports car, even as exotics, hot hatches, muscle cars, and more technologically sophisticated (and more expensive) sports cars blossomed in the sports-car-friendly '90s. Forgiving and balanced, the Miata is a favorite for drivers learning to race and run track days.
Mid-engine build is usually exclusive to exotic sports cars, and history's automakers have made very few mid-engine cars at the low end of the market. The MR2 was a $20,000 car new, and even though it's slipped below $10k on the used market, it's held its value well because of that rare combination of layout and price. Turbo models are the ones to get; that's self-explanatory.
Like a lot of mid-engine cars, the MR2 can be darty and oversteer at the limit. Even far away from the limits on public roads, though, you'll enjoy a neck-snapping willingness to rotate the nose. Look for one that hasn't been turned into a Ferrari F355 replica, because people were doing that for a while in the '90s and '00s.