Even as the year comes to a chilly end and the roads become less appropriate for sticky summer tires, it’s not too late for one or two jaunts to the further end of the proverbial speedometer. But how much fast can you get if you also want reliable? Here are 10 answers.
10. 1988 Mitsubishi Galant VR4
This Mitsubishi Galant VR4 is the souped-up version of the car your dad drove that year he put everything on fantasy football and had to work overtime for three months making up for it.
This one in particular is a JDM right-hand-drive version which can be a pain to drive in our left-hand-drive land of freedom, but it’s one of the rarest Japanese sports cars available today, especially within this budget. It’s definitely worth a good hard look.
(Suggested by BenLikesCars)
9. 2002 Subaru WRX
When you see a well-used (and a little rusty) Subaru WRX like this one, it’s best to see if for what it could be, not for what it is because you’ll have enough money left in the budget to make this car ridiculously fast - way faster than anything Subaru’s trying to sell you with a warranty nowadays. Warranties are for chumps, amirite? Oh, that oil leak? Yeah, it does that.
Don’t worry about it.
(Suggested by My X-type is too a real Jaguar)
8. 2004 Infiniti G35
This Infiniti G35 is one of the best performance and luxury bargains of any car in this price range. Sure, the coupe is a little more expensive than the sedan variant, but it’s such a great looking and performing car that it’s well worth the price.
Non-modified versions like this one probably won’t be appreciating classics any time soon, but they will deliver driving thrills with an amazing exhaust note and a contemporary look. There’s no reason not to pick one up if you have the chance. It’s a lot of fast for the money.
(Suggested by bobkustofawitshz)
7. 1983 Mazda RX-7
A long time ago, car manufacturers used to take things called “risks”, which could either bankrupt their company or deliver riches beyond their wildest imaginations. The Mazda RX-7 was a bit of both, since it took the risky business of putting a Wankel rotary in a small, aerodynamic sports coupe. It had plenty of rev range and pep, but reliability issues, lack of torque and abysmal fuel mileage made the car an enthusiasts-only must-buy.
Three decades later, it’s still as good as it was back then and you can buy it for next to nothing. Save money for apex seals and fuel and you’ll be juuuust fine.
(Suggested by For Canada - Secretly lusts for a Lada)
6. 1995 Lexus SC
This Lexus SC makes so much sense that I bought two of them and currently have them sitting in my driveway because I refuse to call myself a hoarder. This one, however, is a modified example that will overpower anything this side of a no-foolin’ supercar. It’s just over budget but I’m sure you could haggle your way down to a reasonable amount without fuss.
This is the only car on this list thus far that could potentially get to 200 miles per hour, and for the price, that’s sort of insane. Get it and experience what 2JZ can do for you.
(Suggested by Brian Silvestro)
5. 2001 Acura Integra GSR
The Acura Integra GSR is the closest that mere mortal would have come to the firebreathing Integra Type-R without paying the massive Type-R tax that’s imposed on fan boys and girls that run Craigslist classifieds.
The 1.8-liter four cylinder engine is the best description of what a VTEC engine should be - there’s an almost violent crossover to the extra cam lobe, giving the car the throaty charm that we all expect from our Hondas designed in the ‘90s. This car has been modified, but the components do all seem to be of higher quality so I wouldn’t hesitate in checking this pocket rocket out.
(Suggested by rcasi)
4. 2003 Honda S2000
This Honda S2000 held the world record for most power per liter in a naturally aspirated production car with its 240 horsepower coming from four cylinders and little more than two liters.
With its bulletproof drivetrain, classic good looks and lightweight chassis, this Honda S2000 is a modern day Jaguar E-type without the reliability issues. It’s the perfect roadster and you shouldn’t hesitate in getting one when you wallet decides to open itself up wide enough.
3. 1994 Dodge Stealth R/T TT
This Dodge Stealth, also known as The Most 1990s Car In Existence, is the performance epitome of Mitsubishi and Chrysler’s partnership. As a 3000GT owner myself, I can’t praise this car enough. It doesn’t have a stellar track record of reliability, but you can chalk that up to overzealous and negligent owners coupled with the market bottoming out at some point in the mid 2000s.
Right now, prices are on the rise for any ‘90s turbo car, so any chance you have to get this amazing twin turbocharged platform is a chance worth taking. I did and I don’t regret it at all.
(Suggested by nerd_racing)
2. 1990 Mazda Miata
1990 Miata with a 280HP Ford 5.0L V8 and T5 manual transmission shoved into it.Yee. Haw. We’re talking a car that weighs 2400 pounds (weight of ‘90 Miata plus V8+T5 weight provided by Monster Miata) that will go like stink once you cut the rear fenders away for some wide flares for the equally-wide tires it’ll need to hook in a straight line.
(Suggested by daender)
1. 2003 Nissan 350z
The Nissan 350z is the everyman’s sports car and it’s extremely undervalued in the market. It has a thriving aftermarket, lots of OEM support for parts, a great online presence, and enough reliability and performance to satisfy even the most opinionated Jalopnik reader.
It’s a stellar cruiser, an awesome platform for power, and even in stock form, it’s fast as hell. There’s no reason your stable shouldn’t have one or three of these.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes and makes videos about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world’s cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he’s the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn’t feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.