Top 10 Budget Exotics

Want something exotic but without the lofty price tag? Here are ten appealing picks

Ferrari 400i

There is no cheaper way into V12 Ferrari ownership, but there are caveats. This fuel-injected, quad-cam super-coupé was a development of the 365 GT4 2+2 and the carburetted 400, and came to market in 1979. It may not be the most desirable model in the Modena marque’s back catalogue, but there is a lot to love. The crisp ‘three-box’ styling was a radical departure from previous Ferrari GTs and was the work of Leonardo Fioravanti. It’s a handsome car, that doesn’t really have a bad angle, although some arbiters of beauty reckon it’s a bit ordinary. Both sides have a point

AutoFact: 400s were converted into convertibles, estate cars and even four-door saloons by Robert Jankel among others.

For Ferrari 400s for sale, click here.

Porsche 911 (996)

There was a time when you could pick up an early 911 for relatively little money. Those days are gone. However, it is still possible to buy a 1999-2004 ‘Type 996’ generation car for a low five-figure sum. This particular variation on the theme continues to polarise opinion, not least because it wasn’t really an evolution of the 1960s original. The classic rear-engine architecture and subsequent body shape carried over, but in essence this was virtually a new car. It was even water-cooled, shock horror. As for the styling, it was perhaps a bit too close to the Boxster fore of the A-pillars, not least the ‘fried egg’ headlight treatment, but it’s an attractive car nonetheless.

AutoFact: The 996's stylist Pinky Lai had previously been part of the Ford Sierra design team.

For Porsche 911 (996)s for sale, click here.

Bentley Continental GT

These days, it’s easy to forget the furore that surrounded the Continental GT after it broke cover at the 2002 Paris Motor Show. For much of the previous two decades, Bentleys had been literal renditions of the three-box saloon ideal. Here was something very different, a two-door fastback which harked back to the original (and, it must be said, infinitely prettier) Continental of the late 1950s. Powered by a six-litre, twin-turbocharged W12 engine which was good for 555bhp, not to mention four-wheel drive, it represented a bold new direction for the marque. More iterations followed, not least convertible and V8 editions.

AutoFact: Touring of Milan continues to offer a divisive ‘shooting brake’ conversion.

For Bentley Continental GTs for sale, click here.

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Ferrari 348tb

Another on this list that ranks as perhaps not the prettiest of Ferraris, the 348 was among the quickest cars of the period. Launched in 1989, it was more than a mere replacement for the better looking 328GTB. The 348 Trasversale Berlinetta featured a normally-aspirated version of Ferrari’s proven quad-cam, 32-valve V8 and was capable of 171mph. That was only 6mph slower overall than its Testarossa big brother. What’s more, it could reach 100mph from a standstill in just 11.5sec. Other iterations followed, including the obligatory ragtop, before it made way for the 355 in 1995. Be warned, the 348 is a mite skittish when pushed hard.

AutoFact: A 348 was entered in the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hours. It was the first time Ferrari had been represented in the endurance classic in more than a decade.

For Ferrari 348s for sale, click here.

Honda (Acura) NSX

There was a time when supercar ownership meant you had to accept the mad with the maddening. The Honda NSX changed that. First seen in hyphenated NS-X form at the February 1989 Chicago Auto Show, Japan’s first true supercar rewrote the rulebook. Conceived during a time when Honda was at the cutting edge of vehicle design and engineering, and using the Ferrari 328GTB as a baseline, here was the first-ever production car to feature an an-aluminium monocoque. Power came from a three-litre V6 mounted amidships. What’s more, as we all know by rote, Ayrton Senna lent his driving skills during the development phase.

AutoFact: The NSX grew out of the HP-X (Honda Pininfarina Xperimental) sports car project.

For NSXs for sale, click here.

Lotus Esprit V8

The Esprit has always had its friends, but the arrival of the V8 edition in 1996 finally saw it live up to the billing as a legitimate supercar. Where previously, the use of a four-banger had meant it was perhaps a few cylinders short of being a true exotic, the insertion of Lotus’ own all-aluminium 90deg V8 – complete with twin turbochargers – ensured an honest 350bhp. It was good for a top of speed of 175mph. Then there was the Julian Thompson-inspired makeover, which eked further life out of the original Giorgetto Guigiaro styling (which had already been updated by Peter Stevens).

AutoFact: An all-new Esprit was announced at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, with sales due to start in 2013. We’re still waiting...

For Lotus Esprits for sale, click here.

Aston Martin DB7

This handsome coupé has, in retrospect, been given a bit of a kicking for not being a ‘proper’ Aston. Sure, it was mass-produced under Ford’s stewardship rather than constructed using time-honoured coachbuilding methods, but it certainly isn’t alone in that. You don’t hear Ferrari or Lamborghini being lambasted for making cars on a production line, and in volume. Rooted in Jaguar’s stillborn XJ41 project, the DB7 was rapturously received back when first seen at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show. Powered by a supercharged 3.2-litre straight-six, some 7000 or so were made to the end in 1999 just as the V12 edition came online.

AutoFact: Parts bin thievery abounds with the DB7. For example, the taillights were robbed from a humble Mazda 323F.

For Aston Martins for sale, click here.

Porsche 928 S4

The 928 in any of its various guises remains a fabulous car. It was conceived as a replacement for the 911, but was more a luxury GT car than a sports car. All of which might explain why it didn’t quite hit the mark when it went on the market in 1978. Porsche buyers wanted cars that were rear-engined and Porsche-shaped. Even now, this strikingly-styled coupé remains largely unloved, and it’s difficult to see why. In its final, post-1986, 5.4-litre S4/GTS guise, the 928 had morphed into a devastatingly capable mile-eater; a genuine 170mph GT that offered comfort with ease of use.

AutoFact: Porsche 928 convertibles were made by Lynx Motors, Carelli Design, Artz and B+B.

For Porsche 928s for sale, click here.

Maserati Biturbo

OK, we’re stretching the ‘exotic’ theme here a little, but the Biturbo Spyder is a Maserati and it was crafted by Zagato. It’s just that the 1980s wasn’t the greatest period for these legendary Italian firms. The Biturbo is now considered something of a lemon, but, at its launch in 1981, it received generally positive reviews. It’s just that poor quality control tarnished the marque’s standing thereafter. The Spyder version, by contrast, was at least stylish. Based on a 4in shorter platform, and equipped with a V6 engine ranging from 2.0- to 2.8-litres, it looked the part and was lairy to drive.

AutoFact: The Spyder’s soft top roof was shared with the Aston Martin Zagato Volante, which was built concurrently.

For Maseratis for sale, click here.

Dodge Viper RT/10

It’s difficult to utter the words ‘Chrysler product’ and ‘exotic’ without also wearing a look of befuddlement. Not that there aren’t many classic products from the smallest of Detroit’s Big Three, it’s just few had taken the fight to the blue-blooded European elite on both road and track prior to the Viper. Scroll back to 1992 when Viper sales began, and here was the ultimate halo product. It made Chrysler hip again. Variations on the theme would later go on to claim class honours at Le Mans and an outright win in the Daytona 24 Hours. That’s quite a pedigree.

AutoFact: The Viper name couldn’t be used in the UK as the trademark belonged to a manufacturer of Cobra replicas.

For Dodge Vipers for sale, click here.

Pictures courtesy of Rota Archive

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