Up to £25,000 - Maserati Gransport
Take a look at this. First car on the list and it’s already an absolute belter, even if we do say so ourselves. For the cost of a new VW Polo, you could be the proud owner of a Gransport, one of Maserati’s most beautiful 21st-century creations and, more importantly, one of the cheapest ways into supercar ownership right now.
Using the Coupe as a starting point, the Gransport was essentially the car that fixed the generation’s well-documented quirks to deliver a proper performance car. But the real draw here under the bonnet: a 4.2-litre cross-plane crank V8 engine developed in conjunction with Ferrari. Yes, it’s the same unit that featured in the 4200, but the power output was cranked up to 400hp in the Gransport. Couple that with vastly improved damping and upgraded gearbox software, and the Gransport was finally able to deliver a drive worthy of its looks.
Of course, a cheap Maserati may need a little work at some point in its life. The car we’ve found comes in at £19,990, so while it’s only covered 54,000 miles and boasts a chunky service history book, you’ve still got £5,000 left over to cover any issues that might (read: probably) take you by surprise. Besides, it’s got a Ferrari-built V8! You won’t get that on a TT RS. Or a Cayman.
Up to £35,000 - TVR Cerbera
Today’s TVR is a far cry from where it was a couple of decades ago. Now seemingly focused on electric cars, and still with no sign of a road-ready Griffith, the TVR we remember so fondly - creating stunning supercar beaters for sports car money - seems a long time in the past. Arguably nothing encapsulated the confidence and ambition of TVR in the 1990s like the Cerbera.
Don’t let the gorgeous GT-like lines fool you into thinking it’s a luxury cruiser. Oh no. The early Speed Eights packed TVR’s own 4.2 V8 with 360hp; couple that with the car’s slender kerbweight and a 0-60mph dash could be dispatched in just 4.2 seconds.
Okay, so we've all heard a TVR story or two, and the Cerbera’s trick V8 was known to throw its toys out of the pram on the odd occasion. But at this price range you’re looking at first-generation Porsche 911 997s which a) aren’t supercars and b) also suffer from engine problems. So why not spend your money in style and go for this Atlantis Halcyon Cerbera 4.2 for £31,995? What’s more, it’s covered 51,000 miles and has undergone a recent service; there are one or two communities out there that can help with TVR ownership, too...
Up to £45,000 - Nissan GT-R (R35)
We’ve become accustomed to Nissan Skyline GT-Rs now being out of reach for those of us who grew up racing and collecting them on Gran Turismo and Need for Speed. But all is not lost, as early examples of the (non-Skyline) GT-R R35 generation are now within reach – even those that haven’t been tuned beyond recognition.
GT-Rs have always been the most technologically advanced performance cars Nissan makes, with the R35 taking things to another level. Its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 initially developed 480hp, far more than the ‘official’ 280hp R34 that was hamstrung by Japan’s gentleman’s agreement on power. Allegedly. It was more focused, too, with Nissan going to the extent of filling the tyres with nitrogen as it's better at retaining pressure with heat. The R35 was so fast, in fact, that it beat the Ferrari 458 with five seconds to spare around the Nurburgring. Not bad for a car weighing 1.7 tonnes.
With this budget, there are plenty of GT-Rs available in the classifieds, and this 2008 example looks a cracker. It looks completely stock, but it’s been tweaked by Litchfield and now produces 600hp. Plus the brakes have been upgraded with parts from Alcon and Cosworth. All for £37,990. Snap it up before values go the way of the R34.
Up to £55,000 - Noble M12
There was something special about the British performance car scene in the early 2000s. The Elise was hitting its stride with the S2, Marcos was alive and kicking and TVR’s very cool Sagaris was on the horizon. Then the Noble M12 came along and proved you didn’t need to spend a fortune to annihilate anything short of a race car on track.
It’s easy to forget just how good the M12 was. It uses the familiar British sports car formula of a spaceframe chassis with glass fibre body panels to keep it light; power came from a Ford 2.5 V6, twin-turbo'd and tuned to 314hp. Later cars featured larger engines and sillier outputs, but the key ingredients were there across the M12 line-up to make for a British track car icon.
You can pick up an M12 for a little over £40,000, but we’re looking for serious supercar performance in this list. That’s why we’ve picked this M12 GTO3-R, featuring the larger 3.0-litre V6 plus a number of upgrades under the skin for a more focused drive. It even has air conditioning! At £51,495, there’s some change for time on track to see why the old Noble remains so loved.
Up to £65,000 - Honda NSX
Even today’s more affordable supercars are edging towards the 1,000hp mark. Just look at the 830hp on tap in the plug-in hybrid Ferrari 296 GTB. Sure, being pinned to your seat is great fun at first, but it’s not the be all and end all of driving – and that’s exactly what made the original Honda NSX a stroke of genius.
There are few cars that marry chassis and engine like the NSX. The body was entirely aluminium (the first production car to do so, in fact), resulting in a super stiff body that was also lightweight. In fact, Honda was so crazy about the wonders of aluminium that it built the NSX’s VTEC V6 engine out of it as well. Despite its not-so-supercar 280hp output, the NSX felt as though it had the perfect amount of power to make the most of its sweet chassis. Of course, the V6 served up a wonderful soundtrack, too.
This being a Japanese car from the 1990s means that prices have skyrocketed, but we’ve managed to find a pre-facelift Targa with a not-so-ludicrous £64,000 price tag. There is a catch: it’s an automatic. But with values of manual NSXs hovering around the six-figure mark, going down the auto route will allow you to see what the fuss is about for little more than half the money. Specialists are getting really good at manual conversions these days, too…
Up to £75,000 - Lamborghini Gallardo
There used to be a time where V10 engines were reserved for Formula 1 cars, the Porsche Carrera GT and the Dodge Vipers. Little did we know that when the Lamborghini Gallardo arrived in 2003 it would pave the way for the Volkswagen group’s supercar power couple, the Lamborghini Huracan and Audi R8.
Not only was it Lamborghini’s first stab at an ‘affordable’ supercar since the Jalpa, taking on the likes of the Ferrari 360 Modena, but it benefited from German build quality thanks to Audi’s acquisition five years earlier. It was also accessible, with its very Audi all-wheel drive system allowing you to put down all 500hp from its 5.0-litre V10 without wrestling against wheelspin and being flung into a hedge.
And if you’re feeling a bit glum about our NSX’s gearbox choice, then hopefully we’ll win you over with this. Our Gallardo has a manual. A rarity in its day as buyers in the 2000s loved paddle shifters, probably because it made your average Joe feel like Michael Schumacher. This makes manual supercars from this era extremely rare and pricey, but this Gallardo falls well within our budget at £71,990. It’s even had a recent clutch replacement. What more could you ask for?
Up to £100,000 - Porsche 911 Turbo S (991)
Now we’re getting into serious supercar territory, and a number of cars could easily fill this spot. An Audi R8 can be had for a little under six figures; we could have the 570S, too, but there’s an even better McLaren coming; and the Aston Martin DB11 is more of a GT. This leaves one obvious candidate, one that’ll give most on this list a hard time in complete effortlessness – the Porsche 911 Turbo S.
Which will no doubt open up the sports car versus supercar argument for Porsche’s most famous car. Well, we’d argue it wears many hats and with the 911 Turbo S devouring a 0-62mph sprint in just 2.9 seconds, it’s the fastest accelerating car on this list. And while Nurburgring times aren’t the ultimate gauge of a car’s performance, the fact that the 911 Turbo S set a faster time around the 12.9-mile circuit than the 991 GT3 proves it’s no one-trick pony.
Even though the 992 generation Turbo S has been around for some time now, the values of older 991 cars are holding strong. We’ve found a 2015 car in a typically stealthy spec for £97,950 and being a Turbo S it’s brimming with kit. There aren’t many supercars that’ll monster a lap around Nordschleife and take you home in comfort like a Turbo S.
Up to £150,000 - McLaren 720S
McLaren has a habit of calling something a supercar when in reality it’s not far off a budget hypercar. We saw what the company was capable of with the MP4-12C’s carbon fibre tub and trick suspension, and that it could create a legend with the 675LT. But no one could have predicted the step change it made with the 720S.
Now, five years on from release, the 720S is still one of the benchmark supercars and continues to hold its own against newer rivals such as the Ferrari F8 Tributo and Lamborghini Huracan Evo. Its sheer performance remains phenomenal, the 720S desperate to fling you towards the horizon every time you even think about touching the accelerator. And yet McLaren’s Proactive Chassis Control II does an incredible job of making the 720S feel like a GT when you just want to cruise.
Unfortunately for those who bought them new, the 720S suffered an initial period of severe depreciation. Values have strengthened of late, though, with £140k having remained the entry point for a little while now. We’ve found a 2017 car for £147,895 complete with full McLaren service, a paint protection filter and around £10,000 worth of options. Snap it up and hold on tight.
Up to £200,000 - Ferrari 430 Scuderia
A supercar list isn’t complete without a Ferrari and, as you’ve probably figured out by now, it’s the only one to make it into our top ten. The 458 makes a great case for itself as the last mid-engined, naturally aspirated, series production V8 Ferrari, and the F355 marked a return to form after a dismal few years at Maranello. But for that ultimate mix of road and track, it’s hard to look past the mighty 430 Scuderia.
As with the 360 Challenge Stradale, Ferrari’s focus was to find marginal gains and, of course, shed weight. The Scuderia was 100kg lighter than the base car, while refinements in the F1 gearbox bought shift times down to 60 milliseconds. Power from the 4.3-litre V8 was increased to 510hp and a new bumpy road setting allowed you to slacken off the dampers while in race mode. Ferrari claimed it was just as fast around Fiorano as an Enzo, which shows just how special the Scud was.
In all fairness, the 458 Speciale is probably even more epic, but as the swansong for NA V8 Ferraris values are creeping towards half a million. Which makes a great Scud look even more enticing at less than half that. This one will give you a fiver back from £200k for a meal deal on the way home and has covered just 7,000 miles in 12 years. Finished in black, it might almost be called subtle - until the exhaust valves open…
Sky’s the limit - Jaguar XJ220
The Jaguar XJ220 has fallen into a bit of a sweet spot for 90s car collectors. The Bugatti EB110 is comfortably into seven-figure territory, and you’ll need to be an eccentric tech billionaire to even consider bidding on a McLaren F1. But an XJ220 can still be had for the same price as a highly specced Ferrari 812 Superfast and, let’s face it, the XJ220 is going to turn way more heads. We think.
We’re all familiar with the story of how it started life with a V12 engine before moving to a twin-turbocharged V6 to reduce production costs, and that it briefly held the world speed record for a road car until the F1 came along. But it was a revolutionary car when it arrived in 1992, being the first production car to utilise underbody aerodynamics to generate downforce without compromising its XJ13-inspired looks. It’s a shame, then, that it hasn’t quite reached the legendary status of its contemporaries, especially as it carries a bit of Le Mans heritage to boot. Admittedly, it didn’t get the warmest reception from the press, partly because it wasn’t nearly as advanced as the V12 concept projected (it didn’t even have ABS).
But ultimately, who cares? Being as relatively underappreciated as the XJ220 is means there are examples available for not outrageous money. A bit like this low-mileage car in Daytona Grey at £424,995. And for that, you’re not only getting a car that’s capable of breaking the 200mph barrier, but also one guaranteed to drop jaws wherever it goes. Just like 30 years ago, in fact - and most definitely in 30 years’ time, too.
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