Day in, day out, it’s always the same thing: Camrys, Explorers, Rav4s, Malibus — modern, nondescript, and boring daily drivers. But then, you see something that stands out. Even if you don’t know cars, you know it’s cool. Every now and again, you’ll see drivers bucking the trend of another anonymous commuter car for something with a little more panache.
Chances are you aren’t going to see Ferraris and Rolls-Royces every day. You probably won’t see priceless prewar tourers or one-of-a-kind muscle cars either. But you might see some pretty rare cars. From cult classics to European sport sedans, these are some of the most outrageous cars you might see on any given day.
1. Corvette ZR-1
The 1990-1995 Corvette ZR-1 is an interesting beast. Developed as a joint project between General Motors and Lotus, the ZR-1 was as close to a technologically advanced supercar as the Corvette had ever been. And with a top speed of over 180 miles per hour and a zero to 60 time of 4.4 seconds, it’s still quick by modern standards.
With dealer markup, some ZR-1s sold for around $100,000 ( $183,000 today) when they were new. But despite selling just under 7,000 cars, this important piece of Corvette history isn’t particularly rare. Many speculators snapped up the cars, meaning there are plenty of survivors in excellent shape. And with an average value of around $20,000, they’re also fairly accessible classics. Look for one at your next local car show, and marvel at the best America had to offer in the final decade of the 20th century.
2. Buick Grand National
Like the ZR-1, the Grand National was a performance powerhouse in its day. A big, rear-wheel drive coupe, it felt like a return to the anything-goes muscle car era after years of emissions-choked cars. With 245 horsepower and 355 pound-feet of torque from its novel turbocharged V6 engine, it could keep pace with the Corvettes of the era. And in king-of-the-hill GNX trim, it was tuned by McLaren and could out-accelerate a Lamborghini Countach. With over 30,000 built between 1982 and 1987, Grand Nationals are fast becoming collector cars, but they aren’t particularly hard to find. If you see a boxy, all-black ’80s-era Buick coupe on the streets, chances are you’re looking at one of the greatest cars ever built by General Motors.
3. Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
If you live within 100 miles of a city, chances are there’s a dealership selling the new Alfa Romeo Giulia near you. And though they’re handsome, fun-to-drive BMW 5 Series competitors (albeit with some well-publicized early reliability issues), the range-topping Quadrifoglio model is truly something special. For around $75,000, or the price of a new Cadillac Escalade, you get a 505-horsepower sport sedan with a twin-turbo V6 derived from Ferrari and one of the most engaging driving experiences around. Sure, the Quadrifoglio is pricey. But it’s a steal compared to anything Ferrari sells.
4. Acura NSX
Honda’s supercar is fast becoming one of the hottest collector cars on the planet. But that still doesn’t change the fact that it built nearly 20,000 of them over 15 model years and is as reliable as an Accord. Although they were at the bottom of the depreciation curve just a few years ago, NSXs are beginning to skyrocket in value. Thanks to that bulletproof reliability and low operating costs, owners aren’t afraid to drive them. As important and rare as they are, it’s not uncommon to still see a first-generation NSX on the roads every now and again.
5. Honda S2000
Like the NSX, Honda’s other ’90s-era sports car is starting to skyrocket in value, too. But because they’re newer (1999-2009) and more common (over 110,000 built), they’re still fairly affordable — think the $15,000 to $20,000 range. With incredible driving dynamics, perfect weight distribution, an engine that loved to rev (red line: 8,800 rpm), and great six-speed manual gearbox, the S2000 is truly something special. If the ’90s marked the return of the roadster, the S2000 may be the king of them all.
6. MGB GT
Search your local Craigslist, and you’re likely to find at least a few MGBs in various states. But the ones to watch are the elegant MGB GT coupes. Offered from 1965 to 1974 in America, the GT never sold as well as its roadster counterpart but featured a beautiful and practical hatchback designed by Pininfarina, the same firm that penned the most memorable Ferraris of the 1960s. If you aren’t afraid of a little rust (almost all of them have it) and electrical gremlins, the GT is one of the easiest entryways into semi-hand built, semi-Italian-designed classic car ownership, usually for just a few thousand dollars.
7. Alfa Romeo Spyder
Like the MGB, the Alfa Romeo Spyder was a strong-selling roadster with its roots in the mid-1960s. But it stands alone thanks to its 28-year production run. And with over 110,000 built, chances are you’ll see at least a few of them driving around in the summertime. Despite its availability, the Spyder is also an affordable exotic. With a free-revving, twin-cam inline-four; great five-speed manual transmission; and Pininfarina-designed body, it was one of the best driver’s cars of its day. Today, it’s one of the cheapest tickets to Italian sports car ownership out there.
8. Cadillac Allante
Few cars get the hate that the Cadillac Allante does. But does it really deserve it? Consider this: It’s the third car on our list that was designed by Pininfarina, but this one was actually hand built by the car manufacturer, too. GM bought Boeing 747s just to ship the bodies back from Italy to Detroit. Initially positioned to compete with the Mercedes SL-Class, the Allante was a flop, disappearing in 1993 after just over 21,000 were built. Today, they’re disparaged for their dated interior, front-wheel drive architecture, and leisurely powertrain. But considering that they’re rare, hand-built exotic cruisers that sell for winter beater money, we think they still have a shot at becoming a future classic.
9. BMW 1 Series
Sold in the U.S. from 2008 to 2014, the BMW 1 Series was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of car. But they were a blast to drive and in ultra-rare 1M trim were one of the best driver’s cars in the world. BMW found just over 65,000 buyers in the U.S., making them a relatively rare sight. But with prices falling under the $10,000, they’re nearing the bottom of the depreciation curve. Pick one up used if you can. You won’t be disappointed.
10. Nissan 300ZX Twin-Turbo
Sold from 1990 to 1996 in the U.S., the Nissan 300ZX was one of the best grand tourers of the era. And with the range-topping twin-turbo V6, it could crank out over 300 horsepower. Despite its near-$40,000 price tag when new, the 300ZX found around 50,000 takers. The car is still relatively common today, and it still looks great. But they might not be daily drivers for much longer: An incredibly clean twin-turbo model just changed hands for $100,000.
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