Ah, the McLaren MP4-12C. It's McLaren's first in-house road car since the legendary F1. And while the 12C is far less expensive than the F1, its base price is still $229,400. The car we drove tallied $270,690 and options can push the sticker beyond $300,000. For that, you get an undeniably exquisite machine constructed by the pedigreed craftsman of some of the world's best race cars.
You get dihedral doors that open by sliding your hand along the bodywork. You get a twin-turbo, flat-plane-crank 3.8-liter V8 that howls out 592 horsepower and hurtles the car to 60 mph in about 3 seconds. And you get an ingenious suspension design that uses cross-linked hydraulic chambers in place of conventional shock absorbers, delivering both a shockingly supple ride and race-car roll control. In short, the MP4-12C is a lot of car for the money. But it's still a lot of money.
So what do you do if you want top-tier supercar performance and dramatic mid-engine styling, but you only have $50,000 to spend? Enter the Factory Five GTM. With a 420 horsepower GM LS3 V8 propelling only 2,400 pounds, this is one of the few cars that would hound an MP4-12C on the track. (A 505-horsepower LS7 is also available, but frankly the LS3 seems pretty adequate.) You do have to be handy with a wrench, since the GTM is a component car.
But GTM owner Gary Cheney has built 13 Factory Five cars, including three GTMs, and not only does he still have all his fingers, he insists that the building process is part of the fun. This particular GTM is set up for track duty, but it was surprisingly usable on the street, with deliciously communicative speed-sensitive power steering and Corvette Z06 brakes that are hugely overqualified for a 2,400 car. Plus, look at the thing. It just looks like it belongs in the supercar club.
However, $50,000 is still a considerable sum. Wouldn't it be great if you could have a screaming-fast, reliable, exotic-looking mid-engine sports car for something more like $15,000? Without spoiling the ending, we have a solution for that, too.