Bottom of the barrel for five of the top car brands
1. Maserati —1984-87 Biturbo Coupe: The Biturbo was Maserati’s first bid to enter the world of volume production. Similar in appearance to a 3-series BMW of the day, the Biturbo was an Italian take on the theme with a sumptuous wood and leather interior and a twin-turbo 2.5-liter V-6. Sadly, reliability and quality control were abysmal, particularly in U.S.-bound cars, in which the catalytic converter location had the propensity to set the car on fire. Hence the bargain price of $4,500-$7,000, if you’re brave enough.
2. Ferrari — 1980-84 400i: Unlike the Maserati Biturbo, the Ferrari 400i is by no means a bad car, but it commits several unforgivable sins for a Ferrari: Its looks are heavily understated (it was designed at a time when Italians in flashy cars were being either kidnapped or assassinated), and it has two comfortable back seats. And while bargain-priced for a front-engine V-12 Ferrari built at a time when founder Enzo Ferrari was still alive, it costs just as much to maintain as a $500,000 Ferrari Daytona. Price range: $18,000-$25,000.
3. Lamborghini — 1972-76 Urraco P250: On its face, the Urraco has a lot going for it. It’s very pretty, its small V-8 sounds glorious and its relationship to the outlandish Countach is readily apparent. On the downside, its modest displacement and power will guarantee that a new Hyundai Sonata is capable of smoking you. And in a recurring theme here, it isn’t the first check that you write that will be the killer. Virtually every imaginable service needs to take place with the engine out of the car. And it’s not like removing the D-cells from a flashlight. Price range: $18,000-$25,000.
4. Porsche — 1977-82 924: The entry-level Porsche for years was the little mid-engine 914, most examples of which came with a VW engine. But a few years ago, a funny thing happened: Porsche fans stopped scoffing at the 914 and values have soared, leaving the front-engine 924 as the cheapest Porsche you can buy. And while the same people who scoffed at the 914’s VW-sourced engine poke fun at at the 924’s rather coarse Audi-supplied unit, the 924 is a pretty and wonderfully balanced sports car that is a joy to drive on a well-paved twisty road. Unlike the other cars on this list, it’s also easy and cheap to maintain. Three grand buys a good one, five grand buys a really nice one and seven grand buys the best one on the planet.
5. Aston Martin — 1997-98 DB7: Vintage Aston Martins have become totally untouchable of late. You can largely thank the resurgence of the James Bond franchise under Daniel Craig. Those wanting an affordable Aston have to look to the Aston Martin renaissance that took place under Ford’s ownership. While the DB7 may have been based loosely on the Jaguar XJS that dated to 1975, it looked sensational and went quite well with a supercharged straight six. Later V-12 cars are more trouble and more money. Convertibles cost more than coupes and rare manual transmission cars cost more still, but you can indulge your 007 fantasies for less than a loaded Camry. Price range: $20,000-$30,000.