High-performance cars can be ridiculously expensive, but if you look in the corners and take a pass on snob appeal you can get intense amounts of speed for surprisingly little cash. These are Jalopnik readers' picks for the best budget high-performance cars.
The not-so-secret key to getting the most out of these cars is tuning. Speed parts for any of them are a few clicks or a phone call away. None of these are really destined to be blue-chip collectibles in the first place so changes aren't going to offend too many people. The next owner may not be so happy about modifications, but let's be real: He was going to do the same thing anyway. So go for it.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: oldonliner
10.) 1987-1992 Toyota Supra Turbo
Suggested By: RazoE
Why it's such cheap speed: The third-generation Supra was pegged as an overweight boulevardier when it was introduced, but the turbo version was pretty potent from the start and can be boosted into a serious street threat. The rest of the car was made back when Toyota actually did care about quality and holds together well. Note: Make sure the head bolts are torqued correctly.
Photo Credit: Derek Purdy
9.) Dodge Neon SRT-4
Suggested By: SennaMP4
Why it's such cheap speed: Chrysler's compacts have aleays been sneaky and underappreciated speed machines, from the Omni GLH days onward. The SRT-4 is just this side of "how did this ever get approved?" Neons have never gotten much respect, but this overpowered bug will step all over cars costing many times as much without effort.
Photo Credit: Ross Perkins
8.) 2004 Yamaha YZF-R1
Suggested By: LightningBoots
Why it's such cheap speed: If you can live without certain things (air conditioning, stereo, airbags, bumpers, seat belts, a proper seat) an Open-class sportbike brings speed to a degree hard to understand in automotive terms. What you lose in stability and comfort you gain back in the ability to harass Veyrons. Used-but-not-abused ones are a $5000ish proposition all day long. A terrible choice for a first bike, a giant-killer in skilled hands.
Photo Credit: Martyn
7.) Mistubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon/Plymouth Laser
Suggested By: YesIStreetRace
Why it's such cheap speed: The Diamond-Star triplets are among the darlings of the F&F set: smallish, not impractical, and able to handle crushing amounts of boost. All-wheel-drive models are especially coveted in places that know snow, but any of them can be tuned to produce jawdropping quarter-mile times.
Photo Credit: Charles Siritho
6.) 1986-1992 Mazda RX-7 Turbo
Suggested By: hotspoons
Why it's such cheap speed: The second-generation RX-7 logically holds the middle ground between the elemental early cars and the ferocious third-generation machines. This limits their mainstream appeal but keeps the prices cheerfully low. The Wankel motors love boost, the chassis holds its own against Porsche 944s, and there is a serious cult devoted to keeping them alive and blisteringly fast.
Photo Credit: Grant C
5.) Homebuilt Locost-style Seven
Suggested By: StewMM
Why it's such cheap speed: Caterhams and other kits can get pricey, but if you've got the skills and the work space there may be no better low-budget speed option than pulling together a bunch of cheap parts and welding up a frame yourself. Not for the faint of heart or the easily discouraged, but a homebuilt could be the project of a lifetime and a straght shot to being the fastest car in town.
Photo Credit: Ali Jackson
4.) BMW E36 M3
Why it's such cheap speed: Dismissed by the individual-throttle-body zealots, the '95-'99 M3 is perhaps the most well-rounded machine on this list. It was legitimately one of the best cars of its day and remains one of the best-handling cars on the street. The motor's no slacker either, even in this company: five-second 0-to-60 runs are pleasantly normal. Add a comfortable interior and everyday usability and it's a serious winner.
Photo Credit: Otis Blank
3.) 1993-2002 Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Trans Am
Suggested By: valdaviper1
Why it's such cheap speed: Now we're getting serious. Behind all the mullet snark the bulky F-bodies make a serious case for classic high performance: big engine, big tires, big aftermarket support. The previous generation has its high points (watch for the '89 Trans Am with the Buick turbo V6) but the small-block and six-speed are a classic combination with tons of extra potential.
Photo Credit: Buck
2.) 1987-1993 Ford Mustang GT/LX 5.0
Suggested By: waveridin1959
Why it's such cheap speed: The near-reflexive answer to the question "How can I go fast on the cheap?", the definitive latter-day ponycar needs only to be built around your terms. Roadracer? Lincoln 5-bolt hubs with discs and a good engine build. Brackets? Nitrous. All-around bad-ass attitude? Vortech supercharger. Regardless, it's a genuine crowd favorite and worthy successor to the original.
Photo Credit: Latemodel Restoration Supply
1.) 1984-1996 Chevrolet Corvette
Suggested By: StupidName
Why it's such cheap speed: A decent C4 Corvette can be had for less than a Fox Mustang, and it includes lots of the good stuff up front: race-grade brakes, superior suspension and aerodynamics, a drivetrain that will shoulder immense amounts of torque without flinching. The C5s are definitely better, but also notably more expensive; the underappreciated C4s can be built to run with just about anything in the world on a lunch-money budget. Not bad as-is, either.
Photo Credit: James P. Morse