Supercars, exotics, classics, and rare versions of common cars all share a similar trait - they're aspirational. They can be the reward at the end of a life full of work, and the start of a life of leisure. I asked you dreamers to give me the best cars that tickled your fancy for under an $80k budget, and you delivered.
The Porsche Boxster was always a bit of an oddball. First, it had the configuration that the 911 should have had to be a capable, out of the box supercar, rather than a screaming death pendulum. While the first generation Boxster wasn't much to look at with its runny egg headlights (followed by the Porsche 996), the later versions were absolutely magnificent, and one hell of a value. The Spyder ramped up the quality, culminating in the fine specimen of automotive engineering you see here. Not bad, Stuttgart, not bad.
(Suggested by B_Dol)
There's a certain kind of person that takes a car that's already stupid fast and makes it even stupider-faster. This 2015 Chevrolet Corvette is a low-mileage, 550-horsepower example that will eat any supercar on the road for breakfast, with enough room for modifications that it can be a world-beater with some overnight parts from Detroit. It's an attainable exotic if you start saving your pennies now.
(Suggested by Charlie Burnor)
The Ferrari 456 got a lot of flak for being one of first mass-market Ferraris available with an automatic, even with...wait..this isn't an automatic? Sources have confirmed that this car is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, a rare sight among these already rare cars. The V12 engine in the front is a derivative of the powerplant found in the 550 and 575, and that makes parts a little easier to come by, but only just. While the car isn't the most notable in the Ferrari lineup, a manual will always be a thing of value for anyone dreaming of everyday thrills.
(Suggested by rb1971 MaserS55Z3ME9ContiDoc)
Here's Audi's train of thought when they came up with the iconic R8: "Let's take the engine that we put in almost every single car we make and give it the best chassis we've ever made. There. Job done." While this car wasn't a direct competitor to the "big dog" exotics, it's certainly a contender for most visually striking, easiest to drive everyday, and most reasonable maintenance schedules and prices. And to add to the awesome, you can add twin turbos to it or supercharge the already stout V8 engine to get something that will blow the doors off any Ferrari or Lamborghini dumb enough to challenge it.
(Suggested by DK)
The Aston Martin DB9 is one of the most beautiful cars ever made. It's a shame that they made so many, because prices have decreased to the point that a good DB9 is now attainable by the regular folk (I call them "Reggies"). Perhaps that's a good thing, as it will give those who dreamed about the car a chance to own it without the hassle of it being some weird title-flipped salvage car. British motoring seldom gets any better than this.
This DeTomaso Pantera deserves to be in anyone's dream garage, if only for the fact that it has a relatively reliable Ford V8 powerplant in an Italian body. This is what's called international harmony. Each country does what it does best, and the product is something truly awe-inspiring. Buy it, and spend all day mashing the loud pedal and yelling the Italian equivalent of Git'r done.
(Suggested by tehkav)
Who could say no to a Cord? I'll let My X-type is too a real Jaguar explain:
Supercharged Cord 810, it did not meet its reserve but a look on the seller's website showed the asking price was $79,500 (At least that is what was in the loan calculator. So I say it counts) As for why it was the 1st car with popup headlights and it's supercharged, that makes it the most Jalop car of the era.
(Suggested by My X-type is too a real Jaguar)
This Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon is one of those cars that doesn't need to exist because it makes too much sense. Insane power from a biturbo V8? Massaging seats? Enough room for the whole family plus several stray animals? Check, check, and double-check. I got to drive one of these for a short while and while it's violently fast, it's so composed that you'd be doing triple the speed limit and legitimately not notice. It's for the upper-class family that loves monster truck rallies.
(Suggested by sm70- why not Duesenberg?
This Jaguar E-Type, in this color, engine configuration, and trim level (convertible) is the tops when it comes to desirability, and at its current asking price it's a steal and will appreciate to a six-figure car in the coming years. Don't think of it as a car, think of it as a growing bank account that you can drive and perform the occasional bias-ply donut.
(Suggested by SirPoopyPants)
Do you remember when you could buy an Acura NSX for $20,000? I do. I also remember when a pack of gum cost a quarter. Now, an NSX is the unobtainium supercar that just happened to have a Honda Accord engine in it. It was Ayrton Senna's favorite car...or something. Acura's not making it anymore, except for the fact that the new NSX is being released shortly. Why are these cars so ridiculously valuable? I understand the ease of use aspect, but when you're paying nearly six figures for a mass market Honda, things have taken a turn for the weird. In any case, there's a good chance I have no idea what I'm talking about and this will be the next car crossing a million-dollar valuation at RM. Get it before it gets there.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.