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Car Corner
Can you Afford ANY Super Car

March 1, 2014
By Scott Lewis

Last time I looked into whether a working class person could afford to own a Ferrari. I looked at Ferrari first because I know a number of people that own them, I have driven 4 of them, and I know people that work on them. I felt comfortable talking to the cost of owning them. This month we will open the field to ANY Super Car.

What is a Super Car?

Read this article for a few very good opinions on what defines a Super Car (just come back after you do). I will pull a couple of quotes from it, but it makes for interesting reading. Noah Joseph says, "it's a car that's singularly focused on performance with little regard towards other factors like accommodation or cost. It doesn't need to be manufactured by an exotic automaker, but usually is. It similarly doesn't need to be a two-door coupe or convertible, but tends to be." He follows that up with, "all that really matters is how it performs – or rather, how it performs relative to other cars of the same era."

That last point is important. To me, once a car is a Super Car it is always a Super Car. The perfect example is the Lamborghini Countach. This was an insane car for its time in the mid-seventies onward. Kids hung posters on their walls, and still dream about them today. Even though a V-6 Camaro or EcoBoost Mustang can run circles around the Countach today, it still qualifies as a Super Car.

NOTE: With a goal of finding a Super Car that has already gone through much of its depreciation we should consider what buying a Super Car costs in relation to a new Corvette.

If you watch this video Rob Ferretti makes a good case that buying a used Ferrari at the same price as a new Corvette is cheaper in the long run. Why? Because the Corvette will depreciate significantly over the first few years of its life, whereas a used Ferrari has lost most or all of its depreciation.

Can we make this work? Essentially we need to find a car that can be bought for $800/mo and has maintenance cost on par with a normal used car. We ideally need to stay below $1,000/month "all in" for payments and maintenance.
In my opinion all Ferraris and Lamborghinis are Super Cars.

Tim Burton, aka Shmee150, mentioned this, "the quantities play a part, for example a 911 is a fantastically fast car, but there are so many of them built that it's hard to position where it sits." Douglas Sonders puts forth this, "Vehicles that stand apart from the boring appliances us average mere mortals drive. They stand apart from our daily 4-wheeled appliances and give us something to dream about."

Before I get to the cars that qualify as Super Cars, I want to discuss budget. What amount of money do we allow the working class hero to spend on a Super Car?

I decided to use 2 benchmarks. First, the Mercedes E-Class. If someone wanted to treat themselves to a nice, upscale, but still reasonably affordable car... the E-Class is spot on. I checked the inventory of my local Mercedes dealership for the E-Class. The E-Class competes with BMW's 5 Series, Audi's A6 Series and Cadillac's CTS. All quite reasonable. Their E-Class inventory was from $56,225 - $65,915.

Next was a Corvette. The base price on a Corvette is $55,450. The base price on a Corvette Grand Sport is $65,450. Looking at the inventory in my area the least expensive Corvette was just over $60K, and went up from there... a lot. Regardless, the base prices I found are good enough for now.

Two resource gave me very similar price ranges. This seems reasonable... for a working class individual that wants to reach for a dream car. To treat themselves. To cut back on other niceties to have a really nice car. A Super Car. We will be trying to find a Super Car that fits in this price range... $55-65K.

As we proceed, consider this... we are hoping to find a Super Car that has depreciated enough that we could afford one for the price of a new Mercedes E-Class or Corvette. Yet we also want a car that has hopefully stopped depreciating, or at least slowed down enough that when it comes time to sell we will have substantial equity in the car.

Let's list some possible Super Cars (alphabetically):

Aston Martin V8 Vantage & DB9
Audi R8
BMW i8
Corvette ZR1 & Z06
Dodge Viper
Ferrari
Jaguar F-Type
Lamborghini
Maserati GranTurismo
Mercedes SLS AMG GT
Porsche 911 GT2 & GT3

To qualify as a Super Car it should be exotic looking and have regular people think you won the lottery if you parked one in your garage. Any Ferrari, Any Lamborghini, Audi R8... these all qualify as Super Cars in my opinion.

I would love to include the Porsche 911 GT2 & GT3, and even Turbo. Like Shmee150 above, I believe the 911, even in GT2 or GT3 form, does NOT qualify as a Super Car. They look too much like every other 911 to the neighbor. By the same logic, the Corvette ZR1 and Z06 are not Super Cars.

Wow, I just pissed off a lot of Corvette and 911 fans. Sorry!

I am particularly fond of the Audi R8. From www.exoticcarhacks.com on the Audi R8, "While you may be able to find a Ferrari 360 Modena or Lamborghini Gallardo under that price range as well, neither will have the technology, comfort, ease of use, and reliability that can be found in the Audi R8."

The R8 was powered by a mid-engine 4.2L V8 producing 420 HP that was originally found in the B7 version of the Audi RS4, an update to the V-8 used in the A8, A6, S4, etc. This makes it the perfect Super Car to be affordable. It is a car unto itself, but it gets a power plant shared with a more pedestrian cars. It will most definitely impress the neighbors and the crowd at Cars & Coffee.

Next up is Aston Martin. Yes, James Bond's car. That alone should get it to qualify as a Super Car. People dream about it. However, Doug DeMuro had some interesting reactions to his Aston Martin. Watch the video here. Normally, Aston Martins do one of the best jobs of making it look like you are driving a car worth well over $100K for well under that amount. Just get a color other than silver.

The Mercedes AMG GT is too expensive to consider here. Yes, it is a Super Car, but let's wait 3 or 4 years and see what happens to its price.

What else?

Part of the Super Car mystique is that the cars are very expensive and unobtainable by mere mortals. Even older Super Cars, that have depreciated, are still Super Cars because they are still expensive and "seem" to be unobtainable by us regular folk.

BMW only has one car that currently qualifies as a Super Car, the i8. Unfortunately, they are still well over $100,000. All the M3's, M4's and M6's are just hot rodded version of regular cars, like the C63 AMG. They are too easily mistaken by "regular" folks as "regular" cars.

I wanted to give Jaguar a chance here. Unfortunately I can't. The most exotic Jags are too recent. For our consideration we are hoping the bulk of a car's depreciation has already happened. And their performance new is a bit lacking for a Super Car of the same era. Great sports cars, yes. Super Cars, No!

I also thought of Maserati. The 2011 Maserati GranTurismo S does 0-60 in 4.9 seconds. That seems a tad slow compared to the competition here. I will at least look around. It certainly looks the part, like the Aston Martin.

The Wildcard

One car that meets all the criteria above... EXCEPT performance... is the Acura NSX. I am not talking about the new one. The original NSX from 1991-2005. These were mostly low 5 second cars, slow by Super Car standards today, but pretty close to Super Car performance when it came out. Hey, it forced Ferrari to up its game with the F355 and the 360 Modena. Plus the NSX still looks exotic as people turns heads anytime one turns up. Your neighbor will definitely take notice. And these do fantastic at Cars & Coffee. And they are already past their depreciation. These cars are already going up in price.

The Orphan

The Dodge Viper. The Viper looks exotic. It was expensive, though many were not over $100,000 expensive. Your neighbor will definitely take notice. However, I am not a big fan. I kind of like them, and kind of want one someday, but not for this. If you want put them in your own list (and send me a link so I can read your thoughts on the matter).

What To Look For... Our Super Car Requirements

Time to come up with the final shopping list. What cars cover all of these criteria:

  • Looks exotic and expensive
  • Has depreciated a significant amount (ideally slowing down... drastically)
  • Will impress the neighbors (we want them to think we won the lottery) and Cars & Coffee
  • Reasonably affordable (payments of $800/mo)
  • Reasonable maintenance costs.

Looking around I think I have settled on two cars that fulfill all these requirements.

Audi R8 & Acura NSX

The Audi is a lot newer, while the Acura is older and might need to be treated as a classic. We will look at the Audi first.

Remember, VW owns both Audi and Lamborghini. In Lamborghini's lineup, the Audi R8 was based off the Gallardo. And the Huracan replaced the Gallardo. So teh Audi R8 has much in common with two Lambo models. The R8 with a V-8 has 420 horsepower. Not crazy levels of power, but your neighbor will never know. It still goes faster than 5.0 in the sprint from 0 to jail. This V-8 was used in a few Audis as ,mentioned above, cars that would have been purchased as daily drivers. This is probably the least expensive exotic for maintenance costs (a title that would have gone to the Acura NSX, but with its current age is likely a tie here).

Searching AutoTrader for Audi R8s (with a manual... I love the gated shifter) under $70,000 produced 7 matches. The least expensive being a 2008 Charcoal Gray Coupe with 24K miles for $61,999 (Oh, they lowered the price as I finished this article... to $59,993).

2008 Audi R8 4.2 Coupe, 24k miles - $59,993

Comments: I love it. The light gray blade looks good... but if I owned this car I would consider replacing them with carbon fiber.

I looked up a long term loan and found a 96 month loan with a 4.49% interest rate. Plugging in the numbers for this Audi R8 with a $5,000 down payment I got monthly payments of $733. Not bad. If maintenance costs on this car can be budgeted for $150/month, we could own this car for a total of less than $900/month all in. We just have to hope it holds its value enough so we can jump out at any time.

Now for the Acura NXS. If you want to spend $60K you can find them easy. However, due to the age you might not want to drive an NSX as frequently as an R8. However, we should be able to get classic car financing on one of these.

I plugged in $50K with $10K down and a 6 year loan at 2.99% and came up with $659/mo. This is very much with our hypothetical $800/month budget. Let's see what we can get for $50K.

Setting the parameters of $50K or less, under 60K miles and a manual trans I got 3. One was highly modified. It looked good, but I want the purity of an original (it will also go up in value better). That leaves 2 excellent examples. Both 92's. One for $46K with 55K miles and one for $50K with 45K miles (which sold before I could grab pics of it). Since these are already going up in value you will still have equity at any time should you need to sell.

1992 Acura NSX, 55k miles - $45,995

Comments: This has a manual, but the center console is red. I would want that returned to black (unless there is a weird chance that was from the factory). Remember, it's a Honda. That Honda V-6 engine will last forever if you take care of it.

Conclusion

Let's come back down to Earth. I am very unlikely to ever buy one off these... until my kids are out of college and their student loans are paid off. By then I might be too old to drive. I will likely be looking for an autonomous pod by then.

I do like the idea of an Audi R8. It seems to be the most practical and affordable Super Car. The neighbors will never know is was affordable, and they will draw a crowd at Cars & Coffee. Plus it will be a blast on the Texas Twisted Sisters.

What more could you want.

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