We all had posters of the first-gen Dodge Viper C5R and Lotus Elise adorning the walls of our childhood bedrooms. In those days, just saying the words “Dodge Viper” almost gave you chills. These early supercars were the stuff of insanity, many with sub 4 second 0-60 times and 200 mph+ top speeds. They cost $100k or more and all made what at the time seemed like insane horsepower. Looking back, it’s a bit comical that anything over 400 hp was a “supercar” when a base Mustang GT now makes 435 hp and costs around $32k when not loaded to the gills.
Now some 15 years later, these machines have all depreciated to such a degree that the average Joe who saves his beans can now own the very supercar that seemed so out of reach just a decade ago. Of course, there are many things to consider when buying a 10 or 15-year-old car like maintenance, reliability, technology (or lack thereof), and, of course, market value. This segment will aim to showcase a surprisingly affordable supercar each issue and cover some of the pros and cons to each vehicle.
To start off, I thought it is only proper to feature my very own budget supercar, a 2007 Corvette Z06 3LT. I purchased this car with 15k miles on it this summer. Examples like mine are not hard to find. Most “Corvette guys” buy these cars and simply park them. From 2006-2013, the Z06 remained largely unchanged other than some very minor revisions to the clutch assembly.
GM hit it right with the C6 Z06. It had 505 hp, 470 lb-ft of torque, weighed less than 3,150 pounds, and could hit 60 mph in first gear (takes about 3.5 seconds to get there, which is still supercar territory today). It could do 198 mph and outclassed the very best Ferrari and Lamborghini had to offer and at a fraction of the price. In 2007, a Z06 could range from $65-$100k depending on how you optioned it and today you can get an early generation for about $36-$42k. Mileage will make the most difference in price.
Not only is the C6 Z06 fast, but fairly practical with an ample rear storage, 26 mpg and an easy to see out of the cockpit. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. My original plans were to daily drive this beast. Why not? It costs about the same as buying a Jeep or small truck and gets great gas mileage. While some people do daily drive these cars, after about a week I decided it’s a little too extreme. The Z06 rides much lower than a standard Corvette which means you scrape EVERYWHERE, and I mean EVERYWHERE. The seating position is extremely low, so getting in and out is tiring if that sort of thing bothers you, and the noise – it sounds like you are driving in the transmission tunnel. The cabin fills with the winding and whirling of gear lash and the typical LS power plant lifter noise. All I can say is one word, racecar.
So while the Z06 may seem rather crude in comparison to the cars coming out of GM today, it has what many newer cars don’t. Character. The chassis although a bit stiff and jarring is communicative and the steering rack tightens as the car increases in speed. The 7.0 LS7 up front is hand built! How many cars can you buy with a hand built engine for the price of a loaded Malibu? And the fact that it’s American means things don’t break often, and when they do, it’s just like any other Chevy powertrain. The parts are available and affordable, and a Chevy dealer can service your car without an issue.
When it comes to power, the Z06 is a stunner. The car has gobs of torque in any gear and it revs so freely that you think you’re driving a Honda s2000, not a small block 427. The dual mode exhaust allows the car to be quiet at highway speeds and then the vacuum actuated butterfly valve opens out back to make things more interesting on hard acceleration. Still, the stock sound level is very tame, I would even say quiet. I plan on upgrading to an aftermarket exhaust soon.
So for the price of a Dodge Caravan you can own a car that is slightly quicker than a Ford GT. Eventually, the value of the Z06 is sure to be recognized, but for now, this is a supercar that the working man can afford. #Merica