9 November 2015

America’s Sports Car(s)

THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN THE ONE FROM BOWLING GREEN

The list of American sports cars is much longer than simply “Corvette.” While there is no hard rule as to what constitutes a “true” sports car, for many it’s a two-seater, often (but not always) with a top that goes down, and very little concern for practical items like, say, trunk space. Let’s use that as our general definition of some cool American-made sports cars that aren’t Corvettes.

We begin with the Crosley Hotshot. At Mecum’s Denver auction in July, lot F110 was a 1951 Hotshot in Butter Yellow with a red interior. Selling for $12,420, this small bundle of cute with its 44-cid engine sold right where you might have expected it to, maybe even a bit of a bargain. No one is going to mistake Powell Crosley’s creations for luxury or performance cars, but in their day they were a fun, affordable, alternate means of getting from A to B. That holds true today, but it’s probably best to stay off those newfangled interstates.

American Motors Corporation built two very similar cars in the late 1960s and early ’70s — the Javelin and its two-seat sister, the AMX. A 1970 AMX sold in May 2014 at the Auctions America Spring Auburn sale. This AACA award-winning example was as nice as they come, presented in a conservative shade of medium blue over black vinyl. Equipped with a 325-horsepower 390- cid V-8 and the all-important four-speed manual transmission, this fully restored AMX sold for $44,550. It costs more to buy the best, but at this price it’s still much less than it would cost to restore an average car to this quality.

Of a more recent vintage are the high-performance Saturn Sky Redline and Pontiac Solstice GXP — both orphans now that General Motors has shuttered their brands. Last January, Mecum sold a 2008 Pontiac Solstice GXP in Kissimmee, Florida, for $19,440. An SCCA T2 Champion Edition, this yellow and black Solstice was powered by a turbocharged 2-liter engine. The exterior also featured silver ghost stripes and total mileage was less than 20,000. Just taking a wild guess here, but under 20 grand for a GXP convertible or a Saturn Sky Redline is going to seem very cheap in just a few short years.

Dodge Vipers are frequent visitors to North American auctions. Lot 422 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale last January was a 1994 Viper roadster with black-on-black good looks. The V-10 and six-speed manual were claimed to have fewer than 10,000 miles on them, and it sold for $36,850. Not that everyone should run out and buy one of these beasts immediately, but at a number close to a transactional price for a mid-tier Japanese sedan, it sounds awfully cheap for a sports car with plenty of grunt.

Another sports car from Pontiac that was gone before its time is the Fiero, a car that got better with each year of production. A 1985 Fiero GT coupe sold at Mecum’s Kissimmee 2015 auction for $18,360. It looked great in red over silver and gray cloth, with just 1,500 miles from new. It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed since this car was built. Although they don’t look exactly contemporary, you could probably pass this off as a 2005 to some of your non-car guy friends. Some cars get better with age, and the Fiero is on that list.

There are dozens more American sports cars that we didn’t even touch on, and they fall in almost every price range. But as you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of money to find a sporty car for next summer’s road trips, long or short.

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