American sports cars have many fans not just in the US but also in other parts of the world. There’s a lot to love about American sports cars – their sleek designs, power, superb driving dynamics, and dependability are among the reasons why American sports cars like the Chevy Corvette and Dodge Viper have been popular for decades.
However, the main reason why many gearheads love American sports cars is their affordability, especially when compared to European sports cars. There are plenty of American sports cars that offer a similar level of style and performance as their European counterparts while costing half the price. However, before spending your hard-earned money, it’s important to know which affordable American sports cars to buy and which ones to avoid.
10 Great: Corvette C4 ZR-1 ($18,000)
After the horrible third-generation Corvette, Chevy knew it had to ensure the C4 was a winner. However, despite having a new design and a more powerful engine, many gearheads still felt the C4 was slow when it debuted in 1984.
A few years later, Chevy decided to fix that with a new high-performance version of the C4 Corvette – the ZR-1. Equipped with a Lotus-tuned LT5 engine making 375 hp, the ZR-1 had a 0-60 of just 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 176 mph, making it one of the fastest cars of the ’90s.
9 Avoid: 1980 California Corvette ($13,000)
As we’ve mentioned above, the third-generation Corvette was awful. It was built during the malaise era, which means its engine had been detuned to make it more eco-friendly.
Things were even worse for 1980 Corvettes purchased in California, where regulations were even more stringent. Powered by a 5.0-liter V8 making just 180 hp, the 1980 California Corvette was slower than almost every other sports car on the road.
8 Great: 2022 Ford Mustang Convertible ($33,000)
The Mustang is the Blue Oval brand’s greatest vehicle of all time. The Mustang first hit showroom floors in the mid-60s and it has remained in production since.
The latest Mustang is just as awesome as its predecessors. It has an aggressive, muscular design and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood making 310 hp, giving it superb performance for the price.
7 Avoid: Saturn Sky ($15,000)
Like every other GM brand, Saturn had a horrible start to the 21st century. Poor sales, a terrible economic climate, and other internal GM problems left Saturn in the worst crisis it had ever faced. To save itself, Saturn built a two-door roadster known as the Sky.
Saturn wanted the Sky to be affordable, so they cut a few corners to keep the price at a minimum. As a result, the Sky lacked refinement and suffered from various reliability issues.
6 Great: 2004 Corvette Z06 ($20,000)
The Corvette C5 debuted in the late ’90s with several notable changes over its predecessors, including a new hydroformed box frame, a re-arranged transmission system, and a new engine. Another big change with the C5 Corvette was that the high-performance version was known as the Z06 and not the ZR-1.
The Z06 debuted in 2001 with a tuned version of the base C5’s LS1 engine making 385 hp. This was paired with a six-speed manual transmission, making the Z06 a joy to drive.
5 Avoid: 2002 Ford Thunderbird ($20,000)
The Thunderbird is undoubtedly one of the most important Fords of the 20th century. The Thunderbird debuted in 1955 as a two-seater convertible designed to compete against the Corvette and instantly impressed. Unfortunately, Ford ditched the Thunderbird’s two-seater body style and made it a boring four-seater for most of its production run.
In 2002, Ford decided to revive the two-seat Thunderbird to pay tribute to the original 1955 version. Sadly, the 2002 Thunderbird was nowhere near as good-looking as the 1955 model. To make matters worse, it was powered by a Jaguar AJ35 V8 engine with questionable reliability.
4 Great: Cadillac CTS-V Coupe ($28,000)
Cadillac has had its fair share of hits and misses over the last two decades. The CTS-V is among the cars in the ‘hits’ category. The first CTS-V debuted in the early 2000s and was developed to appeal to gearheads who wanted a lot more power than the standard CTS could offer.
The third and final CTS-V generation was introduced in 2016 with a 6.2-liter supercharged LT4 V8 engine making 631 ponies – the same engine as the Corvette C7 Z06.
3 Avoid: Cadillac XLR ($15,000)
When it comes to Cadillac’s misses of the 21st century, the XLR is near the top of that list. Introduced in 2003, the XLR was supposed to be a more luxurious version of the popular Corvette for Cadillac fans.
Unfortunately, the XLR wasn’t a success. Although it looked better than the Corvette and had a more luxurious interior, it had a weaker engine and more weight than the Corvette, which made it terrible to drive. Add a few reliability issues, and it’s easy to see why the XLR was discontinued after just five years.
2 Great: 2022 Chevrolet Camaro ($27,500)
Back in the ’60s, there were multiple muscle car models to meet different needs. Over the years, the number of muscle car models has reduced drastically and now there are just a handful still in production.
The Camaro is one of them, and it’s still as popular as ever. The 2022 Camaro comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine dishing out 335 hp, which is more than enough for a car that costs $27,500.
1 Avoid: 1993 Chevrolet Camaro ($12,000)
Having been in production for so long, there are bound to be a few bad Camaro years. The 1993 Camaro is one of those bad model years. 1993 was the first model year for the fourth generation, and it didn’t quite perform as well as Chevrolet expected.
For starters, gearheads didn’t like the 1993 Camaro’s design, as it didn’t look like the muscle car they loved. The base model was also boring to drive, as it was powered by a 3.4-liter V6 making 160 hp.