A quick guide to boutique sports cars

The same exclusivity that makes these cars the crown jewels of the highway means you wonít find many languishing in the showroom. Waits can be 10 weeks to a year. If youíre considering the superfast Saleen S7, though, donít even bother the dealer until you can cut a deposit check for at least $50,000.

All boutique manufacturers (except for Mosler, whose MT900 has yet to be released) have small networks of dealers across the country—usually paired up with big names like Ferrari and Aston Martin—where you can custom-configure your ride. If you like, for instance, you can order your Shelby Cobra made the old-fashioned way, with an aluminum body hand-beaten over planed wooden bucks in England—for about $90,000 more than the standard fiberglass chassis.

Once your baby arrives, you neednít confine yourself to snail-paced highways, where youíre in constant danger of getting sideswiped by mesmerized gawkers. About 30 to 40 raceways across the country, including Laguna Seca and Sebring, will flag you in for weekend track days for about the price of a round of golf.

Should trouble befall your handcrafted head-turner, repairs might not bring the sorrows youíd expect. These cars are built with the kind of raw, computer-free guts that any mechanic can decipher. The most modern device in a Shelby is its electronic ignition—and thatís been around for decades. Panoz uses Ford parts wherever possible so his cars can be serviced virtually anywhere. Of course, getting cars to go this fast requires some parts that will set you back thousands more than their big-manufacturer counterparts. But then, you already knew this kind of cachet comes at a price.