When a man of a certain age buys a fire-engine-red Lamborghini, it brings to mind a particular word (one that begins with douche and ends with bag). But falling for the sexy curves of a 1962 Shelby Cobra—celebrating its 50th anniversary this year—is the act of a sophisticated man of taste. And this vintage ride is obtainable. While a first-edition Cobra can easily cost millions, a faithful re-creation by the original manufacturer is $145,000. It's built from scratch around a tube-frame chassis and can hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. But you don't care about all that—you just want to be seen driving it. shelbyautos.com

VINTAGE INSIDE
AND OUT

Top model: 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray
What makes it hot: A purist backlash against obsessively restored classics has made "survivors"— either "barn finds" or family heirlooms—suddenly more valuable. This Corvette, with its original Marina Blue paint, drew $227,500 at Mecum Auctions recently, but less precious fifties and early-sixties Vettes can be had for $45,000.
Buying advice: Survivors are often more reliable rides than restorations, because the quality of a makeover can vary wildly. Just don't fixate on whether every last bolt is factory original. To see the best, attend a trade show that specializes in high-end specimens, such as Bloomington Gold.

LOW-MAINTENANCE
Top model: 1968 Mercedes SL Pagoda
What makes it hot: If you want to spend more time behind the wheel than under the hood, look to these elegant, pagoda-roof coupes built between '63 and '71. These Benzes are comfortable and indestructible while still sports cars at heart. And at about $50,000 in solid condition, Pagodas cost half the price of brand-new SLs and will turn twice as many heads.
Buying advice: Join an online owners club like the Pagoda SL Group, where Benz lovers use their experiences to guide neophytes through purchase and upkeep. For other low-maintenance gems, look at some vintage American models—especially muscle cars like Mustangs, Chevelles, and Chargers.

RETRO WITH HIGH-TECH GUTS
Top model: 1971 Porsche 911S modified by Singer
What makes it hot: A prime example of the "resto-mod" movement, the 911 by L.A.'s Singer Vehicle Design is a nineties Porsche (the last of the air-cooled models) rebuilt to look like the seminal 1971 edition—but with a carbon-fiber shell, a 360-hp Cosworth racing engine, and an iPod system hidden behind the Blaupunkt radio. The result is a frozen-in-amber sports car with modern drivability, for $255,000.
Buying advice: Tighter budget? Check out Icon's dazzling re-creations of the Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser or the cosmetically and mechanically tricked-out Camaros by Baldwin-Motion.

A SEXY BARGAIN
Top model: 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III BJ8
What makes it hot: While museum-quality cars—or "trailer queens"—have held their value, the recession has hammered prices for underdogs, and the low-slung Austin-Healey is considered the poor man's Jaguar. A well-kept, walnut-veneered Mark III BJ8 can be had for $50,000 or less, but experts expect its value to rebound to $75,000 within five years.
Buying advice: Attend auctions—without your checkbook—like the reputable Russo and Steele, Barrett-Jackson, and RM, and look for deals like a 1986 BMW M3, the first generation of BMW's sport sedan, or a 1976 TR6, the last of the Triumph roadsters.


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