Sports cars are great machines that most people use to have fun on weekends or holidays. For car enthusiasts, the sports car is a dream vehicle that will be driven more often than sitting in a garage somewhere.
The sports car first emerged in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s before gaining recognition as a car class in the 1950s. The traditional sports car formula usually included a relatively powerful engine in the front, drive to the rear and enough space for two people in the middle. This formula changed a bit in the 1960s when the US went crazy for muscle cars, adding huge engines and enough space for four people and their luggage. From there, the American manufacturers took the idea and made the engines bigger, like with the Dodge Charger, Pontiac Storm and Chevy Chevelle.
For some sports cars, two more doors were even added to the mix, resulting in cool sports sedans. From that moment on, the American sports car was usually categorized as a muscle carwith US manufacturers not returning to the European formula until the early 2000s.
American sports cars may be mostly muscle cars, but that doesn’t make them any less sporty or easy to drive, especially the more recent models. Here are ten of the best American sports cars to buy in the used car market in 2023.
10 2008 Pontiac Solstice GXP ($15,000)
The Pontiac Solstice was a sporty little roadster created by GM between 2005 and 2010. Built on a special platform, shared with the Saturn Heavenand Opel GT, the engine came straight from the Cobalt SS Turbo but driving the rear wheels instead of the front wheels.
The Solstice GXP was the top trim, producing 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. As with the Cobalt SS, Pontiac dealers offered an upgrade that boosted power to 290 hp and 340 lb-ft. It may have a bit of a drab interior, but it’s pretty good for a small American sports car.
9 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 ($23,000)
The Fourth generation Chevrolet Corvette was the model that captured the modern Corvette formula – right up to the C8 generation, that is. The C4 had relatively powerful V8s and introduced the LT1 5.7 liter – an engine that would eventually turn into the famous LS3.
The top-spec C4 was the ZR1. Powered by a 5.7-litre V8 designed and built by Lotus, the LT5 produced 375 horsepower and propelled the ZR1 into the record books. Praised for its performance, it’s still a pretty awesome car – even in 2023 and comes in at about $23,000.
8 2011 Cadillac CTS-V ($24,000)
The Cadillac CTS-V was the pseudo-luxury American sedan that competed with the European BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E55/63 AMG and the Audi RS6. It had supercharged V8s and was brilliant in every generation.
The second-generation model is still relatively affordable, especially with the automatic transmission option. The CTS-V produced 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque from its supercharged 6.2-liter LSA V8. This excellent family sedan – or wagon – can be picked up for less than $25,000 in the used car market.
7 2008 Dodge Charger SRT ($28,000)
The Dodge Charger was reintroduced in 2005 as a four-door sedan, rather than a two-door muscle car. The Charger was first criticized for its styling and body style, but has now been praised for both. The top specification of the first generation models was the SRT-8.
The Charger SRT-8 featured a special version of the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, enlarged to 6.1 liters and producing 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. The five-speed automatic was actually borrowed from Mercedes-Benz, resulting in a fairly reliable car – available now for about $28,000.
6 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP ($29,000)
The muscle car found not only in the US, but also in Australia – which got some special vehicles. One of these was the Holden Commodore, commonly sold in the US as the Chevrolet SS or the Pontiac G8. It was an inexpensive way to get a reliable family sedan with a great V8 up front.
The Pontiac G8 only lasted two model years, but it was an impressive machine. The top-spec G8 GXP had the same 6.2-liter LS3 V8 found in the SS, producing 415 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. Due to its rarity, the G8 GXP costs around $29,000 and is a collector’s item.
5 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ($29,000)
The Chevrolet Camaro is a staple in the American auto industry and as such it has a few worthy finishes available in the used car market. The best to get for less than $30,000 is the previous generation ZL1. It’s not as good as the current model, but it still has a lot of performance.
The ZL1 features the 6.2-liter LSA V8, fitted with a 1.9-liter supercharger on top, producing 580 horsepower and 556 lb-ft of torque. It’s a remarkable car with V8 sounds emanating from the rear and a supercharger screaming from the front.
4 2013 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport ($30,000)
The Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport is usually a slightly more expensive model, with the cosmetic changes of the Z06, with the powertrain of the regular base model. The C6 generation may not be the most popular model, but it still performs brilliantly – even against the current Corvette.
The C6 Grand Sport had the same 436 hp 6.2 liter naturally aspirated V8, but with the body panels of the Z06. It also features upgraded brakes, a transmission cooler and unique wheels that accentuate the grand touring aspect of the car.
3 2000 Dodge Viper RT/10 ($30,000)
The Dodge Viper started life as a sports car with a truck engine in it and evolved into one of the greatest American sports cars ever made. Many improvements were made over the course of the Viper’s production life, but it was still quite dangerous compared to other cars in its class.
The second-generation Viper — dubbed the RT/10 — featured the same 8.0-liter V10 as the original model, but increased power to 450 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque. It’s a spectacular vehicle and with some research, can be found online for about $30,000 – if you are lucky.
2 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat ($38,000)
Probably the ultimate American car for sale under $40,000, the Dodge Challenger Hellcat is not only the most powerful car on this list, but also the most exciting. The new Challenger debuted in 2008 and received a massive update in 2015, with the introduction of the 707 horsepower 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8.
The Hellcat redefined the power a production car could get, with many owners easily boosting the power to over 800 horsepower. Hennessey even offers packages that result in over 1,000 horsepower. While there are Hellcats available for less than $40,000, they are mostly salvage titles as many owners get a little carried away.
1 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt ($40,000)
The Ford Mustang GT is not necessarily a special car, but it is still a fun vehicle. In 2019 Ford unveiled the latest special edition version, called the Mustang Bullitt. The car celebrated the legendary 1960s Mustang Fastback, as made famous by Steve McQueen.
The Mustang Bullitt featured special green paint, unique wheels, Bullitt badging throughout, and a white gear lever as a nod to the original. The Bullitt’s 5.0-liter V8 also received a power increase to 480 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque — 70 hp more than the regular GT. It is a great collectible and a great sports car.