Yes, this is a tremendously obvious choice and yes, there are a few reasons you might not want to buy one. But at this price point, you’ll struggle to do better than this dinky little rear-drive number. Keep it standard and hope the values rise (which is likely) or use as a blank canvas for a modification project; the choice is yours.
Whatever you do though, check the damn thing for rust properly before you buy, particularly on the arches and sills. Unless you want to end up like this guy. Pushing the budget up to get a better example isn’t a bad idea either.
Also consider: Alfa Spider, Mercedes SLK 230
It’s telling that while the early, horribly underpowered 1.9-litre Z3s go for as little as £1000, prices of the 2.8s are a lot stronger. They’re certainly not dropping any further, and look to be on the up, so these E36-based roadsters could prove to be a wise investment over time.
There’s no doubt the Z3 is more of a cruiser than a hardcore sports car, but thanks to gorgeous looks that have aged well and the promise of a fruity six-pot engine note, these are tempting buys before you even think about potentially rising values.
Plus, there are a few changes to consider that’ll liven things up - strut braces are a common modification that are said to considerably improve the Z3’s handling, and there’s always the option of the classic M50 intake manifold swap on the car’s M52 straight-six, which can unlock as much as 15bhp due to the older part being much larger.
Also consider: Mercedes SLK 320, Toyota MR2 (W30)
If you have this much to spend, you’d be daft not to buy an S2000. They won’t be this affordable for long, but much more importantly, you’ll struggle to get a sharper sports car for the money. Forget the ‘no torque’ jokes and enjoy the 2.0-litre four-banger’s 237bhp output and zingy 9000rpm redline.
Dependable Honda reliability means this is probably the most sensible purchase here, although as with any used car, there are a few things that are good to know beforehand.
Also consider: TVR S, Porsche Boxster S (986), BMW Z4 3.0
Since we’ve just had the most sensible car on this list, how about the least sensible? I give you the TVR Tamora. It’s one of the more forgotten ‘Trevors’, but it’s worthy of your attention. Why? Because it’s still seriously rapid, and the cheapest of its ‘era’ at TVR. It weighs a little over 1000kg, and packs a mighty 350bhp from TVR’s own 3.6-litre inline-six.
It’s the lairiest car here too, sticking to TVR’s ethos of having no driver aids whatsoever, not even ABS. In this car, it’s all on you.
However, the Tamora has all the usual TVR issues of poor reliability and fragility. It’s common for the Speed Six engine to need costly rebuilds, so it’s an idea to go for one that’s had the work done already to avoid big bills in the future.
Also consider: Mercedes SLK55 AMG, BMW Z4 M, Porsche Boxster S (987), Maserati Spyder
Other versions of the Boxster have already made an appearance in the ‘also consider’ lists for the last couple of price points, but if we had a healthy £40,000 to blow on an open-top sports car, it’d be a very specific Boxster we’d be after: the Spyder.
Thanks to a manual roof (which looks like much more of a pain to operate than the roof on the new Spyder, but never mind), the removal of the stereo, air conditioning and even the replacement of the interior door handles with weird fabric hook things, the car lost around 80kg compared to the regular Boxster.
Power went up by 10bhp to 320, while the suspension was lowered and stiffened. It’s the most focused Boxster of its generation, and arguably the best looking thanks to those sexy buttresses at the back.
Also consider: Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster, Chevrolet Corvette C6 (if you can find one in the UK)