On the hunt for a modern classic car, consider the secret identities

Fraternal twins are an open secret in the automotive world. This is especially true in the modern era where platform sharing is necessary to help cover the huge costs of bringing a new vehicle to market. Do you want a certain luxury SUV, but not sure if you can afford it? Well, a cheaper brand may offer a vehicle with the same bones.

Despite the ubiquity of this practice, platform sharing can come as a source of surprise to anyone looking for a high-performance bargain whose value has dropped just because it happens to be wearing the wrong badge.

It is a story about superheroes in vehicles and their secret identities. Here are our picks for the costumed cars that will either give you more bang for your buck than vehicles already considered modern classic cars, or give you access to more thin air than what the rest of the pack is sucking in.

A 2003 Nissan 350Z Coupe.


The Superhero: 2003-2008 Nissan 350Z Coupe

When the Nissan 350Z first arrived for the 2003 model year, it marked a return to form for an automaker that had been out of the pure sports car game in North America for half a decade. The two-seat 350Z contrasted sharply with the 300ZX that had preceded it, eschewing the large turbo power and hefty touring dimensions for a return to the (relatively) lightweight chassis and naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine that initially defined the model.

Power started at 287 horses in the early models, with a revised “Rev-Up” engine introduced for the 2005 35th Anniversary Edition cars (and modified by all 2006 and later models), pushing that figure for certain trim levels at 306 horsepower. These numbers apply to six-speed manual cars, as automatics stuck to the less aggressive engine tuning.

A red 2006 Infiniti G35 Coupé

A 2006 Infiniti G35 Coupe.


The Secret Identity: 2003-2007 Infiniti G35 Coupe

Nissan’s luxury division got its own version of the 350Z, the G35 Coupé. Riding on the same FM platform and benefiting from a very similar powertrain, the G35 Coupé added a rear seat to the equation, along with slightly less aggressive styling that has aged well in subsequent years. Rated at 280 horsepower for 2003 and 2004 and up to 306 available ponies thereafter (again for six-speed manual cars), the G35 was a powerful straight-line performer, and with only a few hundred pounds of extra mass compared to the Z held he is also standing in the corners.

why do you want it

The Nissan 350Z is seeing its value rise, with first-year cars coming in at just under $32,000 for museum-quality examples and special edition NISMO models hitting $55,000. Even cars in “excellent” condition are now trading above $20K as the drift scene continues to eat up the more affordable survivors in the used car market.

The G35 has been much less bothered by potential drifters and as such remains very affordable. Prices for manually equipped editions hover around $10,000, and paying a few thousand more will likely drive you home in that particular model year’s finest Infiniti. The car also shares the 350Z’s aftermarket parts availability, meaning you can take full advantage of the range of high-quality equipment on offer for the Nissan. While it may lack the Z-car heritage, from a driving perspective the G35 Coupé is an almost identical twin with a much nicer interior, all at a serious discount.

A 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 muscle car in orange and black

A 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8.


The Superhero: 2008-2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8

When Dodge revived the Challenger muscle car, it started with the SRT8 model. With a 425 horsepower, 6.1-litre V8, suspension and brakes that did their best to cope with the curb weight of the admittedly hefty coupe, it was a shot across the bow for the Ford Mustang GT, which boosted its output. couldn’t match. . A five-speed automatic gearbox was standard on the car, which accelerated from a standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.7 seconds, on the way to a top speed of just over 170 km/h.

A 2006 red Dodge Magnum SRT8 wagon that has the potential to become a modern classic car

A 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT8.


The Secret Identity: 2006-2008 Dodge Magnum SRT8

On the other side of the showroom sat a much weirder take on the exact same big V8 formula, and one that had actually appeared a few years before the Challenger unveiled. The Dodge Magnum SRT8 packaged the same 6.1-liter V8 in wagon body style, making it the fastest family roof ever to leave Detroit (later eclipsed by the Cadillac CTS-V wagon). Just a tick or two slower off the line due to the weight of its extra steel and glass, the Magnum SRT8 was a ferocious street machine that had few direct competitors in its day.

why do you want it

This time it’s not a price difference that drives the desirability of the Magnum SRT8 over the Challenger SRT8, as the former is neck-and-neck with the latter when comparing well-maintained examples, which are usually found in the range of $35,000 to $40,000.

Why is this the case? Simply put, the Magnum SRT8 is the rarest of Dodge’s special high-performance models, with 4,182 units sold over its lifetime. That’s a third less than the Challenger SRT8’s first model year alone. High-powered wagons are some of the most intriguing segments of automotive Americana around, and the Magnum SRT8 still draws attention to this day with its combination of scarcity and ability to shred tires.

A 1988 Ford Mustang LX with a woman in the background.  The 5.0 Mustang is now considered a modern classic car.

A 1988 Ford Mustang LX.


The Superhero: 1987-1993 Ford Mustang LX/GT

The Ford Mustang received a facelift in 1987 that went well with its 5.0-litre fuel-injected V8 released the year before. This is the beginning of the famous 5.0 Fox body cars that dominated the world of cheap muscle until the early 1990s thanks to their combination of a simple pushrod engine, a drag-friendly solid rear axle and overall lightweight construction (which had been aided and assisted ​​by the LX coupes that appeared alongside the GT hatchbacks in ’87). With power hovering around 225 horsepower and 280 lb-ft, the second half of the Fox Body Mustang’s nearly 15-year reign was the most memorable.

A 1984 Lincoln Continental Mark VII, before the V8 was introduced

A 1984 Continental Mark VII, before Lincoln came into the name and the V8 came into the car.


The Secret Identity: 1987-1992 Lincoln Mark VII LSC

The Lincoln Mark VII represented a slightly larger and decidedly more comfortable take on the Mustang’s Fox platform. In 1987, the Mark VII LSC trim followed GT/LX cars into the future by snagging the same “high output” 5.0 V8. Although the Mark VII was limited to a four-speed automatic transmission (as opposed to the five-speed manual transmission available with the Mustang), it was a strong rival to much more expensive import coupes such as the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class, each with similar levels of power and handling (albeit backed by more stylish cabs).

why do you want it

Let’s get this out of the way: everyone has a Mustang. One of the most popular classic muscle cars in the world, it’s really hard to stand out while driving a Fox body unless you absolutely go wild on customization or modernization.

However, the Lincoln largely toils into obscurity (and affordability), making it the perfect sleeping platform for anyone craving ’80s V8 power in a comfortable rear-wheel drive package. Because it shares the Fox platform, the Mark VII has access to much of the Mustang’s aftermarket, and certainly all of its available engine mods. With this large coupe, you dare to be different without the hassle of locating rare parts (or paying prices for rare parts).

A yellow Mercedes-Benz SLK 32 AMG in a driveway.  It is considered a modern classic car, but shares a platform with something more interesting.

A Mercedes-Benz SLK 32 AMG.

Steve1911/CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The superhero: 2002-2004 Mercedes-Benz SLK 32 AMG

The first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class culminated with the SLK 32 AMG, a high-performance version of the small roadster intended to compete with the BMW Z3 M and the Porsche Boxster S. A balance between speed and luxury, the SLK 32 AMG had a supercharged 3.2-liter V6 that put out a staggering 349 horsepower, making it the most muscular offering in its ilk. The roadster was electronically limited to 255 miles per hour and came exclusively with a five-speed automatic transmission.

A 2005 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 driving down the road

A 2005 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6.


The Secret Identity: 2005-2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6

Things got weird for Chrysler in the mid-2000s when the cross-pollination between the automaker and its parent company Daimler began to bear unusual fruit. A perfect example was the Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6, the Hulked-up edition of the standard Crossfire coupe/convertible that was in every way an SLK 32 AMG in disguise. Holding its cousin’s platform and powertrain across the ocean, the SRT-6 delivered a slightly more modest 330 horsepower, swapping its AMG valve covers for SRT-branded clothing.

why do you want it

The SLK 32 AMG may have the snobbish appeal of a Silver Star on the hood, but remarkably, the price difference between the Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler has remained remarkably tight. It is possible to pick up a good presenting copy of both cars for between $16,000 and $24,000.

With only 4,000 versions of each built in total, there are two main reasons for choosing the SRT-6 over the AMG. Chrysler’s pocket rocket was available in coupe form, which is a bonus for the large number of customers who don’t want to deal with the hassle of the convertible-only SLK 32.

Then there’s the fact that of all the culture exchange that took place between Detroit and Stuttgart, the Crossfire is by far the most thinly veiled result, a vehicle that owes almost its entire existence to the R170 platform Mercedes-Benz it relies on. for everything except the interior and sheet metal. Chrysler never came close to ever building anything like the Crossfire again, which is probably largely due to the fact that he never built it in the first place – the entire assembly was outsourced to Germany’s Karmann.

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