2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1
If your mind is dancing with images of a classic 1969 fastback—stop. This is not that sports car. But this generation of pony did deliver brilliant acceleration back in the early 2000s (0 to 60 mph in a scant 5.3 seconds). It also offered good grip when cornering hard, but the ride and handling were anything but sophisticated. How does it compare with the GT, which you can get for a couple grand less? The Mach 1's V-8 produces about 40 more ponies, it's about a half-inch lower and is equipped with a sportier suspension; and don't forget that slick-looking shaker hood.
2000 Corvette Hardtop Coupe
Offering the speed and power of a much more expensive sports car has always been the Corvette's signature. The C5 (1997 to 2004) was no exception—so if you can't afford the sizzling new Corvette Stingray, look into one of these fixed-roof hardtops. Because it was only offered for two years (1999 and 2000), the nontarga Vette offers a small piece of exclusivity in a popular car model. While no match for the 385-hp Z06 (which became the only fixed-roof model in 2001), the regular Corvette's LS1 V-8 engine cranked out 345 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Besides being instantly responsive to the driver hitting the gas pedal, the engine was also capable of sprinting the car from 0 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds.
2000 BMW Z3, 2.8 Roadster
After a long hiatus, BMW got back into the roadster business when it introduced the Z3 in 1996. The affordably priced, four-cylinder roadster conjured up memories of well-heeled socialites zipping around in their early BMW 328 roadsters or 507s. A completely modern two-seater, the Z3 offered superb road manners, cast a sexy shadow, and came well-equipped from the factory. While its predecessor was a bit underpowered, the 2000 remodel was a peppier machine, thanks to a more powerful 2.8-liter engine. And though it still had an unfortunately long nose, its rump was hippier, giving the car a more aggressive, but balanced, look. Both changes were welcome, upping the car's fun factor and appeal considerably. A leather interior with power-adjustable seats was standard, as were antilock brakes, traction control, and an antiskid system.