Buying a road-legal car for £500 that can do a true 150mph is no mean feat.
The advent of the scrappage scheme caused prime candidates such as the BMW 7-series and Vauxhall Omega to be killed off in droves. The subsequent surge in used car values, particularly for those in good condition, has further exacerbated the issue.
All hope is not lost, however, and there are still numerous cars out there that are capable of achieving, or exceeding, the 150mph mark without emptying your bank account.
Here are some high-speed options to suit a wide range of budgets.
Lexus LS400 (1990-2000) - £1000
The impressively refined Lexus LS400 is one of the most relaxing and affordable ways to reach 150mph, partly thanks to its superb '1UZ-FE' V8 engine. Models built from 1995 onwards feature upwards of 260bhp and are capable of reaching 155mph.
Lexus' LS400 is also an incredibly comfortable and cosseting car to drive. Pick up a good example and, at idle, you’ll be hard pushed to tell if the engine is running.
So, if the idea of an executive express takes your fancy, expect to pay about £1000 for a clean 1996 example with 100,000 miles on the clock. Reliability is a strong point, too, with many of them covering more than 150,000 miles without fuss.
The only catch with opting for an LS400 is that its cams are driven by a belt rather than a chain. If there’s no evidence that a new belt has ever been fitted, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a hefty bill or a catastrophic failure.
Fiat Coupé (1995-2000) - £2000
Few things are as enjoyable as the offbeat warble of a five-cylinder engine. Throw in a hefty dollop of boost and you’ll have something that’s guaranteed to turn the head of any rally fan.
The Fiat Coupé 20v Turbo may not have had the aggressive looks of an Audi Quattro, or its surplus of traction, but it certainly had the soundtrack thanks to its 220bhp 2.0-litre, five-cylinder engine.
It wasn't lacking pace, either. Fiat claimed a top speed of 155mph and a 0-60mph time as low as 6.3sec. The Coupé was also stylish, fun to drive, tuneable and – yes – reliable, if cared for.
With some searching, you should be able to net a clean, well documented Coupé with under 100,000 miles on the clock for £2000. Besides the usual checks, including the all-important cambelt, also ensure that the car comes with a red ‘master’ key. Replacing it could cost upwards of £1000.
Renault Alpine GTA (1986-1990) - £5000
Rear-engined, turbocharged, composite bodywork, a manual gearbox and six cylinders. These are all things to make most enthusiasts sit bolt upright and reach for the chequebook. But despite having all these boxes ticked, the Renault Alpine GTA V6 Turbo is often overlooked.
It may not have been a paragon of reliability, but cramming almost 10psi of boost into the throat of its 2.5-litre V6 helped to deliver 197bhp and 210lb ft. This, combined with a kerb weight of less than 1200kg and a drag coefficient of 0.30, meant GTAs could clock 0-60mph in about 6.0sec and top 150mph.
They’re attention-grabbing cars, too, as well as being rewarding to drive and comfortable. There aren’t many around, but it’s possible to find one for £5000. Buy on condition, not mileage.
BMW 5-series saloon (2003-2010) - £10,000
Diesel engines have come a long way since their inception. The 3.0-litre unit found in 530d variants of the BMW 5-series was a good example of what compression-ignition engines were really capable of.
Besides being able to average 44mpg and put out 231bhp and 369lb ft, it was capable of propelling the 5-series to 155mph. Yes, BMW did offer a more potent 535d, but it wasn’t offered with a manual gearbox – and when you’re off the highways, a manual will allow you to have a little more fun with the composed rear-drive chassis.
For £10,000, you’ll be able to buy one of the more desirable post-facelift cars, launched in 2007, and it’ll have 70,000 to 100,000 miles on the odometer.
Keep a couple of grand in reserve, though, or opt for an aftermarket warranty, as the complex diesel engine can generate some eye-wateringly expensive repair bills.
Corvette C4 (1990-1995) - £20,000
There are many ways to exceed 150mph when you’ve upped your budget this far. The Corvette C4 ZR-1, launched in 1990, is one of the few that would allow you to do so for hour after hour, day after day.
Its quad-cam 5.7-litre ‘LT5’ V8, which was engineered by Lotus and built by the MerCruiser division of Mercury Marine, initially produced about 375bhp and 370lb ft. With sleek aerodynamics, a capable chassis and a six-speed ZF gearbox, the ZR-1 could sprint to 60mph in well under 4.9sec and exceed 170mph. Later versions were even faster.
The ZR-1 has also proved incredibly durable. On 1 March 1990, for example, a ZR-1 covered a record-breaking 5000 miles at a staggering average of 173.791mph.
Got continents to cross and don’t want to fly? Look no further. A £20,000 ZR-1 should be immaculate, totally standard and have less than 30,000 miles on the clock.
To find out what happened when we bought a £500 Jaguar and took it to Bruntingthorpe to see how fast it would go, click here.