The Jaguar XJR featured here previously proved a star buy for the vast majority of you, combining muscular straight-six power and refinement with an affordable price tag.

In fact the Jaguar proved so appealing that it sold promptly after the article went live, removing that all-too-tempting chance to own a subtle super-saloon.

Hesitating to pick up the phone and dial suggests that the 155mph XJR wasn't quite super enough for you, however. Perhaps you're looking for something that's more of a weekend toy. A car with some presence and the performance to match, without necessarily entailing the crippling bills associated with similarly performing exotica.

If there's one car that's always offered up looks and power combined with reliability and affordable running costs, it's the Chevrolet Corvette. Early versions can set you back a significant amount though, and more affordable emissions-constricted later variants of the C3 generation are a little lacking in the speed department. So much so, in fact, that a standard '81 C3 would be beaten by over a second in the 0-60mph sprint by a Ford Fiesta ST.

Things started to head back in the right direction with the C4 Corvette, however. Chevrolet launched the C4 in 1984 and many praised it for its modern design and technology. Its 16-valve, cam-in-block 5.7-litre V8 still had its design roots in the 1950s, mind, and America's only sports car looked soon to be outgunned by its European and Japanese rivals.

The threats to the Corvette were obvious though, and a plan to design and build an advanced new engine to help defeat its rivals was put into motion almost immediately.

With help from Lotus, General Motors developed what became the 'LT5' engine. It was an all-aluminium quad-cam 32-valve 5.7-litre V8, built by Mercury Marine, that developed an impressive 375bhp at 6000rpm and 370lb ft at 4800rpm.

In 1990 the ZR-1 went on sale to the public and - outside of Callaway's efforts - became the pinnacle of the Corvette range. Prototype versions had earned the nickname 'King of the Hill', and it was a moniker that stuck. Here was a 1572kg coupé that could sprint from 0-62mph in 4.5sec and exceed 180mph.

What was most impressive about the ZR-1 was its durability. In March 1990 a ZR-1 set several records, including a new world record for the 5000-mile endurance challenge. It covered the distance in 28 hours and 46 minutes at an average 173.791mph, breaking the long-standing 156.824mph average set by the Mercedes-Benz C111 in 1976.

Besides its dramatically different engine, the ZR-1 also benefitted from a range of other upgrades including better brakes, retuned adjustable active ride control modes, a wider tail and 11-inch rear wheels - compared to the standard C4's 9.5-inch items.