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Choosing your first starter/project car can be daunting. Folks looking for an affordable, nimble, and reliable sports car have probably heard that Miata stands for “Mazda is Always the Answer.” But what if you want something quirky, unique, and even collectible? Here are four potential sports car projects you’ve never heard of. Roll up to your local Cars & Coffee in one of these, and you’re guaranteed to draw a crowd of admirers.

  • 1991-1996 Subaru SVX
  • 1984-1991 Honda CRX
  • 1992-1994 Autozam AZ-1
  • 2008-2013 Volvo C30 T5

1991-1996 Subaru SVX

A black subaru SVX coupe is parked in a used sports car dealership showroom.
1992 Subaru SVX | Cars & Bids

The 1991-1996 SVX was Subaru’s first stab at a luxury/performance coupe. The result was an affordable front-engine AWD sports car. So you could call it a BRZ predecessor. But its quirky styling was defined by its aircraft-inspired design. For example, its side glass had a “window within a window” design very much inspired by aviation. Note that every Subaru SVX had a 3.3-liter boxer-style 4-cylinder and a four-speed automatic transmission.

At the time of this writing, I see that Subaru SVXs in good shape have sold on eBay for less than $5k. This exceptional example sold on Cars & Bids for $8,200 in 2021. This piece of automotive history may eventually be desirable among certain Radwood-era collectors, so grab one while you can.

1984-1991 Honda CRX

A red Honda Civic CRX coupe parked under a bridge, a city skyline visible in the background.
1987 Honda Civic CRX DX | Cars & Bids

The Honda Civic CRX was a liftback coupe that was nimble, reliable, and fuel-efficient. Over two generations, Honda offered the CRX with increasingly powerful I4 engines. Base models of the affordable sports car came with a four-speed automatic, while upper trims had a five-speed manual. In 1992, Honda replaced the CRX coupe with the Targa roofed CRX del Sol–also an excellent vehicle but a bit too mainstream for this list.

The Honda Civic CRX is one of the more common vehicles on this list. Honda built a range of trims over nearly a decade, and thus there are a range of prices. Running project cars have sold on eBay for as little as $4k, but the average looks to be $7,500-$8,000. The 1987 model pictured above was a 102k-mile automatic that went for $3,555 on Cars & Bids in 2020.

1992-1994 Autozam AZ-1

This 1992 Autozam AZ-1 gullwing coupe is a very affordable used sports car that was built by Mazda/Suzuki.
1992 Autozam AZ-1 | Cars & Bids

The Autozam is one of the most unique cars around. From 1992 through 19994, Mazda assembled this mid-engine, gullwing coupe with a Suzuki I3 and sold it under its now-defunct “Autozam” brand. Every one of these mini supercars had a five-speed manual transmission. Suzuki sold a few hundred badged as the Suzuki Cara. Not only is this one of the most unique little JDM cars ever made, but with less than 5,000 combined Caras and AZ-1s sold, it should appreciate quickly.

Some more desirable Autozam AZ-1s in excellent condition sell as collector cars (for up to $30k), while others are still bought and sold by affordable sports car enthusiasts for $16k or less. The 1992 Autozam AZ-1 pictured, with 109k miles and its eye-catching Gulf Racing wrap, went for $13,500 on Cars & Bids in 2021.

2008-2013 Volvo C30 T5

The rear of a black Volvo C30 T5 hot hatch sports car parked in a lot, trees visible in the background.
2011 Volvo C30 T5 | Cars & Bids

This was a Volvo-built hot hatch with a turbocharged five-cylinder engine out of the Ford Focus ST and a manual transmission. One of the most recent cars on this list, the Volvo C30 T5 is less a project car and more of an often overlooked affordable “starter” sports car. But it is a vehicle that almost any enthusiast will get a kick from seeing parked at your local cars and coffee.

Several C30 T5s have recently failed to sell on eBay, some listed as low as $7,500. The 2011 Volvo C30 T5 pictured above sold on Cars & Bids for just $10,300, though other examples fetched $16k+ on the same site.

Next, read 4 ways to stay safe buying a vehicle from a private seller or see more excellent cheap sports cars in the video below: