Insanely Expensive Versions of Cheap Cars

1998 subaru impreza 22b sti

Used car prices are pretty insane right now, but none of them can hold a candle to the cars on this list, all of which were ordinary commuter cars and taken to the next level by their makers. For instance, say, a boring German sedan from the ’80s that gets turned into a DTM legend, and the price goes to the moon.

Today, we’ve put together a little list of expensive versions of cheap cars. Hope you have some pennies saved.

Subaru Impreza 22B STI ($312,000)

subaru impreza 22b sti

The first car on our list comes from more than humble beginnings but has plenty of motorsport history behind it to make it a legend. Anyone who loves WRC will be able to recognize this one, especially with its bright blue paint and gold wheels. The Subaru Impreza is every winter lover’s wet dream. It’s practical, has kick-ass all-wheel drive standard, and is reliable enough to last through as many winters as you can throw at it. Just make sure you watch those head gaskets.

The Impreza that makes our list, though, comes straight from WRC and started a relationship with a man named Colin McRae. It’s called the 22B. The 22B STI was built to celebrate Subaru’s 40th anniversary as well as its third consecutive World Rally Championship. Each of the 400 22B’s built are painted “World Rally Blue” and have 17-inch BBS gold-painted wheels. Other special features include unique body sculpting, pro suspension, and more power. Did we mention gold wheels? This little Subaru has everything a rally-lover needs, but no one can afford it.

Recently, one example with just around 25,000 miles on the clock sold for a measly $312,000 dollars, which is only about, oh, $300,000 more than the standard one.

Our next car is an American legend. It’s not a Mustang or a Camaro, but something from a little after the muscle car era that was struggling to fight against rising gas prices. It put up a good fight and now that fighting spirit is worth a pretty penny.

Buick Grand National GNX ($205,000)

buick grand national gnx

Buick isn’t exactly a “cool” brand or, at least, they aren’t anymore. Back in the day, Buick had a little more street cred than it does now. The Grand National is one reason why people love old Buicks. The GNX is the specific model that has been selling for insane money now and it’s hard to see why it wouldn’t.

The Grand National Experimental, shortened to GNX, was built with help from McLaren Performance Technologies to add some much-needed oomph to the Grand National base model. The 3.8-liter V6 was equipped with a Garret T3 turbocharger, larger intercooler, and a low-restriction exhaust to produce nearly 300 horsepower when new. This gave the GNX a quarter-mile time of 12.7 seconds at 113.1 miles per hour. This is a seriously special and seriously fast Buick. 

One of the 547 examples, which has only 8,000 miles on it, was sold on Bring a Trailer for $205,000! Compare that to standard Grand Nationals, which normally go for about $50,000. That’s still expensive for an old GM product, but that “X” really takes them to the moon.

The Buick is an American muscle car that helped extend the muscle car era a little further into the history books. Now, we’ll be looking at a car that helped one company propel its performance lineage into the future. This is a homologation special that has the history to back its insane asking prices.

BMW E30 M3 ($250,000)

bmw e30 m3

We all love the 3 Series. It’s a do-it-all sedan from the BMW brand that has a model for everyone’s needs and wants. You want a great commuter car that has a little sportiness to it? The base 3 Series is more than enough. Want something a little sportier? Then check out the M3! In fact, if you love the M3 as much as we do, check out our video where we walk through the entire history of the Bavarian legend. 

The original M3 may have set the standard for the M Series cars, but it was very different from the cars that derived from it. The E30 M3 was equipped with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder and was originally only built as a homologation special so BMW could compete against Mercedes in the Touring Car Championships.

This motorsport history and importance to the brand means that the E30 M3 asks a lot on the used market.The regular E30 3 Series cars can be found for less than $10,000 if you’re lucky, but the M3 variants are just a tinnie bit more expensive. One example with 8,000 miles went for $250,000 on Bring a Trailer. Again, we’re looking at a car that normally can be found for cheap being sold for tens of times more just because of a simple trim change. Funny how that works.

We’ve looked at the M3, but now let’s introduce the car it competed against in the Touring Car Championships all those years ago.

Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo II ($251,000)

mercedes 190e evo ii

Mercedes-Benz is very well known for its luxurious sedans and SUVs, but they also have had a huge impact on motorsport. In fact, in the ’80s and ’90s, they were the manufacturer to beat because of the 190E Evo II. It’s based on the regular 190E sedan and tuned specifically to compete in the Touring Car Championships.

The EVO came with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder tuned by Cosworth making 232 horsepower. This engine was mated to a “dog-leg” five-speed manual transmission. That means that first gear is to the left and down, which lines up second and third. That alone is probably the biggest workout during every race. This may take some time to get used to but can really be the difference when seconds count.

There were only 502 models of the Evo II made, making it a fairly rare model to find. That with the added lineage in motorsport means that, like all of the other cars on this list, they aren’t cheap. An example with 95,000 miles sold for around $251,000 on Bring a Trailer recently. That’s a lot of money for a car from the ’90s with nearly 100,000 miles, but look at what you get! This is arguably one of the coolest Mercedes ever made.

So, we’ve looked at some seriously cool cars on this list so far. But, like all groups in life, there has to be that one guy. We all know who they are: the weird one.

Aston Martin Cygnet ($55,000)

aston martin cygnet

Back in the early 2010s, Aston Martin was in a bit of a pickle. They had to lower their carbon output while maintaining their reputation as the one car company making V8 and V12 grand tourers. So, what did they do? They took a Toyota iQ and rebadged it with Aston Martin badges! Wait, that isn’t what you were going to guess? It’s called the Cygnet, and it was the Hail Mary for Aston to help keep them on the environmentalists’ good side.

The Cygnet isn’t expensive on its own, only costing about $55,000, but compared to the iQ that spawned it, it’s an arm and a leg more. The iQ costs only $15,000 new. That means you’re paying an extra $40,000 for fancier seats and an Aston Martin badge. At least Aston also throws in some fancy Aston Martin badged pillows in the back seats.

Honestly, if you want a car with an Aston Martin badge on it for around $40,000, then go and buy a used Vantage. You don’t need to watch any of the Ideal Car Strategies videos to figure that one out, but you should if you plan on buying the car of your dreams and possibly making money with it.  

Okay, so no one likes it when luxury brands rebrand something crappy to save face. Thankfully, we have one of the best front-wheel drive cars ever made from one of the most humble car companies to save the day.

Honda Integra Type R ($82,000)

honda integra type r

The Type R moniker didn’t start with the Integra, but it was one of the first models that regular car enthusiasts could afford. The NSX was the supercar for dream garages while the Integra was the poor man’s daily hero. The Type R was introduced to the USA in 1997 as a track-focused car with 195 horsepower and an insane B-series engine that revved all the way to 8,400 RPM!

This car was a screamer of a small commuter hatchback from the ’90s. And you can thank this car for jump-starting the tuner boom in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Used models with low mileage have been selling for insane numbers. Other Integra models like the LS and GSR can be found for less than $10,000 all day on the used market. But the Type R? One was sold for $82,000 on Bring a Trailer. That’s not nearly as much as some of the other legendary cars on this list, but that’s still a lot for a car that shares the same chassis as daily beater cars on Craigslist.

So, the Type R is one of the best front-wheel drive cars ever made, but what if you live in a region of the world that actually gets snow, but don’t like the blue and gold? We may have the perfect car for you, a different legendary all-wheel drive, rally-derived legend.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo ($138,000)

mitsubishi lancer evo

The Lancer was Mitusbishi’s flagship econobox. It was boring, plastic, and was purpose-built to get you to your job without breaking down and needing a ton of maintenance. It was inoffensive and totally forgettable and it remained like that until Subaru started to take some names on the rally stage. That’s when Mitsubishi decided their little economy car needed some much-needed spice.

They completely overhauled their economy car and added better suspension, threw in the legendary 4G63 Turbo, and created a supercar slayer. There have been many changes throughout the development of the Evo model. But, after 10 generations, the Evo finally met its end.

There’s just so much history in the Evo name that the residual value has built up to insane numbers. In 2017, one Evo 9 sold for more than $130,000 at auction! That’s way more than what the Lancer would ever fetch on the used market. And don’t think you’re in the clear with any other Evo model. All other classic models will cost around the same. You might save some money going for an Evo 10, but they don’t hold the same cool factor as the classic ones.

So, if you have the spare change and need the active all-wheel drive and other rally-inspired upgrades, then start looking for one of the many Evo models on the used market. Let the Subaru hunt begin! Okay, so we’ve explored several different cars on this list, but we’re going to finish off on a well-respected classic.

Honda Civic Type R Mugen RR ($130,000)

honda civic type r mugen rr

So we’re at the end and it’s Honda to the bitter end. Well, not the bitter end, because this last car is pretty damn sweet. The Civic, being the legend it is, has its fair share of special editions and performance-orientated variants. The Type R is the king of these models. One of the Type R special editions in particular sold for some serious coin at auction.

The Civic Type R Mugen RR (just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) is a special edition of the Type R. The Type R in question is finished in exclusive Milano Red paint, has special Recaro SP-X racing seats, and has had its weight reduced with special carbon-fiber parts. The 2.0-liter engine has also been uptuned to 237 horsepower, making the already-hot-hatch just a little bit hotter.

This particular example was kept garage-fresh and sold for $130,000! That’s some serious coin for a front-wheel drive car, but we think having a piece of cool hatchback history is worth the price.

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