If you're in the market for a shapely sports coupe, six figures opens a lot of doors. $150k not only buys the best sports cars Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler offer, but also allows a number of talented outsiders -- Hennessey, Roush, Callaway, among many -- to further push the performance envelope.
The problem? Each of these cars -- even when personalized to the nth degree by an outside shop -- is fairly commonplace. If you're looking for a hand-crafted, muscle-bound two-door that's a little more bespoke, you may want to give the folks at Passion Motors a call -- their Contessa Touring may be right up your alley.
Born from Snakes, Bred by Firebirds
If you're a hard-core Pontiac fan or spent some good time in race paddocks thirty years ago, there's a good chance you know the name Herb Adams. Although the mechanical engineer made a name for himself convincing Pontiac to stuff 455-cubic-inch engines into Firebirds, tuning a '64 GTO into a killer race machine, and drastically improving the handling abilities of third-generation F-bodies, Herb set about building himself his dream coupe for his new firm, Passion Motors.
Admittedly, he had some help (and inspiration) from son Matt, who spurred Herb's VSE Company to begin building replicas of the Shelby Cobra back in 1995. It's not too surprising that the Contessa looks a little like Peter Brock's famed Cobra Daytona Coupe, but under the skin, it's an entirely different beast.
This Coupe Has Backbone
VSE's Cobra designs were unique in that they abandoned the original tube-frame chassis design in favor of a modern backbone chassis, which increased rigidity and improved handling. Accordingly, the Contessa uses an evolution of this design, fabricated entirely from stainless steel. Adams has added a full roll cage to the Contessa's chassis, but even without, computer analysis suggests the frame is far stiffer than that used on the current Chevrolet Corvette.