Creative Control: Saleen S7 vs Morgan Aero 8 vs Noble M400 vs Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Listen, it's all right to think about driving an exotic sports car. We've finally put behind us all those images of the characters on Miami Vice--the culture cowboys, drug dealers, and pro athletes driving around in trashy symbols of conspicuous consumption. The exotic car is once again a symbol of success, not privilege. It's a way to satisfy your thirst for the deepest drink of automotive enthusiasm.

And it turns out that the exotic-car market is booming. Lamborghini president Stephan Winkelmann tells us, "There are more and more people who can afford exotic cars, not just in the United States and Europe, but all across the world."

So it's only natural that on Saturday mornings in Orange County, California, one of those places on the planet that is so affluent that exotic cars are a common sight, lots of guys lace up a pair of Piloti driving shoes and go to "cars and coffee," an informal, early-morning pageant of impressive sports cars--fast cars and historic cars. This is the promised land of exotic motoring.

Yet, as you walk among the sea of red Ferraris, you can't help but want something a little more distinctive for yourself. And if you're going to dream, why not dream about something truly rare, the kind of garage art that would make even this knowledgeable crowd sit up and take notice? The question is, can you really drive garage art on the street? Is a true exotic just too extreme for real life?

You couldn't find a more diverse assembly of garage art than the four exotics we have gathered here. Few cars look the part as well as the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. Stripping away this car's roof actually improves its appearance, as sullen geometry gives way to wild extravagance. At the other end of the spectrum lies the Noble M400, a brutal, pieced-together bit of track-day kit, a thinly disguised racing car.

No two examples of garage art could be further apart in spirit than the Morgan Aero 8 and the Saleen S7 Twin Turbo. The Aero 8 looks as if its classically English shape has been partly melted by a hyperspeed hair dryer, which in a way it has, since this car is derived from the streamlined Morgan Aero that competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2002 and 2004. The Saleen S7, on the other hand, is a racing car without any kind of disguise: it looks made, not styled. Like so many things American, it's direct and functional, but it's been jazzed up with lots of louvers (there are ninety-two openings in the bodywork) and a paint job of spectacular quality.

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