Car enthusiasts often pay big money for machinery motivated by big engines making big horsepower—but even little four-pots can command top dollar sometimes
1955 Mercedes 190SL
2017 Jaguar F-Type
1911 Fiat “Beast of Turin”
2016 Porsche 718 Boxster
1957 Lotus Elite
2017 Alfa Romeo 4C
1955 Porsche 550 Spyder
1929 Birkin Blower Bentley
2017 Mercedes-Benz E300
1954 Ferrari 750 Monza
up to $229,000
Originally offered as a budget alternative to the 300SL, the 190 was a two-door luxury roadster built on a monocoque chassis, as opposed to the tubular space frame of its more expensive sibling. The 1.9-litre L4 was based on the 300SL’s straight-six architecture, sharing the same bore and stroke and producing 120 horsepower. Initially priced at $3,998 USD new (about $36,500 today) prices for these beauties have shot up to the $129,000 to $229,000 range, making the originally affordable luxury car a dream car for some.
The new Jaguar F-Type four-cylinder is raising some eyebrows: 296 horsepower is nothing to sneeze at, but does that justify the almost $68,000 CDN price tag? Well, yes. Acceleration to 100 km/h is the same as in the V6 option, at 5.7 seconds, making this car properly fast. So don’t balk at the price of the F-Type; when you consider other fast and fuel-efficent four-cylinder options, new and old, the Jaguar F-Type might be the best deal of the year.
The Fiat S76, better known as “The Beast of Turin,” is a car built by Fiat in 1911 to beat the land speed record previously held by the Blitzen Benz. Its 28,353-cc (that’s not a typo—it’s 28 litres) four-cylinder engine produces 290 metric horsepower, all of it sent down to the track through a chain-driven axle to push it to up to 134 miles per hour. This in a car without front brakes. Madness. Two cars were built, but only one exists today, making this car absolutely priceless.
A replacement for the 550 Spyder, the original Porsche 718 RSK was built for racing; this new four-cylinder Boxster pays homage to that track car by borrowing its name. In 1957, Porsche’s four-banger would have given you 142 horsepower, but today you get a massive 300 horsepower from the Stuttgart 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, and a top speed of 275 km/h. German precision will cost you $65,100 CDN, though.
up to $170,000
If you wanted to go fast in the 1950s, you either needed a giant engine or a light chassis, and there was nobody more obsessed with speed or lightweight cars than Lotus. The Lotus Elite was the first car made by the company intended for road use; before its release, Lotus was known as a race car and kit car manufacturer. Just 1200 cc (1.2 litres) and 75 horsepower may not seem like a lot, but the Elite was ahead of its time; featuring a magnificent three-piece monocoque shell made from fibreglass and steel frame members, it only weighed 1,100 pounds. These cars now fetch between $120,000 and $170,000 USD.
With a carbon-fibre tub, and a curb weight of only 1,050 kg, this tiny sports car’s 237-horsepower 1.75-litre turbocharged four-cylinder can propel it to 100 km/h in a mere 4.1 seconds, and on to a top speed of 258 km/h. Yes, all this Italian speed could be yours for just $61,995 CDN. A small trunk means getting your groceries home would take 12 trips, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing with a sporty car like this.
up to $3.6 million
One of the most replicated cars in history, the Porsche 550 Spyder was purpose-built for racing, with a 110-hp 1,498-cc quad-cam four-cylinder. Some 90 prototypes of the model were built, but for such a low production, they were almost always in podium position on the track. James Dean’s “Little Bastard” Porsche was one of the original prototype race cars, number 55 of the 90 built; Dean traded in his 356 at the dealer for it. Recently, a 550 sold at auction for a cool $3,685,000 USD.
up to $8.78 million CDN
Yes, these were four-cylinders, built for the 1930 24 Hours of Le Mans. The supercharged 4.5-litre engine produced 242 bhp in racing form, up from the 130 bhp of the standard Bentley powerplant. Although W. O. Bentley never officially built a supercharged model, stating it would “pervert the design and corrupt the performance,” the cars were very competitive, winning the Irish Grand Prix with an average speed of 142.9 km/h (88.8 mph). This car was recently sold at auction for 5,042,000 GBP (about $8.78 million CDN) making it the most expensive British-built car sold.
Mercedes has, in recent years, started to garner a reputation as the “German Muscle Car.” With big, screaming V8s, crazy fins and spoilers, and mind-blowing Nurburgring times, you’d think they’d forgotten about sensible luxury, but the E300 is proof they haven’t (and that you can have a luxury car that also gets good mileage). You can expect 10.7/7.8 L/100 km (22/30 MPG) city/highway from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, delivered while you sit in a super-comfortable, power-everything cockpit. Your wallet will also be a lot more comfortable, having been relieved of some $61,200 Canuck Bucks.
up to $5.22 million
While the Columbo-V12-powered Ferraris of the ’50s and ’60s gained the most attention and notoriety, they were complicated and often broke down. The Lampredi-designed four-cylinder engine was implemented for the smaller open-top Ferraris, and was known for its reliability, even if the V12-powered cars would set the fastest times. The capacity for the L4 was the same as the V12: 3.0 litres, and it produced 250 hp, only 50 down from the rev-happy 300-hp Columbo. One of these cars recently sold at auction for $5,225,000 USD.