Budget sports cars through the ages

From the Pontiac Fiero to the poor-man's Porsche: Automakers have always tried to bring affordable fun to the masses.

Starting on a dime
Starting on a dime
The hearts of auto enthusiasts everywhere beat a little faster recently with the introduction of two new sports cars: the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S (above). The two autos are essentially identical because they were developed jointly by the two companies. The all-new, rear-drive chassis is from Subaru, as is the engine; Toyota did the design and extra bits for the motor. As they used to say in the old Doublemint chewing gum commercials: Double your pleasure, double your fun.

The appearance of the two is notable: Affordable sports cars have been in short supply in recent years. The target market of young men isn't exactly flush with cash, insurance costs weigh heavily, and sports cars have a short shelf life. As much about fashion as they are about driving, they tend to wilt in showrooms after 18 months. Even the durable Mazda MX-5 Miata, starting its 23rd year on the market, has become a specialty item -- 2011 sales totaled 5,672 cars.

Herewith, some reasons to lament the eclipse of the affordable sports car and to applaud its renaissance in 2012.

By Alex Taylor III, senior editor-at-large @FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 31 2012: 6:16 AM ET
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New car bonanza for the new year

Attention new car shoppers! An avalanche of models that have been reengineered and redesigned is headed your way in what may be the most intense period of new model launches ever.

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