Before we begin this countdown of utterly affordable and highly entertaining sports cars, a disclaimer.
> We are not suggesting readers go out, spend £5,000 on a shiny new set of wheels and attempt to reach 150mph on public roads.
Quite the contrary, as we feel that these machines are produced with enthusiasts in mind, not hooligans. Those who want to tackle a track day, those brave enough to venture onto Germany's infamous Nurburgring or those who simply want to be safe in the knowledge that their vehicle could tickle the top of the speedo should an open Autobahn present itself.
So with the slightly dreary disclaimer out of the way, we'd like to present the AOL Cars top five speed machines that won't cost any more than £5,000...
It's one of the most widely appreciated performance cars on the market and E46 models (2001-2006) with the excellent naturally aspirated 3.2-litre 338bhp engine can be yours for under the £5k mark. Expect impeccable handling, blistering pace and the sort of rear-wheel-drive performance that will bring the track day monster out of even the most timid drivers. As an added bonus, you also get rear seats to transport the kids to school.
It's difficult to believe that as little as £3,000 can buy a 4.0-litre V8, let alone a 4.0-litre V8 that sits beneath the elongated bonnet of a Jaguar. £5k doesn't quite stretch to the fearsome supercharged XKR but it will bag a tidy naturally aspirated eight-cylinder engine and it does stretch to the convertible. The XK8 still looks fantastic and although it will guzzle fuel, it will provide plenty of speedy smiles.
Look out for: Go for the newest example money can buy as engine reliability issues were generally ironed out by 2003.
The Japanese marque successfully created a little slice of automotive genius with the Nissan 350Z. It could have simply been another boring Audi TT rival but instead it was bestowed with a 3.5-litre V6 engine that produces 276bhp and proper rear-wheel-drive lairiness. The Nissan badge also represents great reliability, so you don't have to worry about the engine going pop at the coveted 150mph mark.
Look out for: Nissan engines are generally hardwearing and due to the widespread availability of parts and labour, servicing and repairs won't cost the earth should something go awry.
Living with the, ahem, boy racer image of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will likely be one of the hardest things about investing in the rallying legend. The sensible buyer would look for a completely untouched Evo VI, with its perfectly reasonable 276bhp, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine but £5k will easily purchase something more potent. The tuning scene has ensured some models produce in excess of 350bhp, which is driven to all four wheels so what could possibly go wrong?
Look out for: Plenty of amateur mechanics have had their wicked way with the Evo's easily tuneable engine so request paperwork for any additional tweaks. Tommi Makinen Edition's are becoming harder to come by so if you see one, snap it up and hang on to it.
Mercedes Benz CL55 AMG
The potential for shockingly expensive repair bills means that prices of this stonkingly quick 5.5-litre V8 goliath remain relatively low. £5k will buy a high-mileage example with a few bumps and scrapes but some intelligent hunting will throw up some gems. Top speed is limited to 155mph but the big Merc will nail the 0-60mph sprint in just 5.8 seconds (or 4.8 seconds in later supercharged versions).
Look out for: Where do we start? These things were almost £100k when new so any repair bill or servicing fee will sting a bit. Electrical issues, faulty torque converters and corrosion problems have previously been cited by brave owners.