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Cars: Road Rockets For The Jaded

Personal Business: CARS


You know who you are: Mr. Finicky, Ms. Never-Quite-Satisfied. You're a car nut, and lots of exotic autos have graced your garage. But have you attained automotive nirvana? Nope. Ferraris leave you flat. Vipers seem vapid. What you want is a sports car that puts the "limited" back in limited production--something unique, something that Harry in Accounting would never dream of owning. But what kind of vehicle might that be?

Perhaps you should consider one of the boutique sports cars that are produced in tiny numbers for well-heeled collectors: cars like the Raptor, a coupe made by Florida hedge fund manager Warren Mosler. Or maybe you would prefer the Shelby, which was created by former racer Carroll Shelby for a select few enthusiasts. Then there's the Panoz AIV, built by pharmaceutical tycoon Donald Panoz and his son, Daniel. Chances of seeing your neighbor in one are nil--only a few hundred AIVs are made per year (table).BIKE FENDERS. Let's start with the Panoz, since, at a selling price just under $60,000, it's the most affordable. The two-seater is built in Braselton, Ga., close to the Road Atlanta racetrack that is the core of the Panoz racing empire. The AIV is sold by 21 outlets nationwide and can be serviced at any local Ford dealer. The car comes with a three-year, 30,000-mile warranty.

The little runabout's bicycle fenders stir memories of such classic 1950s race cars as the Allard and Bristol. But those throwback looks are deceptive. Underneath its composite skin, the car is 70% aluminum, the chassis supertaut and strong. Suspension is independent, and power comes from a 4.6-liter, 305-horsepower Ford V-8. Put that engine in the 2,595-lB. Panoz, and you have a rocket. "The AIV has charm, but it

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