Lease a Super Car

Buy a Lamborghini Gallardo, Aston Martin V12 Vanquish S or Ferrari Enzo and you guarantee two things: you'll attract admirers on the street and take a hefty hit on your wallet. Savvy drivers of exotics are finding they can achieve the former while avoiding the latter if they finance the dream ride of their choice by leasing it through specialist firms.

As well as limiting out-of-pocket expense, leases offer similar relief on sales tax as well as the flexibility to exchange the cream puff you drive from term to term, and even the possibility of realizing a profit on the deal.

Mitchell Katz, president of Premier Financial Services, of New York City, Long Island and Connecticut, explains that many states allow sales tax to be paid monthly on a lease instead of up front (a significant expenditure on vehicles that run $200,000 or more). He points out that lease payments are typically lower than bank financing, and interest rates of 6 to 7 percent can free a driver's cash for high return investments elsewhere.

Premier ( recently leased a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. The selling price: $8 million. According to Katz, "Many of our customers are drawn to the marque because of its mystique and racing history."

In this market, where a Rolls or Bentley is termed an "everyday classic," leasing deals are structured on an individual basis. Driver and lessor agree upon the car's up-front and residual values, and the driver makes payments based on the difference over the course of the lease. At the finish he has the option of turning the car in or paying the residual sum and owning the car. Since exotic cars can appreciate in value and vintage ones almost always do, this can mean a profit for lessees who negotiate a favorable buyout price in advance.

Additional options include trade-ins and beginning a new lease to finance the residual value. Specialty car leasing outfits recognize that enthusiasts often don't wish to keep their wheels for the full term of a lease. There's always a new model. A family man might trade that Maserati Spyder for a Quattroporte.

"We offer substitution of collateral," explains Steven Posner, president of Putnam Leasing, of Greenwich, Connecticut. "Clients can change to a new vehicle as long as it's of equal or greater value." He touts the benefit: at a time of rising interest rates, the original rate still applies.

Posner's firm has recently leased 10 Ferrari Enzos at an average of a million dollars apiece. Putnam ( leases numerous Aston Martins, and arranges financing for Duesenburgs and Packards from the Roaring Twenties.

While famous Italian marques may be compared to Bordeaux's legendary chateaux, Posner also notes record-setting appreciation in domestic vintage autos. A 1954 Oldsmobile F88 concept car recently sold at auction for $3.7 million. A 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird fetched $307,000. Putnam Leasing will arrange funding even before a client takes his seat at an auction. Gentlemen, start your bidding.