bl1mey New Reader
5/3/18 9:13 a.m.

Hello everybody, I've been doing some autocrosses in my daily mkvi GTI and really want to step up the speed  and seat time. I don't want to put all that wear on the only car I have, so I'm looking into a project car to get track ready to do HPDEs and eventually time trials, and possibly wheel to wheel racing much later down the line. I'm not interested in miatas because I don't like convertibles, and feel silly putting so much money into a "slow" car, but feel free to try and change my mind.

I want to pick a rwd car that can run in a decently popular series. I've been pretty interested in a BMW e46 330ci. It seems like it would be good to learn on all the way up to spec e46 racing, however looking at results, there doesn't seem to be many people running in spec e46 right now, although that could change in the next five years as people scoop up cheap 330's and build them.

So, what path would you take as someone just starting out with motorsports?

Any insight, advice, recommendations, or opinions would be much appreciated.


EDIT: I'm in Jacksonville Florida.

APEowner HalfDork
5/3/18 10:58 a.m.

I don't know that I'd recommend the same car for HPDE and time trials as  I would for wheel to wheel.  For wheel to wheel you should buy something that you can afford to competitively run in a class that's popular where you want to race.  That's often a Miata but since that's down the road I really wouldn't even take that into account.

For HPDE I recommend something reliable and safe but that also excites you as a car.  Exactly what it is, is less important since you're really only competing with yourself.  You also want something with a passenger seat so that you can get instruction time.

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon SuperDork
5/3/18 11:13 a.m.

Here's what I'd do:

Get some track day time in the GTI or pick up a reliable track car that wouldn't need much work.

Find a seat with a team in Champcar/AER/Lemons/Whatever else is out there.

Go race.

Edit: If you're someone who would be inclined to take everything super seriously and build/run a race effort without input from other people then maybe don't do what I would do.  From my experience helping out at races I know I like the team aspect of Champcar and I like that if I ever want to drive I wouldn't have to have my own car.

bl1mey New Reader
5/3/18 1:16 p.m.

Thanks for the input, I agree factoring in wheel to wheel racing right now isn't really needed, kinda got ahead of myself planning/day dreaming, and I definitely want something that excites me.

I would love to get in on a team for something like that but I don't know anybody I could run with.

I think I'm going to continue on the route of getting a cheap car, getting it safe, and getting on the track. I'm going to try and go check out a 330ci for $3200 tonight. Although not the cheapest to fix up and run, I think I can budget it.

chaparral Dork
5/3/18 1:50 p.m.

I can sell you a TaG kart for $2500 tomorrow and you can go racing on Sunday!

Rodan HalfDork
5/3/18 7:12 p.m.

Cheapest possible route is to buy something built...  

Don't know your location, but I'll just leave this here:

Spec Miata $7500


Is it really a convertible if it has a cage and hardtop?  wink

Jcamper Reader
5/3/18 11:08 p.m.

Wheel to wheel racing is about competition. Sounds obvious, right? Buy into a series with plenty of competition out there. This may be different depending on location, budget, and time. 

Get educated about car counts and consistent racing. Here in the northwest I realized it was PRO3 (BMW e30s) and Spec Miata for well attended, close racing. Spec E46 seems like a good formula for the future. There is some stock car road race stuff that looks fun, too (GASS). Always someone to race with that way, and a bunch of folks with the exact cars and spares. 


Klayfish PowerDork
5/4/18 5:42 a.m.
BlueInGreen - Jon said:

Get some track day time in the GTI or pick up a reliable track car that wouldn't need much work.

Find a seat with a team in Champcar/AER/Lemons/Whatever else is out there.

Go race.


This.  Absolutely this.  Unless you've got wads of cash coming out your ear, forget buying another car in addition to the VW, prepping it, etc...  Make sure the GTI is ready for a track day (brakes, brake fluid, tires) and go do HPDE.  You mentioned not wanting a slow car when you said Miata.  When you're starting out in HPDE or wheel to wheel I'd actually argue the opposite.  Besides being a higher possibility of a wreck, a higher hp car can mask bad driving habits.  Your GTI is plenty fast enough for a newbie.  Get seat time, learn.  From there, when you're comfortable in HDPE and you want to do wheel to wheel, get yourself an arrive and drive seat in LeMons/Champ. 

LanEvo HalfDork
5/4/18 6:40 a.m.

Spec E46 is getting popular here in the northeast, but it’s looking pretty expensive for a “Spec” series. A few of my friends are building them up and I believe they’re spending around $10k for suspension, for example. Also, I’m pretty sure you need to start with a 4-door rather than a coupe (don’t quote me). Anyway, I would look into all of that before jumping on a cheap 330ci.

If you absolutely want a dedicated track car and you’re happy with your VW, I would consider a Mk2 Golf or pretty much any Honda that’s already been built to race. They’re plentiful and cheap. Unless you’re dead set on RWD, that seems like the smart choice. 

bl1mey New Reader
5/4/18 9:03 a.m.

Man after checking out that BMW last night I definitely really like those cars, but I can also definitely see it getting real expensive real quick, which I expect with this hobby, but a Miata is starting to sound pretty attractive again (I tend to go back and forth on if I want one), especially a built spec car.

Looking at recent NASA results in the Florida region, I'm located in Jacksonville, it looks like spec e30 and spec miata are the the most popular classes. I love e30's but finding a decent one is getting pricey, and I'm not sure how expensive building one will get.

Leaning towards a Miata, they're easy to find for cheap in decent condition, and reportedly easy to work on. I'm sure it'll be plenty exciting when I'm racing it, I'll just have to deal with getting dusted by crossovers at stop lights in a caged car....

I've been thinking I'd like to go RWD so I have the option to go to a drift track day, but can a FWD be similarly competitive in TTD? Looking at results TTD is the most popular time trial class near me but they don't list what cars they run. There's a decent chance time trials will be enough fun for me, and I already have experience swapping engines in 90's hondas.

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