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Geekspeed New Reader
8/22/11 3:07 p.m.

Hi everyone. It has been a while since I have posted on GRM, but I have been bitten by the racing bug again, so I am looking for some thoughts and opinions. The current financial situation (read: wife, mortgage, two little munchkins) will not allow for anything even remotely high-buck, so no Ferraris for me.

I know that I may be looking for something that does not exist, however. Here are my criteria:

Cheap (to buy, mod, maintain. I'd like to buy for less than $2k). More common than hen's teeth. Does not need to do DD service (have a 2011 Fiesta for that). Average or better durability. No major component swaps or fabrication (don't have the facilities). Upgradeable as time and funds allow. NO MIATAS. Cheap.

Ok, so that is basically it. I was actually pretty inspired by the CRX track rat that GRM did last year. FWD, RWD, AWD is not a big deal, but I prefer non-FWD.

I have a list that I have compiled, but I want to see what you guys toss out there first. For geographical reference, I am in Southern Cal. A few cars that instantly spring to mind command a premium here, so the 240SX, Corolla GTS, and E30 BMW are basically out. What does that leave me?


tuna55 SuperDork
8/22/11 3:16 p.m.

I was there - bought a turbobrick. It was fun and relatively fast, but I would not recommend it unless you can wait for parts in the mail and don't mind working on some non-normal failure modes.

mndsm SuperDork
8/22/11 3:18 p.m.

1g Neon ACR?

joepaluch Reader
8/22/11 3:23 p.m.

In reply to Geekspeed:


itsarebuild Reader
8/22/11 3:30 p.m.

an e30, a weekend to go get it from another state, and a plane ticket.

Javelin SuperDork
8/22/11 3:53 p.m.

The best cheap track rat is somebody else's track rat. Make/model/mods/drive doesn't matter, just find somebody that's getting out of the game and buy their car. Depending on where you are geographically, a Spec E30, a Spec 944, a Spec RX-7, or a CMC (Camaro-Mustang Challenge) car would probably be best.

pinchvalve SuperDork
8/22/11 3:55 p.m.

Civic is by far the answer, followed by anything that someone else has already put a cage in and prepped for racing. Think Golf, Saturn SC2, Neon, Integra, Sentra etc.

RossD SuperDork
8/22/11 3:56 p.m.

The newest mustang you can afford.

oldtin Dork
8/22/11 3:57 p.m.

It seems like there's a few cheap ITA cars out there waiting to be thrashed.

edit - big fingers - ITA not ITS

jrw1621 SuperDork
8/22/11 4:09 p.m.

Something that knows it's way to the track...
Quick samples.

Geekspeed New Reader
8/22/11 4:37 p.m.

Thanks for the good suggestions so far. I suppose I should add a couple of more requirements.

Needs to be street legal. Cannot be from out of state (CA smog laws are a BITCH).

I am also really into the idea of building up my own car. I am just not comfortable with the concept of taking someone's project car. I'm not sure why, even though I know that is saves $$$ in the long run.

93EXCivic SuperDork
8/22/11 4:41 p.m.

Get a pre smog car. You live in the area of no rust so a vintage car would be my choice.

BoxheadTim SuperDork
8/22/11 5:20 p.m.
jrw1621 wrote: Something that knows it's way to the track... Quick samples. http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv/cto/2558552008.html

Was it really necessary to post this? I'm still looking for a track car and the wife & the cat would possibly make me sleep in in if I dragged that home.

Especially because it's only 50 miles North of here.

Keith SuperDork
8/22/11 5:32 p.m.

So, you described the Miata right down to "more common than hen's teeth". There is a reason WHY it's such a popular track rat, you know.

But since that doesn't work for some reason, go your local track days and look around while mentally editing out the Miatas. That's what's common and popular in your area. They might be more expensive because of demand, but when you constrain yourself geographically and then knock out the most popular choice, that's going to happen.

I'd be tempted to pick up a Mustang. Just because of the noise and the widespread aftermarket, and you can terrorize the Miatas on the straights until they run away in the corners. Consumables will be higher though.

Geekspeed New Reader
8/22/11 6:08 p.m.

Keith, I don't have a major issues with Miatas, necessarily, they just aren't my cup of tea. I actually am a big fan of the Targa Miata, and I am hoping against hope that I will be able to get to run the Targa in the next few years. Anyway, I thought about Mustangs, but I am not willing to completely re-engineer the suspension to get it to "kind of" handle. On another note, the guys that I would run with are big into the JDM RWD scene, so AE86s and S13s are the cars I will be on track with.

Here is the list I had compiled based on my last few days of CL hunting, all of which under 2k:

95 Subaru Impreza LX.
Several AW11 MR2s.
Several CRXs.
Several EF Civics
91 Jetta GLi
Various Z Cars (240, 280zx, Z31)
Various Rotaries (1st and 2nd gen RX7s)

What really bites is that none of these cars really spark and passion for me. However, I have also realized that I just need to get started on a decent car that will put me on track. At this point, I think the best option is the Subaru. Anything else I am not thinking of?

BoxheadTim SuperDork
8/22/11 6:18 p.m.

Out of the list above, I'd take a very close look at the AW11s and possibly the Z cars. I don't like FWD on the track that much and I'm not convinced that the Subaru is a good idea on the track either.

Tyler H
Tyler H Dork
8/22/11 6:24 p.m.

Not sure how you hit on MR2s if not Miatas, but that is the most similar to the Miata, so it gets my nod.

If you can somehow find a good 4AGE, there are plenty of blown up MR2 shells out there cheap. They aged out and many people consider them hard to work on, so they just sit.

I think they're easy to work on as long as you understand that the engine goes out the bottom. Many parts bin components shared with the AE86, without the drift tax. Toyota reliability. Not competitive in IT due to classing. I don't understand who at SCCA has been scared of MR2s for 2.5 decades, but they've always been shafted IMHO. Even in ITB, which is a recent move, they seem to be backmarkers. They're heavy for 112hp, but built like they came from the communist bloc, compared to a similar year CRX.

Keith SuperDork
8/22/11 6:28 p.m.

The MR2 isn't a bad idea. Might be a bit twitchier and from what I understand they're hard on rear tires, but they're light and low-powered so overall they won't be hard on tires or brakes. Same with the CRX.

If you do dream of rally stages, the Subaru is the obvious choice. I don't know what it's like in CA, but around here we have the "Subaru army" that descends on every track day. There might only be a couple driving, but every Subaru owner around comes out to cheer and to help. If one comes in limping, it gets swarmed. Fun to watch. A nice thing about the Subaru is that it would also be reasonably competent at rallycross.

The Zs are getting on in years, and a sub-$2k one is going to be rusty and possibly needy from a mechanical standpoint. I'm not sure that matches up to the "average or better reliability" criteria.

As for the Mustang, well, it's a well-trodden path. You can buy some pretty cheap fixes for the suspension. They might not work that well out of the box, but you know what needs to be done and it can be done for little cash.

corytate Reader
8/22/11 7:46 p.m.

do s14's command just as much of a premium as s13's around there?
I've always been partial to the s14 myself, and i'd assume it'd be a little more uncommon to see on the track seeing how much people love the s13 hatchbacks.
12a rx7?
mk2 or 3 supra?

93EXCivic SuperDork
8/22/11 8:16 p.m.

In reply to Geekspeed:

If none of those do it for you, what about something like a TR7 or MGB GT?

NineLivesJohnny New Reader
8/22/11 8:31 p.m.

you know the answer is spec miata

SVTF Reader
8/22/11 8:34 p.m.

If FWD is an option, and you want to learn to drive, a Focus is a darn good choice. Being a hardtop all track events are open; dirt cheap parts, excellent handling, safe and reliable. The SVT (Cosworth engine, 6 sp Getrag tranny) is a great choice for road course track days, as is the 2.3 Duratec version. Think Spec Focus, but don't go all the way. I drive the SVT to the track and it does DD duty. Budget wise you'd be spending a bit more than $2k up front but the car would need a lot less rebuild. I drove the first couple HPDE events with the factory stock SVT.

bluesideup Reader
8/22/11 8:40 p.m.

Eventually I'd like to do the same thing. I'm also in SoCal and I've been watching the market for a while. Personally I'm going for an FC RX7 when the time comes. They are cheap to buy, strip, cage, and use for learning. Sure the rotary may blow up but you can then do a swap or just put in another rotary.

I sent my Challenge shell to the crusher this year so I've had withdrawals. Smog could be an issue if you get clipped by the police and don't have cats.

parker New Reader
8/22/11 9:18 p.m.

Stock vs. stock a DOHC Neon will be quickest of the cars on your list. Cheap. My DD has done numerous track days and has 310,000 miles. My rallycrosser won an SCCA National Championship at 390,000 miles, it now has 450k.

jrw1621 SuperDork
8/22/11 9:24 p.m.

If you are interestested in an MR2, you may not know, so I want to set you straight, the epicenter of all things MR2 is www.mr2oc.com
You will have to register up before you can see the postings but it is well worth it. They also have a good classified section.
I had an '88 MR2 SC. What a great engine and a fun chassis. I did ultimately sell the MR2 which I owned at the same time as a '90 Miata. I still have the Miata.
I owned a S14 Nissan 240sx and a '90 Miata at the same time, sold the 240sx.
I now have a E30 325is and I would sell that too before I get rid of the Miata.

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