8 hours ago in Articles
Christina Lam went from the sidelines to full-on track enthusiast in 8 simple steps.
I have found myself in a bit of a pickle here. I currently have three cars:
1) 98 Neon ACR Coupe (DOHC). Fresh Mopar 2.0, ex STS local trophy winner. ~30k miles. Pretty much all bolt-ons, Koseis, Moroso Pan, Konis, etc.
2) 96 Neon Sedan. 150k + Miles, SOHC MTX, 30+ MPG. Very little rust. New struts, A/C, and top end.
3) 91 Mustang LX Notch. T-5, 5.0. Solid AZ car.
The sedan puked a thrust bearing. I have about 1/2 of a mint (33k mile, all new accessories/brackets) PT Cruiser 2.4 which could go in it. I was holding onto the block to build a 2.6 Stroker and ITBs for the ACR. Was considering putting the 2.4 into the Sedan depending on how bad the bottom end is on the SOHC
The ACR is fresh rubber (and maybe a Koni rebuild) away from being a locally-competitive STS car with some good driving.
The Mustang is going to paint in April and is otherwise stock. It kind of fell into my lap. A near-mint car for challenge money. A friend of mine has a 3k mile 10.7:1 SVO 351 block which could be had for pennies on the dollar.
I really need a reliable DD for work. I travel 150+ miles per week on business, not to mention to-and-from office.
a) Continue with faux SM build with Stroker and whatnot for ACR.
b) Keep ACR as-is and enjoy it as a cheap track day car which could be written off without too much hurt to the pocketbook and build the Stang as a Street/Cruiser/Woodward car (hey, this is Detroit after all).
c) Re-build SOHC bottom end (if not completely trashed).
d) Throw 2.4 into the sedan as a DD (or ACR's 2.0 for that matter).
e) Sell sedan, pick up another clean Cherokee XJ, P71, SRT-4 or similar?
f) Sell sedan, grow up, and actually take a loan out on a "nice" car (Marauder, CTS-V?)
g) Combination of the above?
I had a nice XJ slip through my hands today. Nice, rust-free ones do not last very long. Same goes for clean SRTs which are not $10k and over.
Also, turning the Mustang into a trackday ride seems to be a lesson in futility. It seems as thought I could invest cubic dollars into it, and still wouldn't be as nimble as well as the ACR. Not to mention the increased tires/brakes.
Disclosure, I'm a bottom-rung professional in my early 20s, trying to balance a car addiction with a social life and home-ownership in the very near future. Only reason I have considered taking on a small car payment is to build up a bit more credit. I have been paying cash for everything since car 1.
I'm open to any suggestions. Only definites at the moment is the Sedan will be fixed, ACR is getting new rubber, and Mustang will be panted. Selling the ACR or Mustang are not currently an option by any means.
I imagine fixing the sedan(or just swapping in a junkyard engine?) is the cheapest option to get you going again.
If you want to establish credit for a possible home purchase in the future, I'd suggest keeping a car loan to 36-months max. And honestly, establishing credit really isn't what it used to be.
For that matter, don't even think about buying a house if you can't put down at least 20%(and really, I'd suggest much more than that). Unless you're in one of the few strong real estate markets in the country; buy cheap, pay cash, and fix what's broken - if that means living in a mobile home, do it. A mortgage is really just an anchor that will hold you back at your age.
Have one reliable car that can be used for work. Since you need 150 miles per week, something with decent mpg would be nice. It seems to me that XJ, Cadillac V or Marauder are not the answers here. Neon or similar could be a very good answer.
The idea of heading to the track is mentioned. Yes, taking a car that can be balled up and left there is the best plan. If you are new to trackdays then you may laso know that you are best off spending your money on "control" rather than spending it on "speed." Control will bring. the speed. If you are new at it, you car is already faster than you will effectively use anyway. Control items would include suspension, braking and safety items.
1. Get to work and continue to get to work reliably and economically.
2, Get to the track, reliably, safely and effectively.
3. Build something "Woodward-y"
I greatly shy away from telling you to take out a car loan. If you do, be very honest with yourself about what you really can afford and really need.
Sell stang for challenge money, 2.4 the bad motor car, and drive the other until the 2.4 car is done.
That is probably what I would do. I would rather be cash strong and car poor at this point because I have been there with 2-3 projects at once and nothing getting done even when I had the time.
My sage advice:
1) 2.4 from PTC into sedan. Drive this for work if feasible*
2) Track ACR as-is until you can afford another engine to build
3) Work on Mustang
4) buy a needy SMALL house in a good zip code (best public schools). Fix its bones and do conservative cosmetic work and sell after a few years. Rinse and repeat.
Balance #2 & 3 based on which one is more important to you. A big car note will do nothing but suck income - clearly you are getting by just fine in grassroots type vehicles.
*feasible meaning you're not a salesman with expectation of a "nice car" for hauling folks around. If you only need that once every couple months, rent a car that day and continue saving most of your income.
[edit: thanks JohnRW - your formatting tip just made my post much more readable, too]
My top priority would be fixing the sedan. I WOULD say fix it to stock but the pre-existence of a 2.4 bottom end makes me want to lean that way..
But i still wont. I say fix the sedan to stock and keep going with the other original plans. And sell that mustang after you paint it.
Fixed the formatting, thanks for the heads up.
The home thing was just a late-night rambling. I have a decent amount of cash set aside toward a down payment. Homes around here are relatively inexpensive.
But back to the car thing..
Mustang is not going anywhere. 1-owner car, been in the family since new. I just have no use for it at present. It would just allow a nice weekend car
Everything I have for that 2.4 is brand new Mopar parts, that's the only reason I considered putting in the sedan. I didn't cut corners with anything in relation to that motor. I've done auto-x and some HPDE. I've been slowly amassing parts for it the past 5 years. Just lacking the ITBs.
I work in long-term elder care, so having a more "presentable" vehicle isn't a concern. Was just feeling like an upgrade. The room of a Cherokee would be a bit nice. It's not a requirement by any means.
I did read that you want to keep it, but I'd still say sell the mustang, leave the acr pretty much as it is, and use the broken neon to put the 2.4 in.
Keeping it is a no-question. It has sentimental value. Just for a fleeting moment had a belief it would be more fun to track than the ACR. Grass is always greener in some respects.
Yeah, if you HAVE to keep that mustang i wouldnt do anything to it other than 'looks and sound' like wheels and exhaust. Just stuff to make it more entertaining with performance being a tertiary issue.
The only reason i am against putting the 2.4 into the sedan is stuff like that always takes longer than you think it will and you'll run into some kind of complication and before you know it you might be spending more time and money than your opinion of the car actually merits.
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