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N7Prime New Reader
12/14/15 10:55 p.m.

Before you roll your eyes at the obvious generic thread title, hear me out. I'll make this easier.

I already have these two vehicles.

1999 E46 BMW 328i, Sport Package

1996 Mazda Miata C package

I want to know your guy's opinion on what would be a better "overall" car to fit both criteria.

They are both 5 speed.

I want to start auto crossing and some track days as well but I don't live in a very popular area so nothing much goes on. However when something does, i'd like to attend.

Now I know that the Miata is always the answer. But I just want to report my reasons for involving the BMW.

Pros on the BMW: It's generally safer than the Mazda, more structurally sound body, It has ABS and ASC, It feels more refined, Is feels MUCH more stable to drive at ANY speed, The A/C still works, the engine although having about 197k miles still runs fine, doesn't burn any oil.

Cons on the BMW: It's heavy, it just feels like a boat with that many miles, the suspension is all original, Has an open rear diff, rear sub frame mounts prone to tearing, (this scares me the most). Underpowered and not much you can do with the engine due to the poopy aluminum block this car has. I do understand how I shouldn't be concerned about power especially since i'm starting this fun activity. But I'm talking about down the road. Which brings me to the aftermarket for the NON-M E46. There isn't much, and what there is is expensive. However it IS picking up since SE46 began.

Now on to the Mazda, which many of you people know.

PROS: It's cheap, its light, it's easier to drive in certain situations than the BMW, (Like downshifting), It has a LSD, It already has a roll-bar, Aftermarket supply ahoy. It's cheap to run. etc.

CONS: It's slow. (Yes I know, of course it's slow, I wouldn't plan on adding power yet until way down the road. But that will cost money because I want to do it RIGHT.) It's not as refined as the BMW, No ABS, No traction control, (I say this because I think having those assists will help me some at first keep control of the car safely than to just not have them.) The Mazda is generally not as safe as the BMW. (Please tell me if i'm wrong. And I mean this is terms of an accident.

That's pretty much all I can think of at this moment.

So.....which one would you choose?

Thank you.

pimpm3 Dork
12/14/15 11:25 p.m.

Daily the BMW, track the Miata. Done, that wasn't to difficult...

BMW has more room, cushier ride, safer = better daily

Miata, cheap tires, astonishingly fast on track. There is a reason more race cars are Miatas then anything else.

codrus GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/14/15 11:36 p.m.

For autocrossing, take the Miata. It'll be way more fun than a BMW because it's so small and light. 90 inch wheelbase is made for carving cones, although it's less stable at high (i.e., track) speeds as a consequence.

For track, given that you already own both of them, try them both at a couple days each before deciding.

The Miata will be cheaper to run, at least until you get tired of squirrel power and want to put some boost on it, then it starts to eat tires and brakes like a faster car does. The BMW is definitely safer in an off-track event. How tall are you? If you're close to 6 foot tall, getting your helmet down to an appropriate level underneath a roll bar that fits under the soft top requires quite a bit of work.

ABS is nice on track and especially at autocross, it keeps you from flatspotting tires. Street-based traction control is worthless in both arenas and tends to run burn up the brake pads.

On the subframe mount front, have you checked to see the current state? With 197K I wouldn't be surprised if they're already torn, even if they're all street miles. I would definitely get this checked out before you take it on track, and if ripped do NOT run it until they're fixed.

N7Prime New Reader
12/15/15 5:52 a.m.

In reply to pimpm3:

Thanks for the response. But what i'm trying to get to is either one or the other. Not both.

I'm just trying to put my time and effort in ONE of these vehicles. And dammit if I do that I want to drive it because don't forget, i'm not living in SoCal where you can race on your way to the community theater. I live in the boonies.

So I want to put my time and effort in a car that i'll love to drive mostly as a daily, but also for performance.

I also have a high NVH Tolerance, so I'd really like performance over comfort. Reliability above all else.

Klayfish UberDork
12/15/15 6:03 a.m.
N7Prime wrote: Reliability above all else.

I think you just answered your own question. A nearly 17 year old BMW with 200k miles vs a Miata. Older BMWs are more reliable than the newer ones, but the Miata is near Corolla like in reliability.

N7Prime New Reader
12/15/15 6:04 a.m.

In reply to codrus:

I understand the Miater affection. It can (and will) handle fantastically after replacing the 250kish mile suspension on it.

But so will the BMW. And mind you. I plan to strip out the nasty BMW interior anyways because it's a tan diaster anyways. Plus I have no firends to haul around. So win win?

If I want more power from the BMW way down the line than I could just swap in an s54 and call it a day.

The Miata I'd have to boost. Although ITB's are the shizznizz. (I'm so white)

And then the tires, brakes, and clutches start to disintegrate, along with the transmission and front wheel bearings.

The ZF gearbox in my BMW (ZF320) Is widely known for being VERY durable. But shifting gears all together in the BMW Just isn't as satisfying as the Miata.

But again, that's because of the miles on the BMW. If I rebuilt that shifter & linkage (Pain in the ass) than it would be a lot better. But then i'd need a lighter flywheel because this one sucks.

I'm just throwing my random spurts of info out.

N7Prime New Reader
12/15/15 6:08 a.m.
Klayfish wrote:
N7Prime wrote: Reliability above all else.
I think you just answered your own question. A nearly 17 year old BMW with 200k miles vs a Miata. Older BMWs are more reliable than the newer ones, but the Miata is near Corolla like in reliability.

That is true, but since the aftermarket for the BMW is opening up to more robust options for stuff like radiators and expansion tanks, I wouldn't rule out the BMW Just yet.

Plus, one you start to add power to the Miata. It get's less and less reliable. Which sucks, but you gotta pay to play.

dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/15/15 6:43 a.m.

Two cars IS the answer. One reliable get you to work Vehical you don't take to the track. And one you can ball up and walk from. It really is the way to go. I know you said you don't want to do this but trust the Hive on this one it really I the better option.

Klayfish UltraDork
12/15/15 6:46 a.m.

I agree two cars is the best way to go if you can swing it. You could turn one of them into a track car or sell one and buy an already fully track prepped car. Such as... https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/200x-classifieds/1980-vw-rabbit-ex-itc/108558/page1/

If you must do one car, what about selling them both and combining the money to get one really nice E46 or Miata that won't need the major work that your two cars seem to.

WildScotsRacing Reader
12/15/15 8:01 a.m.

I will say this about learning performance driving with an open differential; it will absolutely force you to learn finessing the throttle on corner exit (aka trackout). It will become a driving skill that will ultimately make you a faster than if you learn on an LSD. And it will make you faster still with an LSD if you have first mastered keeping traction on an open diff.

pimpm3 Dork
12/15/15 8:46 a.m.

I have seen spec miatas put down faster lap times then e46 m3's. A low powered miata is faster then you think on track and at autocross. Also as a beginner track time is the best thing for you and consumables are way less with the miats. Cheap tires = more money for more events.

A dedicated race car is a good thing, you can go faster if you don't have to hold back because the race car is your ride to work the next day.

Robbie GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
12/15/15 8:58 a.m.

Whatever you do - don't strip the interior out of a daily. No point, and you will not enjoy driving the car on the street anymore.

The e36 will absolutely shine on track. Everytime I drove mine on track it was so relaxed and confident its almost as if you could feel it telling you this is what it was meant for. Autox? Not so much - you will have to fight the e36 a bit harder than it likes to autox quickly.

If I had to make your same choice today, I would go with the miata. but I have also done an e36 before, but a miata not yet.

xflowgolf Dork
12/15/15 9:07 a.m.

Stripping the interior out of a daily E46 328 sounds like a terrible idea.

like a really really bad idea.

It sounds like you've never done a formal track day or autocross yet?

I'd race/track the Miata. It will be a better learning tool.

If you want a cheap BMW, get an E30 or E36. Swapping/stripping an E46 just seems like a huge waste of time. Not a bad DD though.

Nick (LUCAS) Comstock
Nick (LUCAS) Comstock UltimaDork
12/15/15 9:14 a.m.

I daily drove a couple completely stripped E21 BMWs for years. I loved every minute of it. But I'm a little odd.

Klayfish UltraDork
12/15/15 9:26 a.m.
xflowgolf wrote: It sounds like you've never done a formal track day or autocross yet?

That's a good point that I missed earlier. Have you done any autox or track days yet? If not, you're several steps ahead of yourself. Take one of the cars to an autox...as is. Learn, enjoy, have fun. Decide if it's what you really want to do, then go from there.

gearheadmb HalfDork
12/15/15 9:26 a.m.

I also will say two cars. If you blow up your engine or wreck in the track car on the weekend you still have a ride to work on Monday. Or if you want to do major maintenance or modifications it can be down for a while and it's no big deal. Plus you will have a backup for your dd. Stop fighting it. Most of us spend our time scouring cl for cars to do whatever weird idea popped into our head that day. You have the right fleet for what you want do, just be happy and get some sticky tires for the miata.

KyAllroad SuperDork
12/15/15 9:49 a.m.

Track the Miata and daily the beemer. No doubt about it, and don't worry about the lack of grunt from the squirrel powered Mazda. On track it's not that noticeable and with some take off SM7 Hoosiers you'll out corner everybody else there.

2002maniac Dork
12/15/15 9:54 a.m.
N7Prime wrote: If I want more power from the BMW way down the line than I could just swap in an s54 and call it a day.

If you want more power from the Miata way down the line than you could just swap in an LSX and call it a day.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
12/15/15 10:07 a.m.

If your profile is correct, you have many more options to get out on track than you think. Vero Beach is close to PBIR, which holds track days, SCCA's Track Night in America, and all kinds of events:


There are also autocrosses within a hour or two from you on a frequent basis.


NASA--- http://www.drivenasafl.com/driving/roadracing/

I'd track the Miata. It will be more fun to autocross than the BMW, cheaper to maintain, and the aftermarket is brimming with Miata equipment. Besides---- the A/C still works in the BMW---- use that as your daily, and the Miata as your toy. Also--- autocross is about the safest thing you can do in a car. I wouldn't be worried about safety in either car until you start to do high-speed track days--- and with a roll-bar, your Miata should be fine.

Keep in mind.....if you've never done a track day or autocross, your car is faster than you are. Get some experience before spending $ with mods. Make sure the car is safe--- but drive it bone-stock for a while until you catch up to the car.

iceracer PowerDork
12/15/15 10:12 a.m.

The BMW would probably cost more in consumables than the Miata.

N7Prime New Reader
12/15/15 11:25 a.m.

Thanks for the answers guys.

Let me just clarify. No I haven't done any sort of motorsports ever. With that said, I understand how you might think that i'm thinking too far ahead. You're right in some regards. The reason that I bring this up is because I have a limited budget on this in terms that when I DO want to upgrade the car, I won't feel any regrets on choosing one car over the other.

When I talk about upgrades I strictly mean safety issues. Such as the brakes and suspension. The Miata has over 250k miles on the body. Using this suspension MIGHT be okay for a small autocross event but in general. It's a bunch of poopie butt farts.

I'll just go ahead and choose the Miata. I've already done some things to it anyways. I just wanted to hear your guy's opinion on it.

As for events in my area, I understand that there are a few. The only issue is my work schedule kinda sucks for that.

When is the tracknight program starting up again?

N7Prime New Reader
12/15/15 11:33 a.m.

By the way, here is my "build thread" on my miata. I need to update it.


Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
12/15/15 11:55 a.m.

I don't think they have their 2016 dates set yet, but keep an eye out, as I'm sure they will post them soon:


N7Prime New Reader
12/15/15 12:12 p.m.

What safety equipment would I need to bring along? Helmet?

LuxInterior Reader
12/15/15 12:20 p.m.

For autocross, Just a helmet.

EDIT: [+] eleventy million on starting in a Miata. I started doing track events 6 years ago. I was pretty damned awful. I got lots better. I credit most of this with driving the miata and learning how to get the most out of a low power "momentum car".

Also, when I was starting out, I drove the miata everywhere, always looking for the best way to apex every interesting corner I encountered along the way.

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