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TOV Forums > Amateur Racing & Driving > > Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?

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Fishbulb
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Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 06-29-2018 09:37
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A few buddies of mine have asked me along to their summer track days. Unfortunately, my CRV really doesn't fit the bill.

I was considering getting a cheap track car. I'd probably budget $8K or less. I wouldn't be looking to do any substantial modifications other than tires/brakes/susp.

Any advice on what would make for relatively cost-effective fun to buy and maintain?


gofast182
Profile for gofast182
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 06-29-2018 12:21
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Fishbulb wrote:
A few buddies of mine have asked me along to their summer track days. Unfortunately, my CRV really doesn't fit the bill.

I was considering getting a cheap track car. I'd probably budget $8K or less. I wouldn't be looking to do any substantial modifications other than tires/brakes/susp.

Any advice on what would make for relatively cost-effective fun to buy and maintain?



You can get some AP1 S2000's for about 8k but you'd want to give it a full maintenance (ALL fluids, valve adjustment, timing chain tensioner, etc.). It's a great-performing car on the track, reliable and easy to maintain, the problem with the S2000 is replacement parts are becoming more expensive and harder to find. Blow an engine and you're in trouble.

Your best bet is probably a Miata. It isn't as fast as the S2000 unless it has some serious mods. but it should be just as much fun and it's easy to get replacement parts and keep them going.

From there an E30 BMW makes a good track car for much the same reasons as the Miata.

A fourth choice, if you need more power, is a C5 Vette. Ultimately you'll struggle to keep up with S2000s but it's got big torque, sounds great, and again is super easy to find parts for.

In the case of the Miata and E30, there are dedicated and active spec. racing series for each, so for ~8k you could probably find a track-prepped example of each with bar/cage, suspension, etc. (they may not be the prettiest machines for that money but certainly good enough).

Let us know how you make out!

gofast182
Profile for gofast182
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 06-29-2018 12:30
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Btw I'm a driving instructor with NASA Northeast so if you happen to be in that region I'd be happy to help a TOVer.
Fishbulb
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 06-30-2018 09:53
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Thanks, appreciate it.

Considered a miata, but kind of wanted to stick with a hard top. Never driven a corvette from that era.

I was thinking of an older tsx or rsx, possibly a GTI. Any thoughts there?

gofast182
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-02-2018 15:38
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Fishbulb wrote:
Thanks, appreciate it.

Considered a miata, but kind of wanted to stick with a hard top. Never driven a corvette from that era.

I was thinking of an older tsx or rsx, possibly a GTI. Any thoughts there?


Hard tops for Miatas are common and inexpensive. Combine that with a bar like a Hard Dog (also common and many owners have already installed) and you're good to go.

I've been doing track days for ~8y and there are certain platforms that turn up regularly because they're capable, robust, and easy to keep going. The RSX simply isn't one, the earlier cars have some high speed stability issues and it generally is not Honda's best work for use on the track. Occasionally you will see a TSX but not often. A little more often than that you will see GTIs but they need to be looked after pretty carefully.

Based on experience/observation I believe my original suggestions are your best bets; however, if you need a [front wheel drive] alternative, the Integra (and older Civics) makes a very good and capable track car. Its chassis can stand up to it, compatible parts are available, and you may even be able to find one that has already been turned into a track day car or even a fully prepped H2 car (Honda Challenge) if you spend a bit more.



notyper
Profile for notyper
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-02-2018 17:51
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gofast182 wrote:
Fishbulb wrote:
Thanks, appreciate it.

Considered a miata, but kind of wanted to stick with a hard top. Never driven a corvette from that era.

I was thinking of an older tsx or rsx, possibly a GTI. Any thoughts there?


Hard tops for Miatas are common and inexpensive. Combine that with a bar like a Hard Dog (also common and many owners have already installed) and you're good to go.

I've been doing track days for ~8y and there are certain platforms that turn up regularly because they're capable, robust, and easy to keep going. The RSX simply isn't one, the earlier cars have some high speed stability issues and it generally is not Honda's best work for use on the track. Occasionally you will see a TSX but not often. A little more often than that you will see GTIs but they need to be looked after pretty carefully.

Based on experience/observation I believe my original suggestions are your best bets; however, if you need a [front wheel drive] alternative, the Integra (and older Civics) makes a very good and capable track car. Its chassis can stand up to it, compatible parts are available, and you may even be able to find one that has already been turned into a track day car or even a fully prepped H2 car (Honda Challenge) if you spend a bit more.





I would add that, as a general rule, you'll want to stay away from forced induction cars if you want inexpensive, reliable fun.

This is not to say the boosted cars can't be these things, but when subjected to track use the additional strains of forced induction begin to show up in terms of maintenance costs and reliability.

If you absolutely had to buy a boosted car, choose a supercharged car over a turbo car. The turbo car is more efficient and, all things equal, will probably be faster, but a supercharged car has far fewer thermal issues to deal with, and that's where boost is a real killer.

I second the suggestion for a Miata with the only caveat being that they are painfully slow at times and you may long for more power. An old DC2 Integra or EG Civic is much faster done right, but you'll spend more money and miss out on some of the wonderful chassis adjustability of the Miata. The Hondas are also much more spacious if you're a bigger guy like myself. The best would be an S2000 as it combines the best of a DC2 and Miata IMO. But the cost will be higher.

If you were looking for something newer, a BRZ/FRS would be a nice car to run. You can pick up a mid mileage 2013 for $15k or less. It's pretty track worthy right from the factory (just needs better tires and brake pads) and if all the recalls/TSBs have been done, its also reliable. Like the Miata, it's a bit slow, but with a flex fuel kit and a reflash it can produce near stock S2000 acceleration in a very forgiving package.

A few of our members here have FT86 cars (Nick Graves being one) and can share their experiences with you.

SC

JeffX
Profile for JeffX
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-02-2018 18:11
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notyper wrote:
gofast182 wrote:
Fishbulb wrote:
Thanks, appreciate it.

Considered a miata, but kind of wanted to stick with a hard top. Never driven a corvette from that era.

I was thinking of an older tsx or rsx, possibly a GTI. Any thoughts there?


Hard tops for Miatas are common and inexpensive. Combine that with a bar like a Hard Dog (also common and many owners have already installed) and you're good to go.

I've been doing track days for ~8y and there are certain platforms that turn up regularly because they're capable, robust, and easy to keep going. The RSX simply isn't one, the earlier cars have some high speed stability issues and it generally is not Honda's best work for use on the track. Occasionally you will see a TSX but not often. A little more often than that you will see GTIs but they need to be looked after pretty carefully.

Based on experience/observation I believe my original suggestions are your best bets; however, if you need a [front wheel drive] alternative, the Integra (and older Civics) makes a very good and capable track car. Its chassis can stand up to it, compatible parts are available, and you may even be able to find one that has already been turned into a track day car or even a fully prepped H2 car (Honda Challenge) if you spend a bit more.





I would add that, as a general rule, you'll want to stay away from forced induction cars if you want inexpensive, reliable fun.

This is not to say the boosted cars can't be these things, but when subjected to track use the additional strains of forced induction begin to show up in terms of maintenance costs and reliability.

If you absolutely had to buy a boosted car, choose a supercharged car over a turbo car. The turbo car is more efficient and, all things equal, will probably be faster, but a supercharged car has far fewer thermal issues to deal with, and that's where boost is a real killer.

I second the suggestion for a Miata with the only caveat being that they are painfully slow at times and you may long for more power. An old DC2 Integra or EG Civic is much faster done right, but you'll spend more money and miss out on some of the wonderful chassis adjustability of the Miata. The Hondas are also much more spacious if you're a bigger guy like myself. The best would be an S2000 as it combines the best of a DC2 and Miata IMO. But the cost will be higher.

If you were looking for something newer, a BRZ/FRS would be a nice car to run. You can pick up a mid mileage 2013 for $15k or less. It's pretty track worthy right from the factory (just needs better tires and brake pads) and if all the recalls/TSBs have been done, its also reliable. Like the Miata, it's a bit slow, but with a flex fuel kit and a reflash it can produce near stock S2000 acceleration in a very forgiving package.

A few of our members here have FT86 cars (Nick Graves being one) and can share their experiences with you.

SC



what kind of gains can you get from a flex fuel kit? I didn't realize that was something that could see meaningful gains on an NA engine. I understand the benefits for forced induction engines, though.

notyper
Profile for notyper
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-02-2018 20:30
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JeffX wrote:

what kind of gains can you get from a flex fuel kit? I didn't realize that was something that could see meaningful gains on an NA engine. I understand the benefits for forced induction engines, though.



Generally NA engines benefit far less from E85. However, when you start to get into the extremes for NA engines, it can make a noticeable difference. The kicker for the FA20 in the FT86 cars is the super high compression. Even with DI, 12.5:1 is pretty ridiculous. So you can see 15-20 hp from E85 and similar torque gains vs. 91 octane (smaller vs. 93). That's on the order of 10% more power which is really nice because that's the biggest weakness of the FT86.

Conversely, on something like the latest coyote engines in the Mustang, you might only see 20-25 hp (about 4-5% gains) because it is running far less compression so is far less compromised on 91 octane.

SC

Road Race
Profile for Road Race
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-03-2018 14:16
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I suggest a '06 or '07 Si. Easy to find and cheap with good handling, brakes, transmission, and engine. Also, if you bend it, used parts are affordable.

It's a car with good handling that will not bite you and no particular weak points. Now I wish to point out you may have an engine problem at some point as it is a 10+ year old car with over 100,000 miles at that price point but even so it is probably the least expensive track miles you can find.

As you sound like a novice, I would not recommend a vette, stang, camaro or S2000 as a first car. Too much HP and rear drive leads to leaving track backwards/sideways at high speed which puts an end to your fun.

superchg2
Profile for superchg2
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-03-2018 14:36
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Road Race wrote:
I suggest a '06 or '07 Si. Easy to find and cheap with good handling, brakes, transmission, and engine. Also, if you bend it, used parts are affordable.

It's a car with good handling that will not bite you and no particular weak points. Now I wish to point out you may have an engine problem at some point as it is a 10+ year old car with over 100,000 miles at that price point but even so it is probably the least expensive track miles you can find.

As you sound like a novice, I would not recommend a vette, stang, camaro or S2000 as a first car. Too much HP and rear drive leads to leaving track backwards/sideways at high speed which puts an end to your fun.


After 12 years, my '06 Si has been a real peach, and is still on its original brakes at 82K miles.

Lately, I've been treating it to BP 93 Octane, and it really seems to like it.

Road Race
Profile for Road Race
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-03-2018 18:02
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I have raced both a Teg R and a Si and found that both deliver pretty much equivalent performance on the track. But $8000 won't touch an R so the best you could talk about is a GSR and that wouldn't be as good in engine or brakes. Also, at this point Tegs are getting old and scarce and lots of miles so whatever you find won't be turnkey.

The Si has a more substantial engine and drivetrain. It's just a lot of track car for the money. The one thing I would recommend if you do a Si is change the oil pan to a baffled one. Also check the front lower A arm bushings. Other than that, put some good shocks and pads (I like cobalt) X3 front X5 rear and see what you can do.

Road Race
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-03-2018 18:15
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I know this is out of your price range but this suggests the potential of a moderate Si build. http://ipgparts.com/blog/2012-honda-civic-si-race-car-for-sale/

Road Race
Profile for Road Race
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-03-2018 18:19
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Not that I like VW's but this is built to order....
https://www.ebay.com/itm/2006-Volkswagen-Rabbit-2-5L-MKV-Track-car/292609910478?hash=item4420e8e6ce:g:JfsAAOSwS45anHlj

Road Race
Profile for Road Race
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-03-2018 18:21
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Not that I like VW's but this is built to order....
https://www.ebay.com/itm/2006-Volkswagen-Rabbit-2-5L-MKV-Track-car/292609910478?hash=item4420e8e6ce:g:JfsAAOSwS45anHlj

Road Race
Profile for Road Race
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-04-2018 20:43
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Good string on Autocross 8th gen Si.
http://www.roadraceautox.com/showthread.php?58521-LSM-8th-generation-Civic-SI-(2006-2011)

Road Race
Profile for Road Race
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-04-2018 21:44
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Speak of the devil.....

http://www.roadraceautox.com/showthread.php?63160-Gauging-Interest-For-Sale-after-Nationals-2008-Civic-Si

gofast182
Profile for gofast182
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-05-2018 10:39
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Road Race wrote:
I suggest a '06 or '07 Si. Easy to find and cheap with good handling, brakes, transmission, and engine. Also, if you bend it, used parts are affordable.

It's a car with good handling that will not bite you and no particular weak points. Now I wish to point out you may have an engine problem at some point as it is a 10+ year old car with over 100,000 miles at that price point but even so it is probably the least expensive track miles you can find.

As you sound like a novice, I would not recommend a vette, stang, camaro or S2000 as a first car. Too much HP and rear drive leads to leaving track backwards/sideways at high speed which puts an end to your fun.


That gen. Si might be a good option as well so I'd agree with that. I still think that me and Shawn's choices are a bit more on-point. I disagree that S2000 has too much power for a first-time driver and, with proper instruction and a bit of skill & humility on the driver's part, I wouldn't hesitate to have a first-time student in the C5 Vette option. It's all about taking the time to learn your ability as a driver and the car's capability, something that can be accomplished no matter the car as long as the driver has the right attitude.


Road Race
Profile for Road Race
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-05-2018 13:48
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Oh, from what I see most novices brake too hard, turn in too hard and are ill prepared when the back end steps out. As such I would counsel away from high HP rear drive cars as they get you into comparably more trouble if you lose the back end.

It's just easier to learn your craft with a lower HP car than with a 140 mph capable one. There are probably no one size fits all answers but I shy away from the thought that high hp rear drive cars are good choices for novices.

It's crazy but a beater vette probably has more HP than a GT1 car 30 years ago when I started.

gofast182
Profile for gofast182
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-06-2018 09:51
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Road Race wrote:
Oh, from what I see most novices brake too hard, turn in too hard and are ill prepared when the back end steps out. As such I would counsel away from high HP rear drive cars as they get you into comparably more trouble if you lose the back end.

It's just easier to learn your craft with a lower HP car than with a 140 mph capable one. There are probably no one size fits all answers but I shy away from the thought that high hp rear drive cars are good choices for novices.

It's crazy but a beater vette probably has more HP than a GT1 car 30 years ago when I started.


I get what you're saying but any newb will have an instructor in the car to guide him/her for as long as it takes to have confidence in their ability to handle the car.
I just can't get on board with the idea that the S2000 has too much HP.

Road Race
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-06-2018 19:48
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Ok, maybe limit the high HP crowd to Vette, Stang and Camaro. I can agree that I've never seen a S2000 fishtail out of a C&C meet.
gofast182
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-09-2018 14:04
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Road Race wrote:
Ok, maybe limit the high HP crowd to Vette, Stang and Camaro. I can agree that I've never seen a S2000 fishtail out of a C&C meet.

At our last event alone we had 2 DE1 students show up with new Camaro ZL1s (one was a 1LE) and a guy with a new Vette. They were fine. They'll stay in DE1 for a few more events with an instructor in the car. We also encourage them to keep stability control on, feeling/seeing it intervene gives them an idea of the limits without putting expensive new hardware at unnecessary risk.

gofast182
Profile for gofast182
Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-09-2018 16:06
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gofast182 wrote:
Road Race wrote:
Ok, maybe limit the high HP crowd to Vette, Stang and Camaro. I can agree that I've never seen a S2000 fishtail out of a C&C meet.

At our last event alone we had 2 DE1 students show up with new Camaro ZL1s (one was a 1LE) and a guy with a new Vette. They were fine. They'll stay in DE1 for a few more events with an instructor in the car. We also encourage them to keep stability control on, feeling/seeing it intervene gives them an idea of the limits without putting expensive new hardware at unnecessary risk.


To be fair we also had a DE2 student in a brand new Audi RS3, totaled it. Incredibly sad to see.

sadlerau
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-09-2018 20:25
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gofast182 wrote:
To be fair we also had a DE2 student in a brand new Audi RS3, totaled it. Incredibly sad to see.


Wow, that is terrible! I wonder if allowing students to leave the "nannies" on gives novices and average drivers a false sense of security, so that when they finally exceed the limits it ends up being a VERY big one??

I remember, many years ago now, being impressed with the driving of a novice, at his car control, until I realised it wasn't him, but the nannies intervening to keep the car straight!

Convertibles and open sports cars are an unnecessary risk, one day an experienced track attendee rolled his TR6 into a sand trap, and landed upside down. The windscreen had partially collapsed, and the bodyline was totally flat on top of the sand! Imagine our alarm as we ran to his aid [it happened next to the Pit entry, so those of us on the Pit wall just ran there], expecting the worst, his friend, our car club president calling out to him as we knelt in the sand trying to lift the car back onto it's wheels. "Yeah I'm OK" he called back from his cave, much to our combined relief! Without a high roll bar protection, I wouldn't go out in one if you paid me.

gofast182
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-11-2018 13:00
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sadlerau wrote:
gofast182 wrote:
To be fair we also had a DE2 student in a brand new Audi RS3, totaled it. Incredibly sad to see.


Wow, that is terrible! I wonder if allowing students to leave the "nannies" on gives novices and average drivers a false sense of security, so that when they finally exceed the limits it ends up being a VERY big one??

I remember, many years ago now, being impressed with the driving of a novice, at his car control, until I realised it wasn't him, but the nannies intervening to keep the car straight!

Convertibles and open sports cars are an unnecessary risk, one day an experienced track attendee rolled his TR6 into a sand trap, and landed upside down. The windscreen had partially collapsed, and the bodyline was totally flat on top of the sand! Imagine our alarm as we ran to his aid [it happened next to the Pit entry, so those of us on the Pit wall just ran there], expecting the worst, his friend, our car club president calling out to him as we knelt in the sand trying to lift the car back onto it's wheels. "Yeah I'm OK" he called back from his cave, much to our combined relief! Without a high roll bar protection, I wouldn't go out in one if you paid me.


It's a debate among different organizations and even within NASA. In the Northeast region the general consensus among instructors seems to be leave them on (except lane keep assist and collision mitigation braking). We are tasked with teaching our members how to drive at speed, keeping them safe, and making sure they can take their car home the way they brought it. With people showing up in more powerful, more expensive cars that may not be inherently stable as some others it's best to err on the side of caution and ease them into turning things off. While it can mean the student isn't learning pure car control, odds are they and their equipment will be safe. As for the guy who crashed his RS3, he didn't have an instructor in the car so we don't know what he did with the nannies. What I do know is that he put one wheel off in a slight divot and it caused him to lose control and spin into the Armco.

Personally, I still rely on the factory roll protection in my S2000 and it makes me nervous at times. A bar is on the to-do list.

NSXman
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-11-2018 16:42
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To me I'd put affordability up on the top of the list of the perfect track car, provided it is to have fun only.

Not sure of the viability of this, but just in my novice mind I'd think that you could find something worthy at a car auction. Copart might have something with a mechanical defect that needs fixing, but might get you in something more affordably. They also have a damage category called "Dent and Scratch". I just looked on the Phoenix auction and there is a dent and scratch 3.5 Altima with a 6MT with 145,000 miles that is Buy It Now for less than $2500 (+ auction fee and sales tax).

There's also a Dent and Scratch 2000 Mustang GT with 117,000 miles with a Buy It Now for $1100.

For mechanical issues (Copart rarely tells you what that issue is), there is an 06 325i for $1850, an RX8 with no min bid, etc.

Let the experts feel free to tell me this is not a good avenue, but I'd personally try it.

gofast182
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-11-2018 17:15
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If you like wrenching that could be a great way to get a track car. My S2000 started its track career in pristine condition but the paint has taken a beating over the years. Sometimes I wish I had the foresight to get something where the appearance wasn't going to be a concern.

Of the ones listed a 325i could make a decent track car.

NSXman
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-11-2018 20:25
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What days of the week are events normally on? I have thought a few track days here and there would be fun.
gofast182
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-11-2018 20:37
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Typically Saturday and Sunday with the bigger organizations like NASA, SCCA, and even PCA. Smaller organizations like Track Night In America will do weekdays or weekday evenings because track rentals are cheaper. TNIA events will be more loosely run and don't usually offer instructors.

Fishbulb
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-14-2018 10:46
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I ended up with a 2012 civic SI with a bit of body damage, but mechanically sound. I drove a bunch of the other options in the thread (thanks) but ultimately, I preferred the manual transmission of the honda better than the domestics (mustang, etc), and couldn't find a good miata or BMW candidate in my price range.

Anyway, looking forward to the track in a car instead of on a bike for a change. Thanks for the comments.


gofast182
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Re: Car recommendation for cheap track fun?    (Score: 1, Normal) 07-14-2018 11:37
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Fishbulb wrote:
I ended up with a 2012 civic SI with a bit of body damage, but mechanically sound. I drove a bunch of the other options in the thread (thanks) but ultimately, I preferred the manual transmission of the honda better than the domestics (mustang, etc), and couldn't find a good miata or BMW candidate in my price range.

Anyway, looking forward to the track in a car instead of on a bike for a change. Thanks for the comments.



Sounds good. Brake pads, stainless lines, and DOT 4 fluid will give you a lot of performance. From there sticky summer tires and a custom alignment will also deliver bang for the buck. Outside of those improvements, concentrate on your driving and getting seat time; once you do those things the car will have more in it than you can extract for probably a couple of seasons.

Keep us posted on how it goes getting it prepped and on track!


 
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