The search for the $6,000 track car isn't as easy as it looks!
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The average driving enthusiast has at some point been consumed by the search for the ultimate car: A fun, practical, budget-friendly, track capable machine. Could such a unicorn be had without selling your own mother and subsisting only on Mr. Noodles for the rest of your life?
Many moons ago, I owned a single car. A 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero. It had a smooth turbocharged V6, a manual transmission, and whack-ton of mid-range torque. I desperately wanted to see what it was capable of, so I took it to an open lapping day. My world was quickly consumed by understeer – the succubus of the driving enthusiast’s soul. Since the car wasn’t up on its maintenance (my fault) and was driven past its limit (also my fault) – it cooked its brakes and refused to turn off the fan when parked, killing the battery. Consider me educated.
Just like that, I decided I wanted a car to dedicate to track driving. I relegated the Saab to daily-driving duty, and the hunt commenced with a paltry $6,000 to spend. I considered, and test drove many options, and landed on a 2003 BMW 325i. However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. You should know, that I have this weird illness where I continually buy old cars for super cheap that somehow have a part on the verge of failure. This manifested itself immediately, where only five laps in, I completely blew the clutch. Classic.
Since I have this bizarre fascination with pain, and a weird aversion to professional mechanics, I decided to change the clutch myself. Hey, you want to know what sucks? Changing a clutch on a rusty German car; that’s what. The process of fixing, upgrading, and testing parts on the track, became a labour of love. Often, while lying on my driveway wrenching on a resistant Bavarian suspension part, I would wonder if I made the right choice.
Whether or not I chose the most reliable budget track car, or the one that is the most DIY friendly, I began to realize I was doing it. I was owning and running a track car for well under $10,000. Regardless of where we come from, or what kind of income we have, oddly us driving enthusiasts all have a similar goal- finding that car that scratches the itch. We might have different versions of it, but we aim to own a car that creates an indefinable feeling. A feeling that is somewhere between “fun” and “fear”. This feeling doesn’t need to have a massive price tag.
You can have more fun and improve in a car that doesn’t need to go fast to find its limits. I found this in my little BMW. It’s rear-wheel-drive, well balanced, and loads of fun. As it turned out, a few cheap mods and proper maintenance created an engaging track car that I could also drive every day. There are a few sacrifices you have to make to keep an older car, but the reality is, I still have lots of funds left over for track experiences. There are probably better options than my BMW **cough-Miata-cough**, but for every hour I put into making it work, it gives me three hours of fun on the track. That to me is a pretty gosh-darn good profit margin.