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Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/18/20 8:28 a.m.

It’s time for Yet Another What Car Thread (Track Edition) – aka YAWCaTTE, pronounced “ya’ll Caddy?”

I am a tall guy, and I am looking for my next track car. It must be able to be registered in Washington, DC, meaning that it has to pass emissions.  Straight-piped Miatas need not apply.  Ideally, it would be narrow enough (71 inches) to fit in my tiny garage, but this is not a complete dealbreaker. I’ve done about 15 HPDE days in my old Pontiac Solstice, so I can handle something faster, but not super fast.

In true weird dad fashion, I made a detailed spreadsheet comparing 15 different cars.  I narrowed it down to three choices, and I am interested in what the board would pick.

CHOICE #1 – C5 Corvette

Pros: getting really cheap, common, fast (maybe too fast for my skill level if it’s a Z06?)

Cons: doesn’t fit in my garage, aging poorly, the gold chain crowd, only 2 seats, hard on consumables

 

CHOICE #2 – E36 M3

Pros: already cheap, very popular at the tracks around here, 4 seats

Cons: old, not really very fast in stock street form, other owners skew towards the flat-brim hat crowd

 

CHOICE #3 – 996 911

Pros: 4 seats, near the bottom of its depreciation curve

Cons: costs more than 1 or 2, IMS bearing, Porsche tax

 

If it fit in my garage, I’d get a C5, GM warts and all; since it won't fit, I have to consider the other two. What would you do?

Thanks!

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
6/18/20 8:32 a.m.

All great cars.  All fast and above my driver skill.  I WANT a 911.  All others I like and would really enjoy to own.  that's all I got.

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/18/20 8:36 a.m.

Personally I prefer Porsche over BMW so I'd get the C5 wink.

IME the IMS bearing is only the tip of the iceberg with the potential 996 engine issues, you can have one that creates a $12k shop bill without even needing the IMS bearing, just by changing the oil based on the manufacturer's recommendations. Ask me how I know.

I've also heard from some people of non-turbo 996s self-lunching the engine on the track even with the basic track mods in place. OTOH you tend to see a ton of Boxsters at track events and most of them drive home afterwards and not on the back of a tow truck, so I'd take this with a large grain of salt.

More seriously, the 996 isn't a bad choice (but not necessarily the best choice either) and if you do a fair amount of the work yourself they're not that expensive to run on the track.

Oh, and the 911 is only a four seater if you need two seats for your dogs, cats or small children.

Another thought - you probably can handle something faster, but are you going to enjoying it more than trying to squeeze the last ounce of performance out of a slower car? That said, I understand the desire for a faster car, especially after my last track day at Summit Point - feels like the proportion of really fast cars is higher here than I'm used to on the West Coast.

Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/18/20 9:01 a.m.

Thanks! Summit Point *is* my closest track, and the main circuit has a nice, big, fast straight...but I do agree about pushing the slower car hard.  I loved the Solstice - I pushed it really, really hard (and crashed it in the process).  I am indeed scared of the 996 issues, so thank you for the reality check, since I am always lusting over my cousin's. 

The C5 is hard to beat as a value proposition, so I guess I'm really looking for people to tell me to indulge my inner demons and "get the Porsche" :)

dps214
dps214 Reader
6/18/20 9:03 a.m.

From your list, I'm guessing you have a $15-20k budget for this?

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
6/18/20 9:05 a.m.

I've owned the E36 M3, I've driven (and lusted after) the 996, but for your needs I'd get the C5. 

What's up with your garage situation?

docwyte
docwyte UberDork
6/18/20 9:12 a.m.

The E36 M3 punches well above its weight on track.  They put down seriously fast track times given the amount of power they make.  They're easy to work on, maintenance parts are easy to find and not terribly expensive and they're durable as long as you don't let them overheat.  $10k will buy you a good one and leave you cash left over to make sure its totally solid.

The C5 has an LS, so tons of power, easy to hop up to 400rwhp with just basic bolt ons like a cam and exhaust, consumables are stupid cheap.  That car is all about the motor.

996's are fun cars, far more challenging to work on motor wise compared to the other two.  While the percentage of these failing is probably low, I've seen more than 6 of these catastrophically blow up on track near me.  As mentioned tho, lots of Boxsters campaign just fine, including the spec boxsters and they seem to have more tranny issues than motor issues.  I dunno, for a pure track car I'd probably still shy away from a "regular" 996 in favor of the C5 and M3, they're just going to be more reliable...

OjaiM5
OjaiM5 Reader
6/18/20 9:16 a.m.

996 with stuff taken out, lightened up and a duck tail. Yes please

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
6/18/20 9:25 a.m.

Starting to pop up on our shores is the Euro M3 too. Typically a little bit more but I've seen good ones for the low to mid 20s. Gives you the most HP of the group stock. With USDM M3's creeping up in prices lately, these are looking like a better value. 

dps214
dps214 Reader
6/18/20 9:26 a.m.

If you're on board with the "slow car fast" mentality, I'm going to go a slightly different direction and say a base model 986 boxster, a hardtop, some handling and brake upgrades, and a bunch of money left over for maintenance/repairs. By far the lowest rate of IMS failure, essentially zero risk of any of the other M96 engine troubles, and if you do manage to blow it up anyway, replacement engines don't really carry a price premium. Even in completely stock form aside from a set of 17x9 wheels and four year old used RS3s, I was blown away by how good mine was on track, add in some front camber and trustworthy brakes and I bet it would be amazing. Certainly not the fastest thing in a straight line, but fast enough that it's not really boring on the straight, especially with the flat six soundtrack.

Or, if you're willing to push the budget to the low $20k range, a 987.2 base cayman will be more capable, safer, a generally nicer car to own and drive, and has the IMS issue solved.

Error404
Error404 Reader
6/18/20 9:27 a.m.

Just gonna throw out that a fox body mustang is 69 (nice) inches wide or less, depending in year. Fits in the garage, avoids GM cooties, and height shouldn't be an issue. 

I don't have any relevant input other than try not put too much stock in the "other drivers", although I understand not wanting to be lumped in with dumdums

Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/18/20 9:50 a.m.
dps214 said:

If you're on board with the "slow car fast" mentality, I'm going to go a slightly different direction and say a base model 986 boxster, a hardtop, some handling and brake upgrades, and a bunch of money left over for maintenance/repairs. By far the lowest rate of IMS failure, essentially zero risk of any of the other M96 engine troubles, and if you do manage to blow it up anyway, replacement engines don't really carry a price premium. Even in completely stock form aside from a set of 17x9 wheels and four year old used RS3s, I was blown away by how good mine was on track, add in some front camber and trustworthy brakes and I bet it would be amazing. Certainly not the fastest thing in a straight line, but fast enough that it's not really boring on the straight, especially with the flat six soundtrack.

Or, if you're willing to push the budget to the low $20k range, a 987.2 base cayman will be more capable, safer, a generally nicer car to own and drive, and has the IMS issue solved.

The Cayman is my dream! I think it's outside of my $15-20k budget, however. 

After the Solstice, and dealing with my head being juuuuust below the top of the cage (close enough that the yardstick test was a squeeze every time), and being required to have aftermarket roll bar/cage which could possibly result in the car failing inspection, I am not going to do another convertible.  I think the PCA around here has a very lively Spec Boxster racing community too.  Maybe the next car after this will be an actual Spec Boxster racecar?

As for my garage, it's a detatched brick garage from 1938, so the door width is 6.5 ft and the driveway is nonexistent - it's on an alley.  The Solstice is 71'' wide, and I had a heck of a time turning into the garage from the alley.

Thanks for all the great suggestions, including the Fox Body!  So far I have four votes for the C5 and two for the E36. 

John Welsh (Moderate Supporter)
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) Mod Squad
6/18/20 9:56 a.m.

Small (both narrow and short length) as well as the ability to pass inspection along with some real world usability in DC leave me wondering if a Fiesta ST might be the answer.  

It will not be rwd and it will not have "brute power" but the consumables will be reasonable and the footprint should be favorable.  

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/18/20 9:58 a.m.

I've seen early Caymans in that price range in this area (given that I include DC in my usual car shopping searches) - usually manual and non S ones. They don't crop up that often, but it looks like they exist. Don't know even these were salvage/rebuilt cars, although I don't think they were.

Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/18/20 9:58 a.m.
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) said:

Small (both narrow and short length) as well as the ability to pass inspection along with some real world usability in DC leave me wondering if a Fiesta ST might be the answer.  

It will not be rwd and it will not have "brute power" but the consumables will be reasonable and the footprint should be favorable.  

Those are surprisingly quick, too.  Good suggestion!

John Welsh (Moderate Supporter)
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) Mod Squad
6/18/20 10:04 a.m.

For rwd, are BMW 135's down to your price range yet?  

 

Fiat 500 Abarth also a narrow car (though not my first choice.)  

Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/18/20 10:08 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) :

I don't think my hat brims are flat enough for an Abarth. As for the 135, I am somewhat scared of their engine issues.  Are they reliable track cars? I've never seen one at the track.

dps214
dps214 Reader
6/18/20 10:10 a.m.
Dave M (Forum Supporter) said:

The Cayman is my dream! I think it's outside of my $15-20k budget, however.  

There's a handful of them around asking $23-25k and that's just looking at autotrader. Probably hard to get one under $20k still but the extra couple grand would be well worth it IMO.

dps214
dps214 Reader
6/18/20 10:14 a.m.
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) said:

Small (both narrow and short length) as well as the ability to pass inspection along with some real world usability in DC leave me wondering if a Fiesta ST might be the answer.  

It will not be rwd and it will not have "brute power" but the consumables will be reasonable and the footprint should be favorable.  

You've never driven one on track, have you? They destroy brakes and eat up the front tires pretty quickly. Though at this point used one are cheap enough that it would leave enough budget to fix most of the issues, but you're still left having $20k invested in a relatively low power top heavy fwd car.

I would also stay away from 135s, but I think 128s are starting to get cheap, that could be a good compromise.

As much as I hate to recommend it, it's probably worth considering a FRS/BRZ.

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/18/20 10:15 a.m.

I guess we should have asked if the $15k-$20k budget includes the track mods or is simply the purchase price.

OjaiM5
OjaiM5 Reader
6/18/20 10:22 a.m.

E46 M3 could be epic as well. 

Error404
Error404 Reader
6/18/20 10:28 a.m.
dps214 said:
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) said:

Small (both narrow and short length) as well as the ability to pass inspection along with some real world usability in DC leave me wondering if a Fiesta ST might be the answer.  

It will not be rwd and it will not have "brute power" but the consumables will be reasonable and the footprint should be favorable.  

You've never driven one on track, have you? They destroy brakes and eat up the front tires pretty quickly. Though at this point used one are cheap enough that it would leave enough budget to fix most of the issues, but you're still left having $20k invested in a relatively low power top heavy fwd car.

I would also stay away from 135s, but I think 128s are starting to get cheap, that could be a good compromise.

As much as I hate to recommend it, it's probably worth considering a FRS/BRZ.

If the FiST's are as similar to a GTI as they seem, I can second them being hard on the front bits. 

As for the twins, are they that much better than a similar Miata? 

A fox body would come with a good amount of work to get good handling but they're a blast, particularly if someone else does the LS swap. Lol . The aftermarket is healthy, although tends to be oriented more for drag racing for some reason. If you really want a car that is yours through and through this might be a fun way to go but is not likely to be a turn key solution. What about an RX8? The body is stiff and they seem to respond very well to suspension mods. You can get some power out of them but if you don't intend to chase big numbers you can get a lot of results from the suspension. Depreciation should have caught up with them and landed them nicely in your price range with some goodies on top. 

MR2?

dps214
dps214 Reader
6/18/20 10:33 a.m.
Error404 said:

As for the twins, are they that much better than a similar Miata? 

Performance-wise, no. But he just said convertibles were out of the question, and it sounds like having at least a pretend back seat is a positive.

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/18/20 10:37 a.m.

The twins are at least more spacious IME than a Miata, at least the ones I have experience with (NA/NB/ND). Plus it does have four seats.

RX8s make decent track cars - I had one for a while - but they a) have corrosion issues and b) good ones aren't that easy to find anymore. But RX8 + Öhlins + sticky tires and decent brake pads makes for a pretty fun track car. Fast is something else, though.

Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/18/20 11:23 a.m.

This thread is full of great stuff, thanks! I think the 15-20 budget is including track mods, not pre-modded. The E36 seems like I can get one already modded below my price range.  The C5, not so much?  

The BRZ/FRS - I'm not sure it has enough headroom for me!  I will drive one and find out, however.

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