Pete spends most of the year on a boat, but when he is home he likes to drive fast and throw down some lap times. He is ready to swap his Corvette for something that can handle track days but doesn’t want the usual suspects. What car should he buy?
Here is the scenario:
I currently have a 335i that I use as my daily driver (when I’m home) and own two sports cars to have fun with at the track (and occasionally to wow a coworker). The unfortunate thing is I’m only in the U.S. for about 1.5 months at a time, maybe twice a year.
What I am looking for is a new track car to replace my Corvette, which I plan on selling. I don’t mind having another dual-clutch car or a manual (the Corvette). I was originally planning on checking out the new M3 but don’t really want another Bimmer and I really don’t want a Porsche.
Other than that I’m pretty open and can spend between $80,000 - $100,000 for a new track machine.
Budget: up to $100,000
Daily Driver: No, but must be street legal
Wants: A track toy
Doesn’t want: A Porsche or a BMW
Well Pete, since the BMW makes for a good daily driver and you want something different compared to the ’Vette, it might be worth considering having a car that would behave very differently on the track. Since Porsche is out, and I say go with something that has a nice combo of power, weight, and balance. You need a Lotus.
We all know the classic mantra of “add lightness” and you could score a nice Exige S for near the $50,000 mark, but that might be a bit too extreme. However, an Evora 400 has a decent balance of exotic car performance and livability that you could drive it on a public road and not wear yourself out. With a curb weight of just over 3100 pounds and a 400 horsepower supercharged V6 in the middle, it’s an excellent track weapon—but also a car that isn’t on the radar of a lot of shoppers.
Prices for Evora 400s are all over the map new 2018 models are 100,000 and more but a used 2017 with low miles can easily be had around $80,000. I say go the used route and pocket the savings for track day upgrades.
If it is a track car that you want, you might as well go all out and enjoy unarguably the best thing about living in America: a ready and affordable supply of retired stock cars.
Finding a retired Cup car in road course trim (meant for going both right and left) isn’t particularly challenging. A quick trip out to sunny California (or a couple grand worth of shipping) would net you, say, this Brett Bodine Ford Thunderbird from the 1990s. It wasn’t the best car of its day, but it is still a wild, whooping, sliding monster of a race car that could be yours for $29,000.
You could be flipping paddles on a Lotus, or banging gears on a four-speed dog box. The choice is yours.
Man, you have it rough. This is one of the best possible quandaries a human can find themselves in. You want a pure track car that’s not the same old same old for the times you’re here in America and you’ve got the money for something fun. At first, I was thinking that this is a no-brainer: get a Caterham 7! But then I started thinking about AMERICA, this bold, deep-fried land you visit, and thought you needed something more American.
So, I did the math: America + Caterham = Panoz Roadster.
Panoz is one of the few American companies making pure track cars, and I’ve always thought of their roadster as a sort of American take on the Caterham. It’s a bit more streamlined and curvy, a little less archaic, and a little more comfortable and usable on the street than the Caterham—it has AC, and even a sort-of usable trunk.
It’s got a big 4.6-liter Ford V8, makes 305 horsepower, and weighs as much as a thought of a sandwich. I found one with only 393 miles for $69,900!
You’ll love it. Or, seeing it will make you decide to get a Caterham 7. Either way, you win.
Jason’s right, you do find yourself in an enviable situation here, Pete. That is why I’m going to present several options here.
First, I’m not sure why you don’t want to consider a BMW or a Porsche. I think you should rethink that decision carefully, as you’re ruling out two of the best performance brands out there. I feel like a used M3 (or really any solid, manual 3 Series with the right equipment, or has been built into a dedicated track car) or a Boxster or Cayman would fit the bill extraordinarily well here. Those would be my personal go-tos.
Second, there’s a question of what kind of track stuff you do, and your level of experience. I’d love to recommend a used Spec Miata race car, built with a cage and everything ready to go, which is fun for people at any skill level. It would also come in well under your $100,000 budget—but those aren’t usually street legal, which you say you need. (They’re also the very definition of a “typical choice”, but for good reason!)
So, the hell with it, I’m going to suggest you get a Nissan GT-R, which I recently drove and gained a renewed love for. A faster car is hard to find anywhere, and with your $100,000 budget you could squeak in a new-ish one pretty easily. Having been on the market for a decade now their prices are all over the place. The current one packs well over 500 HP, a dual-clutch gearbox, a sophisticated AWD system and enough electronic gizmos on track that you’ll be tough to match. Obviously you’ll want to find one that hasn’t been beaten half to death, and mind the repair costs.
Here’s a red one with under 30,000 miles for $66,411 in New Jersey. That looks like fun to me.