Austin, who is surprisingly from Texas, has a BMW that he wants to sell and use the proceeds for something that he can transform into a machine that’s part daily driver and part rally-racer. This is a goal we can all support, so what car should he buy?
Here is the scenario:
I live in Texas and I drive a big, fancy BMW 5 series. It’s fine, but I’m looking to get into rallycross, so I would like to sell that car and get something that that is more suitable for racing in the dirt.
I would prefer a rear-wheel-drive or an all-wheel-drive car, but it must have a manual transmission. I like hatchbacks and wagons and I don’t mind if it is over 10 or 15 years old as long as it is reliable. It also has to be something I can daily drive to work in between the races. In terms of budget, I can spend up to $15,000.
Budget: up to $15,000
Daily Driver: Yes and weekend rally racer.
Location: Dallas metro
Wants: Affordable, fun, able to rally
Doesn’t want: An automatic or something too big.
Expert 1: Tom McParland - Rally All The Cars
Austin my man, this might be my favorite project on WCSYB yet. When you said, manual, wagon, AWD and rally roots, I immediately jumped to something Audi. After all, Audi’s Quattro dominated the rally circuits for years and for $15,000 you can get yourself a nice A4 wagon with a six-speed manual.
But then I realized something: this car needs to be able to take a lot of abuse and keep on going, and the Audi may not be the best candidate for getting the snot beat out of it and then getting you to work. It also doesn’t need to be AWD, as plenty of good rally cars can throw down good laps with only the front or rear wheels doing the work. So that opens the field up to something durable, manual, and well balanced.
Go get yourself a used Honda Civic Si like this one painted “Rallye Red” in your area for about $9,000 which means money leftover for parts. The 2.4-liter i-VTEC motor paired with one of the best manuals around has enough punch to get you moving without having to worry about being off boost. It also has a limited slip differential to keep you in control on the corners. The best part is it’s a Honda Civic, so it can take the abuse and parts are easy to find. Just be sure you add a lot of rally lights.
Expert 2: Patrick George — Embrace Chaos
I see you, Austin. Every day you drive to and from your job in your nice, safe, comfortable 5 Series. Things are going well for you. You probably have a life many would find enviable. But deep down, you wonder if it’s too nice. Too safe. Too comfortable.
Something is stirring inside you, and it’s getting harder and harder to hide. You want to burn your safe and nice life down. You want to let the devil out. You want to embrace the madness, with gasoline in your blood and your soul on fire, dirt spraying everywhere and an engine howling.
A Subaru is the obvious choice, but when you need to do what is truly necessary, it’s not enough. You need to go harder. You need a Lancer Evo, my dude. Here is one in your area—an Evo VIII, the first one sold in the U.S.—with a mere 52,000 miles for just $13,499.
Ignore the financing offers in the ad. I told you to be crazy, not stupid. Bring cash, go nuts, live the rally lifestyle. Never look back.
Expert 3: David Tracy - Spend Your Cash On Mods
Look, I’ve never driven in a real rally, so I won’t pretend to tell you I’m 100 percent sure about this choice. But if rallying is anything like off-roading, then I’d recommending buying a dirt cheap, solid base, and spending money on things like a roll cage, suspension modifications and good tires.
As such, you should pick up this 1993 Eagle Talon TSI Turbo. Two grand for a turbocharged car with 195 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a five-speed manual? How could this not be the right choice?
A cursory glance through the O’Reilly Auto Parts catalogue shows that parts for this Diamond Star Motors rally machine are relatively affordable; you can get a water pump for $50, an alternator for $110 and brake calipers for between $60 and $80. Not quite first-gen Ford Mustang-cheap, but reasonable. I figure, since you’re going to be beating on this thing, these are the kinds of things you should be thinking about.
Expert 4: Stef Schrader, Expert Troll
You like the big, fancy 5er, correct? And wagons? With manuals? Clearly the best replacement for your BMW 5 series is, uh, a BMW 5 series.
You may have to drive a little, or scour Craigslist and BMW forums, but there are older manual 5 series wagons that would be a riot to rallycross. The best part about rallycross is that you can bring nearly anything you want. Most rallycross tracks are built to accommodate regular road-car heights within reason, should your car not be excessively lowered or slammed.
As much as I wanted to suggest a full-stage-rally-prepped Porsche 924 Turbo, you did mention daily driving it in the Dallas area, which is yeurghh. DFW traffic is the perfect time to hit the seat heaters and crank up the GWAR.
Here’s a 2008 BMW 535xi wagon on Autotrader for $14,995. If you’re worried about size, I’d go down to a 3 series. If you’re worried about durability, I might actually look a bit harder for an older, rear-wheel-drive wagon. Embrace your inner Bavarian lunatic, my man. Take the BMW in the dirt.
If you like your current car, hey, it’s a known entity. You can worry about stripping it down to the seats, beefing up components, perhaps a mild lift and all manner of mods later, when you finally decide to daily-drive a rally-prepped Porsche 924 Turbo in its place and become a true legend too weird for Dallas to handle. Park on the grass! Jump the Agrestic Heights speed bumps! The world is your road in a stage rally car!!!