Don’t worry. They haven’t banned fun cars… yet. That’s next week.
Let’s first talk about what a track day car is. It’s typically something small, agile, naturally aspirated (if you’re lucky). Turbos are just another thing that can go wrong. Rear wheel drive (unless it’s a Mini a GTI). It should have tons of aftermarket support and cheap replacement parts. It also helps if the manufacturer made a ton of them. Most importantly, however is the price. It should be fairly cheap. After all, who wants to crash a car that’s gonna leave their bank account as sore as their neck should they slam their precious four wheeled friend into a jersey barrier.
It’s this last characteristic that fueled the title of this blog. While there are still a ton of small, agile cars on the road, none and I mean none of them are cheap. I discovered this whilst looking for a track day car to build over the winter for next year’s season.
My B5 S4 was supposed to be my beater car that I could build up, put a half cage in and toss around a track. Discovering first hand how terribly difficult they are to work on, I decided this is not the car I want to break. I also accidentally made it into something so pretty that I just don’t want to mangle it. Lastly, the prices on a good example have skyrocketed. My F Type R is well… and F Type R. And I haven’t yet reached disposable F Type R status.
So I packed my bags, opened the front door and headed out in search of a cheap fun car. Ok, so I sat on my couch and opened some apps… but you get the point.
Okay… time to find some of the usual suspects. Porsche 944. Twice the price as the last time I looked a couple years ago. 924… never really been a fan. Second gen MR2. Good luck. They’re the “I know what I got” crew. 3rd gen MR2, aka the ugly one. Holy crap, they also learned what they also got. Dang! GTI? Where did boxy ones go? 3 series are all hyper valued already and for good reason. They’re brilliant! Datsun? Nope. That’s basically the same as an air cooled Porsche these days. 350 Z? That was my only choice, but I just sold a 370. Want to experience something new. Sorry 350. I love your trumpety goodness. It’s not you. It’s me. So what was left? Miata. M-iata I-s A-lways T-he A-nswer. Except it really isn’t anymore. I tried so hard to avoid the charming little sprite-eyed roadster because they’re always the danger answer. I wanted to be different. I explored the BMW 1 series but there aren’t enough manuals. Somebody save them… please. So back to the Miata I went a-crawlin. And my gosh! Why didn’t I discover them sooner? I’d have bought three of them! One to race. One to drive. And one to canabalize parts from to fix the aforementioned. Like I said, though, they are no longer the answer. They have shot up in price. The 114k mile NB (2001) Miata I bought had an asking price of $10,999! I got it for cheaper, but I’m not the sort to expose my methods. If you catch me at the bar, I’ll tell you what I paid. But it wasn’t six thousand dollars, and that’s a huge problem. We used to be able to just wait for new sports car to expire. That has been a time honored tradition of young car guys (and girls) since time began. That’s why my buddy in high school had a 66 caprice during our sophomore year.
Here’s the rub. The manufacturers have all committed to the insane idea of going all electric all the time and there really is no such thing as an electric sports car and that means the ones that exerts now (and the ones that are made until 2030) are the only ones that will ever exist. Don’t get me wrong. EVs have a role to play in the world, but I’m the world of motor sports, square peg, round hole comes to mind. So this simply means that the used sports market has spiked and unless our beloved politicians get their heads out and understand that blanket ultimatums hardly ever work in the real world, prices will not come back to earth any time soon. That said, I went on a mission to have a naturally aspirated car (Miata), Turbo car (B5 S4), Supercharged car (F Type R) and The last one I want is a mid-engined car. That way when everyone is zipping around in their silent laptops on wheels, I’ll be the old guy puttering around in my Dino-burners having more fun than anyone else. I’m still in the hunt for my mid-engines masterpiece, so if anyone wants to gift me a Ferrari F-40 (okay, I’ll take an ugly MR2), hit me up in the comments. I’ll be waiting. As for track day cars? I guess they still exist. They’re just not cheap.