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A friend of mine with a taste for autocross racing (tight blacktop circuits laid out by cones) recently ran into a major problem with his Toyota Celica GTS. In his second race of the day, his motor died, and later diagnosis revealed a spun bearing and a dropped valve, two of the worst problems an engine can have, and it cost over $6,000 to repair. Not bad for one day’s work.

He’s decided to scrap or sideline the car, which brings up the question: what should he replace it with? We went back and forth for a little while on the subject, coming up with a bevy of interesting options in the $6,000 to $10,000 range. He’s looking for something with decent fuel economy, low miles, and performance credentials. An added bonus is the same wheel pattern as his Celica, so he can reuse his expensive lightweight rims and race tires. We came up with the Porsche 944, older 911s, old BMW 3-series and M3s, Honda S2000, Mazda Miata and RX7, and C4 Corvette, but what did we miss?

(Thanks to Flickr user stevelyon for this great CC-licensed photo.)

 

16 Responses to Automotive Woes

  1. Jim German says:

    Early 2000 3-series would be my choice, or a late 90’s M3.

  2. JB says:

    Toyota MR2/ Datsun 510, 240Z/ BMW 2002/ Ford Contour, Focus/ Pontiac Fiero/ MGB, MGB GT/ Volkswagen Scirocco, GTI, Notch Back. Not sure what kind of drive layout your buddy is looking for but here is a few ideas.

  3. Beans says:

    What about a Subaru WRX?

  4. PeterP says:

    I thought this was an interesting project, but it might be a little out of your friends budget:

    http://www.gearztv.com/projects/banshee.html

    Fitting a Ford 302 into a Mazda Miata seems like a win.

  5. Chevy_Man says:

    I know someone know used to cone-race Dodge Neons.

  6. KMR says:

    original Mazda Miata – even if it is a blatant Japanese copy of the Lotus Elan.

    It is race proven, and there are so many products out there available at decent prices to turn a Miata into any sort of racer you could want. Major replacement parts are CHEAP as well. Blow a motor? OK, you can find another good used one for a few hundred.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Miata has no personality… but from sheer practicality and intended purpose, it has to be the top pick.

  7. Toolaremia says:

    @KMR: “Working, reliable Japanese copy” might be a better description. 🙂

    Nothing like selling nearly a million of them to prove the point…

  8. KMR says:

    Toolaremia: My British cars are perfectly reliable – as long as I don’t drive them! 😉

  9. Kai Howells says:

    I’ll second the Miata – if he’s planning on doing more AutoX.
    Whilst I’m solidly in the Euro camp, the little Mazda’s are a formidable force on the autocross track as they’re small, nimble, quick and there are loads and loads of aftermarket parts you can get for reasonable prices.

    Now, it’s not really a “Mans” car by any stretch of the imagination, so if it’s also his daily driver the BMW would be good, also check out a MkIII ir MkIV Golf GTI VR6 – they’re front heavy, but they’re a small hatch with a 2.8l V6 up front and they’re a beautiful drive. Not as competitive on the autox track as the Miata, but a nicer daily driver.

  10. Kai Howells says:

    Oh, with the VW route, the wheels are 5×100 ET35 (I think) and on some of the newer ones they’re (again from memory) 5×112

  11. heywood says:

    There are too many choices to list…

    however, what is the problem with just getting a replacement short block for the celica gts?? its underpinnings are well-balanced, rear-drive and if he put enough work into it to be a decent autox’er it would be much less expensive to find a replacement engine…

    my 2c.

    otherwise, there are few high quality rear-drive affordable and reliable cars outside of the Japanese offerings. I am fairly confident he will be tearing his hair out the first time something breaks in a BMW, Porsche or most any other euro marque minus VW.

    The other nice thing about Japanese cars is the requirements that engines be replaced after a certain point (is it 45k miles still?)

    I’ve replaced a couple this way.

  12. Lex Dodson says:

    Thanks for the input, gents. The Golfs completely escaped both of us, and it doesn’t look like there are any drawbacks to those little monsters. He’s looking for a VR6 or four-pot Golf as a daily driver, and the Celica will get rebuild and stripped out in the winter to become his dedicated racer. Lucky sod. 😉

  13. dwainedibbly says:

    Mazda 323 GTX

  14. Joe says:

    For $3000 bucks you can slap in a rebuilt engine and clutch. Do it yourself, it really is not that hard.

  15. @heywood: actually, I’ve found BMW parts on bot my older 5-series (E28 and E34) to be almost exactly the same price as VW parts. Cheaper in a lot of cases, and almost universally better built. Mk1-Mk3 VWs all share the same mechanical (weak transmissions, spooky timing belts, etc) and electrical gremlins. Avoid the dealership, of course.

    I’d definitely recommend an E30 if someone wanted a budget european autocrosser. Same ballpark price as a VR6 car and much, much, much better handling. Any VR6 is a _total_ pig in the tight stuff and an E30 will out-handle even the best set up 4-banger Mk1/Mk2 vw.

    I’d steer clear of E36’s from a reliability standpoint…they were really the low point of BMW quality/reliability.

    But as for something competitive and cheap, a Miata is really a no-brainer.

  16. olderty says:

    Fox body Mustang. You can’t pick up an auto catalog without there being an entire section devoted to them. I’m thinking car – $4k, suspension/brakes – $2-3k, upgrade/rebuild engine/trans $1-2k. The rest use on paint and wheels and tires.

    If something breaks there are plenty of donors out in the boneyards.

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