Ten of the Best Cheap Cars to Take Racing
How to make racing just a little bit more affordable.
Racing is expensive. There’s no real way around it, but you can start with a cheap car and turn it into something legitimately fast. Whether it’s autocross, rally, LeMons, endurance racing, or SCCA, these cars all have something to offer.
With the beloved E30 3-Series now a bonafide collector’s item, it’s successor, the E36, has become the car of choice for grassroots racers. Tons of people race them in spec classes, they’re easy to modify, and their straight-sixes are stout and powerful.
I’m sure many of you reading this are groaning at the obviousness of a Miata on this list, but the fact of the matter is that early Miatas are still affordable, and perfectly suited for amateur racing. There’s a reason why you see at least five at every race track.
Think of the Neon as the front-wheel-drive companion to the Miata. Seriously. These cars are a genuine force to be reckoned with on road courses, and their beater status means the price of entry is very low.
Thanks to a huge aftermarket, you can do pretty much anything you want with a Fox Mustang. Drag car? Easy. Road course car? Less easy, but still totally doable. Rally car? Probably, and you’d be a hero if you tried.
There are any number of Honda and Acura products from the 1990s we could put on this list, but we chose the sporty Integra for its superlative handling. No, you won’t be able to find a Type R on the cheap, but even a lowly base model is more than adequate to do the job.
The Ford Focus SVT is the hot hatch everyone sort of forgets about. We’re not really sure why that’s the case, but it’s an excellent car, so use its obscurity to your advantage. Pick one up cheap, learn how to left-foot brake, find some knobby tires, and get thee to a rallycross course.
Want to build a drift car? Just get a Nissan 240SX. It’s not the most unique choice, but it’s easily the most sensible one. In stock form it has an excellent chassis, but an SR20 swap will really unlock its potential. If you’re feeling especially fruity, drop an LS in it and smoke everyone.
Want to know a secret? The first-generation Boxster is the Porsche you should buy right now. Purists are still turning their noses up at these, overlooking a fantastic, mid-engine sports car. It’s one of the more expensive cars on the list, but hey, it’s a Porsche.
We’ve probably already missed the boat on the Supra and the MR-2, but the Toyota Celica can be picked up for a song and raced. You get Toyota’s famous reliability, and if you can find an all-wheel-drive GT-Four, a genuine rally pedigree.
This is easily the most expensive car on the list, but it’s arguably the only one that can hang with the big boys. It’s not as luxurious as a 911, but it can easily hang with them in terms of speed. Their engines–the LS2 in the first years of production, than the LS3 starting in 2008–are virtually bulletproof and very powerful. A C5 is a little less powerful, but it’s worth an honorable mention here too.