Author Topic: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?  (Read 749 times)

jo552006

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Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« on: January 02, 2020, 08:58:04 PM »
I had the opportunity to go auto racing with a friend last year.  It was a lot of fun and I planned on doing it again this year except he sold his car...

I live in New England where rust is a MAJOR factor on used car pricing.  While I realize racing is probably not going to be a cheap adventure no matter how we do it, I like the idea of possibly buying an affordable rust free car in California and selling it after we finish racing for a small profit to offset some of the entry fees and the like.  I realize that getting the car from California would be an obstacle, but as a fan of Roadkill and a decent mechanic, I think I could make it and think the adventure might be worth it.  Since I live in the rust belt, I hope selling a rust free sports car for a profit might actually be possible.

Does anybody have ideas  on cars I could buy and possibly turn a profit on the other end and what the expected sale price might be.  I realize MANY factors play into this, but   My current thoughts:
BMW Z3 - Buy for $3500-$5000, sell for $1,000-$1500 more
BMW E30 - Buy for <$5,000 and sell for what I have into it between purchase, transportation, and tuneup.
Miata?

Ideally I'm looking for cars that would be fun on a track where you actually get the chance to go 140mph in the straight as long as your car can do it...

I'm also not adverse to more expensive cars, just found those particular ones to be fairly affordable, and I *think* they'd sell pretty well.  Thoughts?

P.S. I can't be the first person who follows MMM to want to know about automotive arbitrage to cover expenses from an adventure.  AKA, I can't be the only Roadkill fan... right?

Syonyk

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2020, 09:12:20 PM »
Miata?  Tons of parts, spec racing classes.

Though not going to be up at 140 on the back straight without an awful lot of work...

mtn

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2020, 09:59:39 PM »
Miata. Miata Is Always The Answer. Seriously though, always a market for it, cheap and easy to repair, super reliable, parts are plentiful... NA's are becoming more of a collector car, so they're starting to tick up in value. Competitive in various classes for SCCA and NASA (at least I assume for NASA), also competitive in Autocross - which incidentally is the poor mans form of autoracing. I'm a "V8, MURICA!" guy and yet I've owned 2 Miata's. I love them. Will own another someday.

E30's are going to be difficult to arbitrage. They're full into classic car status; any that you find in California will either be asking a lot of money or else will have 250k miles because they don't rust away. You may even have better luck with them in the rust belt as folks store them for the winter. E36's and E43's may be a better bet, and better cars to boot - if only because they're newer (I also owned an E30, that is still in the family).

Mustangs and Camarobirds and Corvettes will always have a following. Cheap. Reliable. Go to any mechanic in the US. I personally think that the C5 Corvette (especially the Z06) and the NB Miata are about the two best values in sports cars today.

Skip the Z3. Too much setup to get it to be competitive. The trailing arm rear suspension takes some getting used to, with a lot of spinning involved. I loved the one I autocrossed, but it was probably one of the best developed ones in the country... And still couldn't keep up with the NC Miata's and S2000's.

S2000 would probably be a pretty good bet at not losing money too. Kinda like a weaponized Miata. Hope you don't mind a lack of torque though, but the 8k RPM redline is intoxicating. 

JLee

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2020, 10:07:45 PM »
FWIW racing is always expensive.

Fun, but expensive.

If you get into it and if you're approximately my size (6' 160-ish), I have a full set of G-Force SFI-rated gear I can sell you.

six-car-habit

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2020, 12:48:35 AM »
 1st thing, figure flying to CA , driving 3000+ miles back to New-england , is going to cost $300 plane ticket, at least 100 gallons of gas if your new car gets 30mpg - and gas at $3 / gallon for premium [ probably more most places ] another $300 minimum. A night or two in a hotel, or state park , or anywhere better than a parking lot , if you like showering , another $200, and $100+ for food and $100 for souveniers. Now you've already added $1000 to the price of your new rig.

 If you want a car to go to high performance driving events - at various road courses - where you can do 140mph on the straights and pull nearly 1G in the turns, there are a lot of cars that will fit the requirements. And in that setting , the vehicle can be bone stock factory equipped . My VW GTi will get to 125 mph on the front straight of our local track, and probably faster if i got the preceding turn just right. And its got factory seat belts, regular road tires, factory suspension, stock drivetrain, full interior, drives to work on monday.  There are other cars on the track at the same time, but one could say its not really "racing" against the other cars i suppose. You just need a Snell approved helmet.

 So, maybe you do want to go "racing" . Where you are running for points in a series. NASA - SCCA - IRDC, etc.  And cars/drivers expect to bump into each other while jockeying for position . Now you need a roll cage, gutted interior, dated safety belts / harness / Hans device . Remote kill switch, probably a fuel cell. Entry fees. A Transponder.  Do you like coming in last ?? - if Not,  figure on suspension tweaks and parts, drivetrain tweaks and parts, dedicated track tires, maybe a trailer.  Now you've added several thousand dollars to your bargain CA car.

 Will you make a profit on it when it comes time to sell your personalized racecar ?  Well I'll put in a quote from the classic car restoration world which could just as well apply to racecars - " When it comes time to sell, your parts are worth 1/2 what you paid for them, or less, and your time is worth Nothing..."

 The cheap way to do it is to get a fun , fast street car and go to high performance driving days at road courses. And even those are about $400 a day [ around here] . I'm not trying to discourage you from driving fast or racing - in my opinion, the HPDE days will allow you to get your $$ back out of the car when its time to sell. The hobby amateur"racing" series you will lose money due to all the more things that are needed for safety and class sanctioning.

edit to add - I would find the sanctioning body you think you want to run with, and download their rulebook / technical requirements for the class you want to run in. Read it twice, than start adding up costs.  Alternately a good site to look at , where you can buy someone elses already built racecar at 1/2 the $$ they put into it, is RacingJunk-dot-com.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2020, 12:59:22 AM by six-car-habit »

jo552006

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2020, 07:26:37 AM »
If you want a car to go to high performance driving events - at various road courses - where you can do 140mph on the straights and pull nearly 1G in the turns, there are a lot of cars that will fit the requirements. And in that setting , the vehicle can be bone stock factory equipped . My VW GTi will get to 125 mph on the front straight of our local track, and probably faster if i got the preceding turn just right. And its got factory seat belts, regular road tires, factory suspension, stock drivetrain, full interior, drives to work on monday.  There are other cars on the track at the same time, but one could say its not really "racing" against the other cars i suppose. You just need a Snell approved helmet.

^^^ This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about.  I'd like something fun for a month to drive around, maybe a day of working out the bugs at an autocross, followed by a couple of High performance driving events, and I'm hoping to sell the car afterward.  (Unless I buy a min-cooper, because the wife has always wanted one)  In short, I'm wondering if I can make enough money selling a rust free (sports?) car in new england to cover the initial car purchase, flight, road trip and tune up.  Anything extra that goes towards registration or tires is a bonus.

I know there's SOME level of arbitrage possible, but is the only way to make money driving back an un-rusted truck to make a couple thousand?  Hell, I paid way too much for an un-rusted Honda Civic years ago.  Wife drove it for years and we sold it.  I never regretted the purchase price, and REALLY didn't regret it when I replaced the timing belt and ALL THE BOLTS CAME OUT WITHOUT STRIPPING OR BREAKING.

Car Jack

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2020, 09:46:34 AM »
You won't make money.  So get that out of your head.  The saying we live by is that car racing is like crack, except it's more addictive and more expensive.

Background:  Autocrossed for maybe a decade.  Won BMW CCA "M" class series and fastest BMW of the year back in 97 with an E30 M3.  Also tracked lots of different cars (track records at NHIS and Lime Rock in that M3).  Instructed autocross a bit and track for a dozen years.  Eventually bought a former SCCA IT-A 87 Honda CRX-Si when SCCA made the car uncompetitive and the owner bought a TC Kline Z3. 

Depending on your intentions, I'd consider either getting an NB Miata that already has a legal roll bar but is streetable.....or look for a former racecar.  Prices for off-model old racecars are cheap.  Hondas are cheap.  Sentras are cheap.  Golfs can be cheap.  BMW, Miata, Porsche tend to be much more expensive.  The advantage of getting an off brand former racecar is that you're getting probably a $1500 cage for free, upgraded springs and shocks and lots of new components.  I had to make 2 trips with my trailer to pick up my car and all its parts, spare engines, spare body parts and paid only $4k for it.  You'll spend money sorting the car and on tires.  For classes requiring harnesses (so above showroom stock kinda stuff), you'll have to have dated harnesses and they're only good for a few years before replacement.  The other thing with a dedicated racecar is that you need a trailer, tow vehicle and place for them.  My tow vehicle was worth far more than the racecar and my trailer was worth far more than my racecar.  Everything depreciates.

Downside on the cheap cars is that you're not going 140 mph stock, even at Watkins Glen.  My E30 M3 (track record SSA at the time) was right at 120 entering Big Bend.  Having a slower car also makes you really learn the line and carry momentum (I always had low power cars...it helped).

I tended to do about 14 events a season.  I ran with BMW CCA Boston and White Mountain, COM and SCDA mostly New England (Bridghampton when it existed).  I estimated I spent about $10k a year.  But as an instructor, I did not pay entry fees.  So for 14 events, figure another $5600.

If you just want to do some non-competitive lapping, you can certainly do some HPDEs (High Performance Driving Education) and learn to drive.  BMW CCA, COM and SCDA among others do this for low cost.  COM is a racing club so tends to be stricter on what's required, so can become more expensive.  SCDA is private and entries are expensive.  Instructors often teach in all of these clubs....I did.  Curriculum is generally the same in all of them.  Of course there are others.  PCA, but you have to own a Porsche to get in, SCCA, which can be more expensive and have a steep ramp of required schools to get anywhere. 

Maybe I'm rambling a bit, but in short, been there, done that....it'll be expensive, but it doesn't have to be super expensive and of course, you can sign up for a school with a helmet and your street car.

If you have more questions....go ahead and ask.  I've been out of it for maybe 10 years but still qualified as an instructor.

mtn

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2020, 09:59:48 AM »
Car Jack,

The E30 M3 is one of my dream cars. It is on the short list of "cars that I'll buy after winning the powerball".

In your opinion, is it the bees knees that I've got it dreamed up to in my mind? FWIW, I learned to drive and autocross in an E30 318is, had 2 Miatas, and an E34... But at this point I'm sort of afraid to drive one as it would be meeting my hero, and I don't want to be disappointed. Not that it is an issue for the next few years.

Car Jack

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2020, 10:42:42 AM »
The E36 M3 was a well balanced car.  Easy to drive on the track and forgiving.  It was not as fast as the 6 cyl E36 that followed, but of course didn't have the "ripping out the body by the sub frame" issue that maybe E46 is even more infamous for.  It was built with expensive parts.  The engine was really racecar from the factory.  Very stable at high speed.  The value of these things now has come from that and the fact that they only imported 2500 of them from 88 to 91 and a lot of them became racecars when they were cheaper and have been destroyed.  I sold mine in 97 with 51k miles on it for $15k.  I did that because my work gave me a $700/month car plan but I had to have 4 doors. 

Not all that long ago, I had a few chances to pick up a 100k'ish E30 M3 for $20k and I passed.  There are a few dealers who specialize in these cars and keep on the order of 10 or more in stock, but we're talking 6 figures for low mile cars.  Not worth it in my opinion. 

I also had an 07 Lotus Elise which was worlds more fun and performed better than the M3.  Of course it was 700 pounds lighter.  Those are still affordable but have been going up since they stopped importing them in 2012.  Of course, you have to be able to get in/out of them.

six-car-habit

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2020, 12:01:00 PM »
If you want a car to go to high performance driving events - at various road courses - where you can do 140mph on the straights and pull nearly 1G in the turns, there are a lot of cars that will fit the requirements. And in that setting , the vehicle can be bone stock factory equipped . My VW GTi will get to 125 mph on the front straight of our local track, and probably faster if i got the preceding turn just right. And its got factory seat belts, regular road tires, factory suspension, stock drivetrain, full interior, drives to work on monday.  There are other cars on the track at the same time, but one could say its not really "racing" against the other cars i suppose. You just need a Snell approved helmet.

^^^ This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about.  I'd like something fun for a month to drive around, maybe a day of working out the bugs at an autocross, followed by a couple of High performance driving events, and I'm hoping to sell the car afterward.  (Unless I buy a min-cooper, because the wife has always wanted one)  In short, I'm wondering if I can make enough money selling a rust free (sports?) car in new england to cover the initial car purchase, flight, road trip and tune up.  Anything extra that goes towards registration or tires is a bonus.

I know there's SOME level of arbitrage possible, but is the only way to make money driving back an un-rusted truck to make a couple thousand?  Hell, I paid way too much for an un-rusted Honda Civic years ago.  Wife drove it for years and we sold it.  I never regretted the purchase price, and REALLY didn't regret it when I replaced the timing belt and ALL THE BOLTS CAME OUT WITHOUT STRIPPING OR BREAKING.

 I'd say it's possible to buy , fly, and drive back, then sell for an extra $1500 a couple of months later. That said, it'll be easier to do this with a $5000-10000 purchase price car, than it would be for a $3000 car.  Perhaps looking at the proposal as a Big Adventure , where the $1000-1500 you spend on the trip , gives you a lifetime of memories, places visited you never would have otherwise, bonding time with a friend, sibling, or parent - etc - regardless if you make money or break even.

   Even though you seem to want to go down the BMW road, I'm going to suggest looking at Japanese manufacturers as well.  There is a lot of nostalgia for "rice-burners" of the 80's and 90's . A well bought Nissan 300Z , Last edition RX7 ,  3000GT/VR4/Lancer evolution, 240SX, Supra/MR2, Civic Si also would have the possibility of making money based on superior body condition west coast usually offers. The key is finding that 1-2-or 3 owner "Cream Puff" vehicle that was always kept under cover,well maintained,-- and not ridden hard and put away wet.

Bernard

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Re: Frugal-ish Automotive... Racing?
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2020, 02:18:55 PM »
I did auto racing for many years "on the cheap," so I only spent the equivalent of a small single family home on this. I started with Formula V as a young man, and decades later I restarted with Mazda RX-7 rotaries, which are easy, meaning cheap, to rebuild for the specialized motor builder. Eventually I went to sports racers, which is insanely expensive (about $6K per weekend), 'til I switched to Spec Miata and even one season of Pro Miata before I retired from racing. The saying there's only one cure from racing and that's poverty is true, just that you know.

The way I understand you, you are more interested in track days, which are fun. A Miata is the absolutely best way to do this. Look up what it costs to rebuild an E30 BMW motor, and you'll understand. Miatas are absolutely bullet proof, and super fun to drive. They handle like a Go Kart with the right suspension, which is readily available via Mazdasport at a discount for not too much money. A fast driven Miata will pass an E30 M3, I can tell you that from personal experience, as crazy as it may sound.

But please understand, even cheap racing doesn't come cheap. It is as expensive as flying private airplanes, which I did as a young man. Most dangerous is that it's addictive, so think long and hard before you walk down that path. It will costs you more money than you'd expect. Even on a Miata, a set of tires lasts about 6 heat cycles, so 2 weekends, unless you want to be competitive, in which case you'll use a new set for every race.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2020, 02:20:59 PM by Bernard »