By on October 12, 2017

2015 Ford Mustang GT dirt road

Speed costs money; how fast do you want to go? It’s the kind of thing you see on the back of T-shirts worn by grey-haired men at “Cars and Coffee,” but that don’t make it not true.

With that said, there are a million different ways to spend your speed-seeking dollar, some of them better than others. Which brings us to this week’s $10,000 question…

Reuben writes,

After a couple of rough years paying off all that student debt, I’m ready to go into debt for something a little more worthwhile. I figure I can borrow $10,000 on a personal line of credit and use it to put together an autocross and trackday car. Should I buy a $5,000 car and put $5,000 into it, or buy the fastest $10,000 car I can get? I don’t care if it has two seats or a convertible top as long as it’s track-legal.

This is the kind of question that, strictly speaking, should generate a few clarifying questions from me before I answer it. Is this your only car? Can you tow it? What’s your local track? How competent are you likely to become behind the wheel? You get the idea.

For the moment, however, I’ll make some core assumptions:

* It’s not your only car and it doesn’t have to be dead-nuts reliable;
* With that said, it does need to run.
* You won’t have unlimited funds for consumables or repairs.
* You’ll be driving it to and from the track.

The standard answer to this situation is a five-grand Miata with five grand’s worth of upgrades to ensure reliability and lower the laptime. It’s hard to make the case for anything else, really — but I’m going to try. I found this stick-shift New Edge Mustang GT which is a no-bid at $5,200. It looks like these New Edge GTs tend to fetch about seven grand, so let’s use that as a baseline. I’d have all the fluids changed and have any iffy-looking radiator hoses, brake lines, or other rubber components replaced. Plan on a thousand bucks for that.

That leaves us two thousand dollars for performance upgrades. Seven hundred dollars gets us a set of the “Hoosierstone” RE-71 tires in the original factory 245/45R17 size. Another seven hundred dollars will put Hawk Blue brake pads, 600-degree brake fluid, and fresh rotors all the way around. And we still have six hundred bucks left over for something like a used Sparco bucket seat and/or a better shift linkage. Maybe some replacement shocks, if the car needs them.

Expect to be thoroughly disrespected by the know-it-alls at your local track — and expect many of them to eventually point you by, however reluctantly. The New Edge Mustangs have 260 honest horsepower, are capable of running a 14.5 in the quarter, and handle surprisingly well on decent rubber. When you’re ready to spend a little more money, you will find out that the aftermarket for these cars is truly outstanding. It’s easy to take a few hundred pounds out of the interior, and you have a clear path to eventually racing the car in NASA’s CMC or American Iron classes.

Most importantly, these ugly old bricks are a real thrill to drive and, if you put a couple grand into the engine, they start to become scary quick. And they sound like real race cars once you open up the exhaust. Those Miata owners might never admit it, but they’ll be envious each and every time they hear you roaring down the front straight. Isn’t that half the battle?

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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60 Comments on “Ask Jack: Ten Grand to Go Fast?...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    When I took the MSBR at the local community college, the instructor posed the following question to the class: “What is the most important thing to remember when riding a motorcycle?”

    We all thought he was going to say something about visibility or safety.

    He said “You have to look cool.”

    • 0 avatar
      brakeless

      Of course. Motorcycles are the cheapest way to go fast. That happens to be the reason I started riding. I bought a 13-second quarter mile for $600. Fastest money I ever spent.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        They make incredible track beasts for the money too. You can probably buy a fully prepped track bike AND trailer for $5K. Just don’t crash :)

        Another idea is to just rent a motorcycle at the track. There are organizations that do it for as cheap as $200 a session.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “I bought a 13-second quarter mile for $600.”

        13 seconds quarters for a street bike is slow unless it is a Harley. What kind of bike?

        I drag-raced a YZ490 Yamaha MX bike with wheelie bars and street tires. Re-jetted the carb and changed the gearing and I ran a 13.34 all day long.
        A buddy of mine who was an expert MX racer ran 11.8 seconds on his Kawasaki KX500 similarly set up.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      some of us can’t pull off “cool” no matter what bike we’re on.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Don’t drag me into this, Jim.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          it was meant in a self-deprecating way

          • 0 avatar
            everybodyhatesscott

            I’m pretty sure the Ducati Panigale can make anyone look cool.

            At least until you get off and you’re limping because the riding position is brutal on the wrists and lower back.

            The only way to confirm this theory is to convince Jack to buy one. C’mon Jack, you like to spend money.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            ooh, shiny. 197 hp… I still haven’t got used to the ~115 of my FZ-09.

            one thing which (mildly) irritates me about Ducati- they make beautiful bikes and pay a lot of attention to the finish of even things like the rear axle nut, but then hang what look like plastic p*ss cups off of the bars for the clutch and brake reservoirs.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          LOL

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      I mean, it kinda makes sense if you think about it. If you look cool enough, everyone will notice you, therefore visible and safe.
      Also, it’s harder to look cool when your bike is a crumpled heap of metal on the side of the road and you’re a bloody mess laying next to it. Not crashing is cool. Not dying is cool. But if you’re gonna be uncool, do the cool thing and be an organ donor.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’m going to go left and say an 8th gen Civic Si. You can find a high mileage one for $5K no problem. Then throw on the following parts list:

    Stock size RE-71s- $800
    TSX front calipers + 4 rotors, pad pairs and fluid- $700
    Tein rebound adjustable coilovers- $600
    I/H/E/tune- $1700
    Much needed chassis bracing- the rest

    Stock seat is not bad so for that money you have something that can turn, stop and probably trap close to 100 revving out to nearly 9K that will keep running as long as you change the oil. With a god-honest mechanical LSD- worth $2K alone! If you get a sedan it’s actually pretty usable with the only bugaboo being that god awful Honda road noise. It’s like an economy car from 10-15 years prior in that regard. But with a helmet + earplugs that’s irrelevant. You and your wallet will absolutely love the ~500-600lb saved over the Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      FlyinGato@youtube

      only thing that may throw a wrench in this is a possible synchro issue. As a Honda fan, I’m not that confident in their transmissions, as I currently have one in my Type R

  • avatar
    Car Guy

    My vote is a late 90’s C5 Corvette with some upgraded brake parts. Lots of fun and a very reliable 350HP LS motor with tons of aftermarket support.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I have been looking for a while and it is pretty hard to find even a C4 for under 10k, let alone a C5 with enough left over to buy some tires.

      • 0 avatar

        My father bought a C4 for 7k a few years ago and it still needed 1k in brake and suspension work to get it right. I think sub 12k c5’s all need a fair amount of work.

      • 0 avatar
        Car Guy

        I’ve seen some decent examples of C5’s with 110-120K miles for around $10K. A little rough around the edges but a usable track car. Plus about $200 will take care of the column lock issue and rocker arm trunnion bearings. Much better than some 4cyl FWD car. Or go with a F-Body of the same vintage for even cheaper and still get that great LS motor……….

      • 0 avatar
        Dorri732

        “it is pretty hard to find even a C4 for under 10k,”

        I bought this one this year for $6k. Here it is at Road Atlanta.

        https://i.imgur.com/3tlk1EM.jpg

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Assuming you already have a daily driver, don’t go into debt for a toy. That’s just stupid.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    As someone with years of Fox Body (I even assembled them on the line in the late 80’s/early 90’s) and SN-95 experience, I can say that Jack is onto something with the Mustang. I’d like to call out the Baruth brothers on their Ford bias, but my gut tells me that “Merr-can!” V8 torque will be more fun overall than “The Answer Is Always Miata” folks would like to admit. Plus, the parts for Mustangs are going to be plentiful, cheap, and available from mild to wild tunes for years.

    More important than anything else IMHO is that whatever car you choose, make sure it is RWD and has a limited-slip differential (or you buy/install the LSD with part of your budget). No FWD car is ever going to satisfy trackday urges, even one with a trick mechanical LSD.

  • avatar
    Cactus

    Financing a toy is a dumb idea.

    Why not just drive what you’ve got around the track? Unless you’ve got something that can’t hold up to hard driving (I can think of a couple cars that suffer oil starvation under even low G-loading) whatever you’ve got is a fine place to start. You’re going to suck and be slow your first time out, why suck and be slow in a fast car? Eventually you’ll start not sucking, and passing people in a slow, terrible car is always fun.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    When I read the title I thought about what I could do to my RWD, V8 truck. So ignoring the OP, for $10k I would get:
    Supercharger
    Performance exhaust/intake
    Detroit Locker
    Tires

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    I thought the article’s about “$10,000 to go Fast”, not spending $10,000 to make a lot of noise going slow. A New Edge GT wasn’t even fast when it was brand new.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I grew up in a GM family but it sounds like someone who has hurt feelings about the Auto Journalists almost always preferring the Camaro while the Mustang lit up the sales charts (the situation for nearly every model year that the Camaro and Mustang were both on sale new.)

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Let’s hear your GM-powered alternative.

      The average $7,000 LS1 Z28 is a nightmare.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Cobalt SS!

        • 0 avatar
          chevysrock39

          I was waiting for someone to mention Cobalt SS. I track a C5 at the moment, and you will be looking at a rough one in this price range. My current daily is a Cobalt SS T/C with GM stage 1 that bumps it up to 300HP. Even as a FWD car, it still handles remarkably well – the stock car with 260HP was faster around VIR than a BMW 135, Lexus IS-F, Honda S2000 and Audi S5 among others. (C&D Lightning Lap 2008)

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Truth! It will not have had a gentle life but on the bright side. If it was,left out in the sun everything should disintegrate on touch saving time and effort with weight reduction.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I’m going to make the unlikely assumption you’re a few standard deviations from the mean mechanical aptitude and suggest the following:

    NA or NB Miata shell + Ecotec conversion = $4-5k all in if you do the work yourself and grab any of the LE5 motors populating junkyards from Malibus or others.

    On a track, the Ecotec really shines and sounds fantastic. It has the benefit of being extremely stout to boot and will happily live all day north of 6k RPM. GM seems to have a habit of making its most pedestrian engines secret race stars. 3800s are formidable in the right platform (even though they sound like mating cows) and are everywhere.

    This would work far better for entering races and I don’t know what the SCCA AutoX rulebook says about such heresy.

    Speaking of that, what ever happened to Black Betty?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Betty was finally sold to a new owner earlier this year, to my immense sorrow.

      I don’t think I’ll ever forget that morning at NJMP where I took the start in Betty, did five laps, looked in the mirror, and realized all sixty cars were too far back for me to see.

    • 0 avatar

      How much so race prepped Neons go for these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        I didn’t see any for sale, but I know of a few nowhere close to Jack’s car that sold for 2-3k with a Lemons/Chump legal cage.

        Buying someone else’s car with a good, inspection-passing cage from someone you know is the most cost-effective way to get on a starting grid.

        This thing has me intrigued, but my oldest kid is 6. Long ways to go…

        http://www.racingjunk.com/24-Hours-of-LeMons-Cars-for-Sale/182912816/1997-Ford-Crown-Vic-Police-Interceptor.html?page=2&categoryId=4520&offset=12&from=category

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    A Cobra IRS is a direct bolt-in, if you can find one. But the solid rear axle can be tuned to make a pretty competent corner crusher. Lots of options to make Mustangs do pretty much anything you want them to do on any given track.

    The S197s are beginning to hit their depreciation bottoms, too.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    I still think one of the best “speed deals” out there is a late C4 Corvette (and even C5s, but I don’t think they hit his $10k budget).

    They’re still mostly unloved and therefore cheap – but the suspension is excellent and the LT1 is ready for pretty much anything and as reliable as the tides.

    Plus, there’s always the “Vettekart” conversion if you wanna go nuts.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Just set fire to the cash and make the stories fiction. Outcome’s the same either way.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    High end deck top PC and steering wheel/pedals and some good racing simulator software – way less than $10K and you can use it to write auto journalist stories in your spare time.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Everything JB said but I just swapped the ‘Stang for a 350Z. Its working out just fine. However my Z is also my daily (but I have a truck as backup) so the interior isn’t stripped and my starting budget was about $8K more mainly because my Z had 1/2 the mileage (a true garage queen).

    Upgrades were wheels, tires and brakes right of the bat. Since then its been small stuff: sway bars, high flow cats, diff cooler, oil cooler. Next up is new bushings, light weight flywheel/clutch, maybe shocks and when I finally find a deal on a used one… a supercharger for another 100HP to offset the weight penalty of running a full interior. At some point my Z will become a track only toy since the ride is noisy and harsh now with things only getting worst with each upgrade.

    LOL @ “Hoosierstone” RE-71. My brother ran these for awhile then upgraded to the Nitto NT01s. Then switched over to Hankooks and wants his Nitto’s back ASAP. I’m still running the Hankooks RS-3s because RE-71 (and 11s) don’t come in my sizes and cost a bit more.

  • avatar
    tracktardicus

    “Fast, reliable, cheap: pick two.”
    I see the appeal of American iron, but I think a Miata is still a great choice. You can pick up a fully track-prepped Miata with several thousand left over for consumables with $10k.
    I’ve learned that weight is the enemy-a Mustang is a heavy car, and will be more expensive re: pads, tires, rotors, and cooling as you learn to drive it at its limit on a track.
    Also, I think a momentum car like a Miata will make you a better driver in the long run-horsepower masks driving errors that you can’t get away with in a momentum car like the Miata.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    “The New Edge Mustangs have 260 honest horsepower”

    That was when new, right?

    Assuming this engine was decently maintained, how many of those ponies do you figure left the stable in thirteen years?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The 1st performance mod I’d do to the Mustang is a ring-n-pinion swap, an approx $1,200 setback installed, but the best bang-for-your-buck. Maybe a street friendly 3.73, then on to bushings and damper upgrades, a pro shifter perhaps. I’d leave it “stock” under the hood for max resale.

    Instead of major power adders, save your pennies for the ’03/’04 supercharged “Terminator” Cobra “upgrade” maybe $10K more. Or buy one in the 1st place.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Basically your options are Miata or Mustang. I would like to recommend the C4 Corvette, but go fast track parts are going to be more expensive.

    I also don’t understand the personal loan for a car. An auto loan, likely from a credit union will be way cheaper since it’s a secured loan.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Negotiating with cash then owning it outright has clear advantages vs typical auto loans and used car dealers. Payback can be more on his terms, same with insurance.

  • avatar
    volvo

    There are two fasts. One straight line the other the twistys. What do you want? Probably can’t have both for 10K or less. For real feel of speed within decent budget and safety I would agree with the Kart suggestion.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      That’s true but can you show a better compromise than the V8 Mustang? Actually there’s a clean SVO on bringatrailer with a couple days left and bid up to $5K.

  • avatar
    Fred

    You can get a pretty nice Sprite for less than $10,000. It’s not actually fast but it feels that way. But, really, the best bang for the buck is a Fox body Mustang. Plenty of ratty hot rods out there, and it don’t take much hp to get these these things going. Just be sure to stiffen up the frame.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Given the financial situation – just gotten out of debt and going back into it for a toy – the Miata is once again the best (least stupid?) answer. Not only is the cost of entry cheap, short of a Civic (which isn’t a bad idea either for this application), I can’t think of a track car which costs this little to run on the track. At $10k for a track ready example you’re looking at the NA and NB generation, and those run best on 15″ rubber on which track-ready grip happens for about $100 per corner. With the modest weight and power, you won’t be wearing them out very quickly either. Quality aftermarket parts and information abound. You can find garage-queen, pristine examples for not much over $5k, or get track-fettled ones for around $10k. If you luck out and find one that’s been properly turbocharged, you get a very quick, reasonably-reliable car. A naturally aspirated one is a more reliable learning tool.

    Even a stock Miata feels like driving a golden retriever puppy. What it lacks in speed it makes up for in involvement, and you can make one properly fast if you’re willing to spend the money.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    Here’s the Cobra of your dreams for $6500: https://columbus.craigslist.org/cto/d/1997-ford-mustang-cobra/6292896209.html

  • avatar
    gimmeamanual

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/boomerang-basement-bolides-zeroth-place-2003-time-attack-ford-mustang-gt/

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    This could be a whole new Ask Jack article, but what about buying some sort of reliable beater and using it to go hang around the track and see if anybody is selling their car? Better to know it has been run at the race track and hopefully priced and tuned accordingly than risk an unknown used street car.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Good suggestion. I know of several track cars that changed hands this way. Most track rats keep pretty detailed parts lists and invoices as they go so verifying value should be easy.

      However a used street car in good condition is not a problem on track. The braking and cooling system will need an detailed inspection but as long as the exhaust isn’t held on by a coat hanger it should be fine. Fluid leaks are immediately run-away sign. Suspension and mounting bushings (diff, tranny, engine) would be the next areas to confirm. Lower mileage examples are likely to be fine in this regard. As with any used car purchase the more stock it is the better because cheap or badly installed aftermarket mods are always questionable. Heck most of them are all show and no-go anyway.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Please Jack, not Hawk Blue pads. They’re what passed for a decent track pad in 1995, not today. They throw off glowing metallic embers that embed themselves permanently in your wheels and paintwork. Go for Hawk HT or DSC series.

    I’m not a Pony car fan, but with only 28K miles that Mustang is almost too nice to turn into a ratted out track car.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “Speed costs money; how fast do you want to go?”

    Nonononononono, it’s “speed costs money; how fast do you want to spend?”

  • avatar
    Pig Hater

    No need to spend 10 grand, over 20 years ago I bought a 700 cc Suzuki Intruder for $1800 with 8,000 miles on it. I’ve had plenty of fun with it since then, and it doesn’t take me to the bank like some other bikes I can think of. BTW I got over 61,000 miles on the bike now.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Spend the $10K on race driving lessons and be fast in anything


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