Ask Jack: Ten Grand to Go Fast?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

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]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Oct 13, 2017

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

  • Weskyvet Weskyvet on Oct 22, 2017

    Camaro, Firebird, Mustang, G body GM, Crown Vic, Civic, Miata, anything can be a track car if you're crazy enough. My suggestion go with the F body GM cars from the mid to late 90s or a G body from the mid to late 80's. The F bodies are still plentiful and they still churn out parts like no tomorrow for them. The G bodies are still plentiful, have probably had a 350 chevy swapped in anyway, are simple-ish to work on, and they still make go fast parts for the chevy small block 350. I used to track an 88 Cutlass Supreme Classic. No she wasn't fast, it didn't turn all that great (Edelbrock suspension kit helped it out immensely in that regard), and the 307 wasn't a fire breathing monster but it did do a respectable job for a young kid plus I was only into it for $300 before I started adding parts and replacing body panels after me and the wall argued about who really had right of way.

  • Kat Laneaux @jalop1991I get that. It should be that way. Bills should be one and only one. None of this...if you scratch my back, i'll scratch yours as long as you agree with this too. That's petty and bs. I guess no one has enough balls to stand up for what is right, regardless of which side you stand on. Do one bill and pass it but pass it on merits and not on tit for tat.
  • Kat Laneaux They do but the electric companies are striving to go higher on prices. They supposedly were petitioning to allow higher charges for Solar users, here in NC.As long as they have the money to buy regulations, anything can happen and I really don't feel like spending my dollars on satisfying those evil, money hungry people.
  • J I haven't owned a sedan since like 2011 had a ford fusion and impala then I discovered hatchbacks beats an SUV but the amount of stuff I can do with my little hatchbacks leaves sedan owners and even some SUV and truck owners surprised
  • Dougjp It seems like I'm in a minority by rejecting CUV/SUVs and wanting "cars" instead. Its because, comparing apples to apples (same specs), I don't want (a) worse performance, (b) worse handling, (c) worse fuel economy, (d) worse road & wind noise and (e) higher cost. I'm quite willing to PAY for shipping that costs way less than 1% of the difference between the cost of a car and a comparable CUV/SUV, to buy a bulky piece of furniture from a store that doesn't provide free shipping. Which I would seldom buy anyway. The problem is, people don't think logically, and would rather default to herd mentality. Its the same as why people buy "off road vehicles", complete with ugly add on patch body work to "look the part", then they never go off road.
  • FreedMike How about one for a brown diesel wagon?