What are some good track day performers​…

  • that are pleasurable to own (e.g., high pride in ownership factor)
  • that can conceivably be daily driven (albeit with varying levels of practicality)
  • that are not exotic or ‘collectible’, and thus have a low or somewhat low barrier for entry (ruling out, e.g., Ferraris, rare or higher-end Porsches and the like)
  • that are not kit cars or other such purpose-built cars (ruling out, e.g., Caterham Sevens and the like)
  • where “good track day performer” can be loosely defined to mean a street car that is particularly enjoyable to drive [non-competitively] on a race track, and doesn’t feel discombobulated or unhappy going through corners. Grand tourers (including some we really like, such as, say, the BMW E9) have been excluded (or attempted to be excluded) for this reason

And if not right out of the box, then after a moderate amount of modification that enhances (possibly even greatly enhances) but doesn’t completely alter the original nature and intent of the car?

We have loosely grouped this fun exercise into three categories (and are mindful of the fact that they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive):

  1. classics or near-classics (e.g., cars you might expect to find on BaT),
  2. modern cars where practicality is of minimal object, and
  3. modern cars where practicality (grocery-getting, people-hauling, etc.) is indeed something of an object

This list is far from conclusive, of course, as well as somewhat arbitrary. Nor should all of these cars be considered equal— some will clearly be superior performers to others. But for a track car – either as a second (or third) car or as a daily driver – one could do worse than any of these. That’s what we think, anyway.

This is part one.

944/968 (944 shown):


911, 1974-1988 (impact bumper era, i.e., the lowest barrier for entry):

2002/E21/E30 (2002 shown):



Datsun 510:

Datsun 240Z:

MR2 (first or second generation, although first (W10 AW11) is shown):

RX-7 (any generation, although second (FC) is shown):


Honorable mention— Audi 4000CS quattro, which we think would make a very unique alternative to the Ur-quattro (itself a unique car that one rarely sees anymore). Sadly, these are probably all but impossible to find now (clean ones, anyway):

Let us know what else you think deserves to be on this particular list (classics or near-classics).

Parts two and three to follow.

~ by velofinds on May 10, 2011.

31 Responses to “What are some good track day performers​…”

  1. Don’t forget about the Caterhams out there!

  2. Cool! I’m almost sure the GTV6 photo is mine! And it’s an honour to see it in such a nice blog. It was once on my flickr photostream. You can use any of those when you wish: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcreis_gtclube/

    My opinion is that the MX-5 is an excelent trackday tool for small tracks. You can drive it with comfortable 4 wheel skids, really throuwing it to the apexes, like you would do with a classic car. After and hour of abuse you just need to take of the helmet to go shopping or cruising with the girlfriend. I think it’s a great “real world” choice for somenone on a tight budget. It’s my everyday car, it is stock and it has done 3 track days this year not requiring any special care.

    • thank you! i had ‘blogged’ that before (most of these images come from older posts on this blog), didn’t know the original source though.

      as for the mx-5, it’s too new to qualify for part one of this list. more on that soon.

  3. This is a GREAT list. I’d suggest adding the Lotus Europa. It’s a classic, albeit a fragile one, but very inexpensive, and very responsive to “restro-mod” updates. MGBs aren’t bad, although they’ll need at least a roll bar added for most track days.

    I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen more the moment I post this.

    • it’s not mentioned in the post, but i tried to limit it to older cars that i feel could still be reasonably fast at a track day occupied with modern cars. even by that measure, it’s possible the europa and mgb could make the list, but perhaps not without some drastic modifications first (e.g., an engine swap in the mgb). i also tried to avoid cars that might require undue handholding (the europa) in favor of more robust ones, although the ones i’ve selected here are probably not without their own individual gremlins.

  4. Umm wow, Mazda mx-5?

    I thought that would have been hands down the most obvious one. Or maybe I misread the criteria.

    I’ve thought about a 944, but I’m put off with the fact that its a Porsche and possibly associated costs. What are they like on a budget?

  5. Yeah the Miata is a must for any list of track day cars. The Miata represents one of the cheapest, most fun ways to go racing and there are tons of upgrades for them. It also meets your criteria.

  6. both of you are early— check back in a day (although maybe that was unclear).

    re: MrQuick’s second question, i found this site to be a really nice summary of what ownership might entail. it’s written for the 968 but some of it should also be relevant for the 944.

  7. Thought of another one. The e36 M3 is downright cheap these days and forms a terrific basis for a shabby-but-quick trackday tool. It’s quicker than most of the entries on your list and demands and rewards good skills. It’s endlessly customizable. My secret shame: I actually prefer driving it to the gorgeous e30 M3.

  8. Was there a budget I missed? I agree with whats posted above, E36M, and the Miata definitely. I would like to suggest maybe C5 vette? Ive seen C5Z06’s sub 20k so I imagine the standard C5 could be had for even less!

  9. Certainly 2nd and 3rd gen Civic Si’s, if only because there are so many proven go-fast parts available. Light, cheap, tossable.

  10. I’m a Miata owner, and honestly, I’d have to throw down a vote for a Honda.

  11. Read people read. I must admit that I am also guilty of skimming through stuff, but sometimes one has to slow down and read, the posting is actually pretty clear that this is going to be a systematic analysis…..good stuff mcb!

  12. There’s a reason that we see so few vintage (older than 1990) cars on track at casual track days. Old cars are more expensive to maintain, less reliable, and consequently less fun to drive compared to modern cars.

    That Audis are on this list is laughable. How many old Audis do you guys actually see at track days? For that matter, ask someone with a B5 S4 how he likes his car, and he’ll start listing his mods. Sure there’s racing provenance, but in the real world, these cars don’t hold up.

    Same with Datsuns. And non-Miata Mazdas. Alfas?

    There’s a time and place for these cars, but it’s not at a track day filled with Corvette and Porsche guys who think they’re phenoms and drive at 11/10. I like my vintage cars on the street, not the track.

    • i have seen or driven alongside 2002s, gtv6s, 914s, the audis listed here (not to mention lesser models like the coupé gt) and a few other cars [that might now be classified as vintage] on the track (note: it helps to go to track days organized by the bmw cca or the audi club of north america as opposed to ones by nasa, the scca, etc.). your points are noted (esp. the one about overzealous porsche and corvette owners), but discount that there is a certain type of person (whom some might call brave, others might call foolhardy) who actually enjoys taking his vintage car to the track. with updated driveline and stopping components, a number of these cars can be quite capable (if not exactly fast by modern standards). i don’t think one approach is ‘doing it right’ any more than the other.

      • My point was that “good track day performer” means – to me at least – that a car is capable of being driven at 8/10 for at least 3 hours (in 30-minute sessions) on a given track day, without boiling its brakes, overheating, or breaking something. Not a lot of old cars can do this. Hell, not a lot of new cars can do this. I get my track-day enjoyment by driving cars, not worrying about cars breaking and then having to fix them.

        Moreover, newer cars are generally safer than old cars. I know I’d rather hit a wall at 90mph in a 997 than at 60mph in a 911 SC.

        I’m certainly not an old-car hater. Quite the opposite. I just firmly believe that there’s a place for old cars, and it’s not on a track.

  13. Man it’s totally between the 911 and the GTV for me, with the GTV getting a couple extra ‘panache’ points… The 911 is probably faster though. The 510 would be my choice if I was more into the JDM stuff.

  14. well obviously I would have the urquattro over pretty much anything else in that list—–but what a great list it is!!! can’t go wrong with almost any Porsche—-and having a track day 911 is the stuff i dream of…..that 240z just looks wicked too…..and i’ve always had soft spots for GTVs and 510s. Look forward to the next parts…

  15. I thought the e30 was an obvious choice…

  16. and what about the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3 16v?

  17. @Lobo, Great car, I own one. It’s a little underpowered these days and kinda heavy. With some mods, they can be great!

  18. @colin: i would like to know what else you own or have owned! between that and the m5, it certainly seems like you have gone through some enviable cars.

    @lobo: check back tomorrow— i have that model covered.

  19. Great article, really thought-provoking and unique content.

    All I have to add is that the first-gen MR2’s chassis code is AW11, not W10… sorry to be “that guy”!

    • looks like you are correct! curiously, wikipedia buries it within the entry:

      The car is often referred to as the AW11, referring to the chassis code of the most common 1.6-litre, A-engined versions (source).

  20. Here’s the whole list by converse order of purchase… I also drove a ’74 FJ40 for over a year, but at the end of the day it was my dad’s.
    ’91 M5
    ’02 325i
    ’86 Toyota P/U 4×4
    ’86 190e 2.3 16v
    ’89 Landcruiser
    ’76 Ford F150
    ’93 Toyota P/U w longtravel
    ’93 190e 2.6

    I need to get me an old Porshce! Actually, I need to finish the 16v, and drive it for a while. That’s what I “NEED” to do. http://190rev.net/forums/showthread.php?t=36142

  21. Here’s the one for the M5: http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1635358

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