Car Choice

During lunch the last weekend at the track, I was chatting with a racing buddy about his team building another car. He said he had already started a project to build another racecar. Since we race in Spec Miata, I was hoping — well, probably assuming — he and his three-man team were building another Miata.

I was surprised to hear that he had started on an Acura RSX, the first car he’d ever bought new. I don’t know much about Hondas or Acuras, but I was familiar enough with its cars that I wondered when we’d start seeing the RSX on track. It seemed like a great donor car and the prices are definitely right.

However, after he did some research on the Internet, he’d learned that despite the fantastic gearbox and engine, the RSX had the worst suspension geometry among feasible donors. From what I learned reporting on the Honda Challenge story in our last issue, the DC chassis is the one to get, so he is now looking to replace his RSX with something better suited to road racing. I hope he chooses a Miata. More cars in our region’s field are always welcome.

The whole experience reminded me of when I was trying to figure out what kind of car to race. I wanted something I could build as I developed my skills as a driver — still developing, clearly — then wind up in a class with respectable fields and good competition. I went with Spec Miata, a choice I’ve never regretted.

But that’s not where I started, and it’s fun look back on it now. I had long wanted a Datsun 510, but never owned one. However, the prospect of building one seemed too daunting at the time because it likely would have been a restoration first, then a racecar project. I imagined trying to weld a cage into a rusty chassis. No, thanks. Then I was looking at RX-7s because I had heard about Pro 7, but I learned the class was in decline, so that was out. I considered a Ford Focus because the cars were light and parts were available for it, and I looked at a couple of Mazda Protégé sedans. But deep down, I didn’t want a front-drive car — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

To this day, I still run through theoretical builds in my head. I have another buddy of mine who’s something of an accomplice in these flights of fancy. We scour Craigslist for deals and potential donors, dreaming of a car we could turn into something with an unfair advantage.

Some of our theoretical projects include an RX-8 with a GM LS V8 or a 2.5-liter Mazda four-cylinder — or a three-rotor rotary engine! We also considered an NC MX-5 with a 2.5-liter four banger swapped in place of the stock 2.0-liter. Or a V8. Or a GM LFX V6. Of course, those are all still theoretical at this point. Funding seems to be lacking, and I have my hands full with the one racecar I already own.

Some of the more unusual cars I have come across in the last few years as I traveled to different NASA regions include a Volkswagen Passat, a Honday Odyssey van, an old-school Scirocco, a Studebaker Champion, a Silverado pickup and a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Some of those cars we’ve seen in past issues and some we’ll see in the future. None of those would be my first choice, but I’m glad people are racing them. By going with something a little off the beaten path, we all get to enjoy a wider variety of cars on the racetrack, and witness the effort and innovation it takes to make them work. It’s what makes the rich tapestry of racing all the more interesting.

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