Going racing is one of the most fun things any car enthusiast can do. By racing, I mean going to the track and actually putting your skill as a driver to the test, no just going on a local highway and seeing whose car is faster from light to light. Anyone with a right foot and the gift of sight can do the latter. It takes skill, precision and patience to actually lap a circuit in a fast time. And those skills grow with practice. There’s a certain joy in shaving tenths off of your time with each and every visit to the track, as if those tenths of a second are visual evidence of your talents increasing. To true car enthusiasts, there’s no greater joy.
But it’s not always easy for enthusiasts to race at the track. Most of us are just average folks who can’t have a track car, for a variety of different reason. And it’s not like most people are going to take their daily driver to the track and beat on it, as that would simply ruin the car.
But it isn’t just the track car that’s difficult to own. Then you need a trailer to bring the car to the track and some sort of vehicle to tow it, if you don’t already have one. It’s not the most practical of hobbies. If you like tennis, you need a racket and some balls, a pair of tennis shoes and some obnoxiously short shorts. But if you want to track a car, you need a couple of vehicles, money for tires, repairs and fuel, the time and tools to work on the car and the space to put everything. It’s not a convenient hobby by any means. Or is it?
To have a serious track car that can put a whooping on everything else at your local track, you’re going to need all of those aforementioned things. However, if you’re just looking to make yourself a better driver while having fun in the process, you don’t. You just need a car.
Having a street-legal track car makes life a lot easier for people who want to hit the track. It’s a car that can be kept in your driveway and doesn’t require a trailer or a towing vehicle. A car cover, or even a tarp, is the most that’s really needed, in terms of storage. Obviously, the tires and fuel and tools are still necessary, but if it’s street-legal and fairly modest, there’s not going to be as much of a need for them. All you need is the car and, when it’s time for a track day, you just simply start it up, drive to the track, do your laps and drive home. Easy.
But to have a car like this, it needs to meet a few requirements. First and foremost, it must be fun. Speed doesn’t necessarily matter. Obviously, you don’t want anything that’s downright slow, but it doesn’t have to be a McLaren P1 to be fun on a track. In fact, lightweight, moderately powered rear-wheel drive sports car are usually the best. Secondly, it needs to be relatively comfortable, as driving home from the track won’t be too much fun if the car is smashing over bumps due to its crazy stiff suspension. If the car is going to drive on the road, it should be able to behave at least mildly road-worthy. And lastly, it needs to be reliable. This is important, as you’re not going to have a fun track day if the car breaks down on the way home and you won’t have one at all if it breaks down on the way to the track. Tracking a car is hard on all of its components, especially the engine which will likely be at or near redline for most of the day. So the car must be robust enough to handle the rigors or racing over and over again.
So if you were to choose a BMW like this, a car that could be driven to the track, race on it and then drive home, which would it be?
Would you want something cheap, like an old E30 that is generally extremely reliable, relatively comfortable and nearly infinitely customization, or would you want something more expensive like an F82 M4? There’s a lot of great BMWs that can be used for this kind of track racing. But I think if I had to pick one, it’d be an old E30 325i convertible. To me, it’s the perfect track toy because it’s fun, reliable, comfortable and, best of all, cheap. You can get one for pennies, as it doesn’t have to be in great shape, it only has to run. The parts are cheap and they’re easy to work on so you can do it all yourself. And I’d specifically get the convertible because, to me at least, there’s nothing better than being able to experience the wind, smells and sounds of racing with out a roof. To me, it’s the perfect track day toy and would be great as a street-legal track car.
I wouldn’t even do much to it. Obviously, I’d rip the rear seats out, take the trunk lining and floor out, and probably just rip the roof off and turn it into a true roadster and just keep it covered in the rain. Then, I’d fit stiffer Bilstein shocks with slightly stiffer springs, but nothing too crazy. I actually like a bit of body roll, it keeps things exciting. I wouldn’t do much to the engine, but I would definitely look into a higher performance radiator and water pump, to make sure it stays nice and cool during hot laps. I’d also probably put on a new exhaust just to give it nicer sound. Better brakes would be necessary and maybe new wheels and tires, but you don’t’ want crazy sticky tires because tail-out shenanigans are more fun than grip.
That would be my perfect track day BMW. What would be yours?