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Old 08-12-2018, 08:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I want to get into autocross - What's a good place to start?

I'm going to be moving south near the end of the year (Probably relocating to Victoria, BC), and now that I'll be in a big city with actual surplus money for the first time in my life, I want to take up autocross.

I've always loved the idea of grassroots/low-income motorsports like autocross and stuff like 24 Hours of Lemons and Gumball 500 and stuff like that, but until now pretty much all my car wrenching experience has been on trucks and Jeeps and oriented more towards offroading modifications-when it comes to buying something small, light and flingable I have no idea where to start other than that the answer is always Miata (Or, if you can't afford one, an older Civic or later-model Neon).

So, for a beginner with a low budget, what's a good place to start? Am I best off just buying something cheap, simple and easy to wrench on (I've always loved the 7th-gen Civics) and just putting in the requisite safety mods and maybe some refreshed suspension parts, or is there a better way?
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Old 08-13-2018, 02:00 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Autocross is entirely governed by the world's most monotonous rulebook. Some cars are classed entirely uncompetitively, others are complete overdogs.

Unless you have a truck or something, the best way is to start in your current car, even if it's a Camry. A lot of people start "building" a car, just to realize that their mods stuck them in a class where they have no chance in hell of running even remotely close to their competitors.

To start out, take what you have and ensure it is 110% reliable. Good (stock) suspension, tires within spec, no leaks, etc. Attend a school if your region offers one. Things like basic car control, looking ahead, and whatever make a SIGNIFICANTLY larger difference than spending cubic dollars on parts.


Sticky tires, stiff springs, etc. just make for a car with higher limits than any novice can handle. On a stock Civic or Miata on all-seasons, the limit is fairly low, making it easier for you to correct if something goes south. I went from a well-prepped 98 Neon ACR Coupe (205/50/15 RT615ks, big sway bars, stiff springs, rebuilt Konis, no AC, no Radio, and all the other ancillary bolt-ons allowed by STS rules) to an 04 Z06, and I can definitely speak to how things happen at 3x the speed in the Vette when compared to the Neon. Obviously the Vette is much faster, but it took much longer to "get up to speed" so to speak.

With that being said, there are plenty of platforms to start out on. Personally, I'd look for something from the Mid 90s like a Civic, Miata, 1st generation Neon (as you stated). Most of those cars have a loyal following and good parts, both stock and aftermarket, are readily available. Electronics are advanced enough to be out of the dark ages of the 80s, but not the CAN nightmare we have today. Most importantly, consumables on these things are fairly inexpensive.

If you do go Neon, you definitely want the first generation. They're lighter than the second generation, and were much more successful in racing. Parts aren't as easy to find as they used to be (for example, Koni Sports are NLA, meaning you're stuck buying coilovers or having used Konis rebuilt) and they no longer litter junkyards, but neons.org has 10+ years of good info and the Facebook groups still make it possible to source what you need. I'm speaking of the oddball parts (NLA performance stuff, interior bits).

I'd look at what not only appeals to you, but has a large turnout locally. Not only will you have a wealth of knowledge to pull from as far as setups and whatnot, but chances are you will have an easier time finding parts.

If you can fit into a Miata, this is probably the best option. Parts are everywhere, what works and what doesn't is common knowledge, and anyone can work on one. If the car is clean and you are smart with your part purchases, chances are you'll be close to breaking even if/when you decide to upgrade.
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Old 08-13-2018, 03:25 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drunkonunleaded View Post
Unless you have a truck or something
FWIW a nissan hardbody (D21) can be pretty fun to track.

On the subject of nissans, the B13 sentra is a great autox contender as well, an MR2 or even a Yaris hatchback/IQ would be fun as well.

Are you totally decided on autox? There's other series too like spec racing. Miata and Neon come to mind first but there is B spec as well.

If you decide to go with a 93/94ish tercel/paseo/starlet hit me up I've got a good bit of NIB suspension goodies lying around for those I never got around to using because of the divorce.
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Old 08-13-2018, 12:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Dude go old school Miata I bought one for 900 as my daily driver put another 500ish into it drives great. Upgrade parts are cheap. Only thing that may screw you over is if the require a hard top. If they don’t all you really need is a set of coil overs of just get stiffer springs for the stock suspension advance you engine timing to 14 (more power lower redline) strip the interior and your set.
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Old 08-13-2018, 12:32 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm going to suggest the Ford Probe. Second gen (93-97) can be had for fairly cheap and do very well in autocross.
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Old 08-13-2018, 12:42 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
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FWIW a nissan hardbody (D21) can be pretty fun to track.
By truck, I meant your run-of-the-mill 1/2 Ton. I didn't even think of Minitrucks for whatever reason. There was an ex-SCCA RaceTruck Challenge hardbody for sale awhile back.

You could easily do a pickup. Honestly, I might just have to recommend the 2wd S10. They're dirt cheap, can fit a decent amount of tire, and decent suspension/brakes are cheap considering that circle track parts for G-Bodies bolt right on. Yay for GM standardization.

You can also drop a LS in it later on, if you feel so inclined.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scottieb View Post
I'm going to suggest the Ford Probe. Second gen (93-97) can be had for fairly cheap and do very well in autocross.
Probes are cool, but finding parts is becoming increasingly difficult unfortunately. I haven't seen a Probe in a junkyard in forever.
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Old 08-14-2018, 10:08 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drunkonunleaded View Post
By truck, I meant your run-of-the-mill 1/2 Ton. I didn't even think of Minitrucks for whatever reason.
Ah gotcha.


I’d also say keep your eyes peeled for a ~2000 or older protege.

Or even a 94ish escort/mx3 they use pretty identical suspensions and can fit BP engines so they’re basically FWD miatas
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Old 08-14-2018, 11:48 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Make sure you pick up some midol when you buy a Miata.
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Old 08-15-2018, 12:03 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Make sure you pick up some midol when you buy a Miata.
Ha! Miatas are for women joke. Real cutting edge, groundbreaking stuff there, ol' sport! Really pushing the barriers of comedy to the bleeding edge! Slap my *** and call me Sally, I'm just stunned you don't have your own comedy show!
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Old 08-15-2018, 11:11 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Says the scrub trying to autoX after sixteen years old.

I hear drifting is all the rage now too, killer.

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I’m talking ****, but I’ve got some friends that put on a hell of a lawn mower race... so too each their own.


To give you a real answer though, I had friends a few years back that swore by the BMW m3 for autoX. Probably an expensive car for a hobby though.


Oh, and screw you! But I do look forward to seeing what comes of it. So post up when you decide.
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Last edited by Riot; 08-15-2018 at 11:18 AM.
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