Car season is around the corner, so most of us are busy planning car-related things to do this summer. Parts are being bought, cars are getting built, and schedules are getting filled. The problem though, is that all of that costs money. Here’s a question that I get a lot: what do you do if you love cars, but you’re broke? Broke car people, here is the answer you’ve been waiting for.
Disclaimer: This is DriverMod; we like driving. On that note, I’ve omitted things like “build a budget show car.” If that’s your thing, I encourage you to do it. Also, if you hit up the racetrack and put your $60,000 Corvette into a wall, don’t sue me.
“I have $2000 to spend on car stuff!”
1) Hit up the racetrack
Pick up a set of sticky tires and wheels, (~$1000), track rated brake pads and brake fluid (~$200) and save the rest of your money for gas and track day entry fees ($80-$200 depending on where you go). It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving a Corolla or a 240sx, you’ll be hard-pressed not to have a fun time. Don’t worry about being fast; everybody is slow when they start off no matter what they’re driving. Talk to people, ride along with other drivers and get advice. In short – focus on learning. Keep track of lap times using an app like Harry’s Lap Timer and race against yourself, not the people around you. It’s highly recommended that you bring someone who knows what they’re doing to show you the ropes. Rolling onto a racetrack without a proper introduction or coaching is a bad idea.
I suggest picking up a set of sticky tires from the start, because factory tires don’t last on the track. Stickier 200tw tires are designed to deal with heat. Factory brake pads are prone to fade (i.e. getting so hot they stop working well), and you’ll likely boil factory brake fluid quickly. You could take frequent breaks to keep your brakes cool, but where’s the fun in that?
Also, this was written under the assumption that you drive something with small tires. $1000 won’t go very far when buying tires for a C6 Corvette.
2) Rally Cross
The chances of breaking a wheel, bending wheel hubs and cracking an oil pan is substantially higher at a rally cross than it is at the racetrack. That being said, I’ve known rallyists that have rally crossed in their daily driver for years without doing any real damage. A set of dedicated gravel tires new will cost around $1200, and are anywhere from $20-$100 a tire in the used market. I spoke to a rallyist who found a set of six gravel tires (two spares ) on wheels for $1200. Winter rally tires usually cost more, simply because they're less popular. A quality skid plate will usually run you $200 - $300, though if you find some sheet metal and get creative, you can fabricate you own for a lot less. That leaves you some leftover cash to pay for event fees ($80-$100 per event), gas, and any damage that you might do. You could go on factory tires but you’ll just be more likely to get stuck and require assistance. Also, going to a winter rallycross with a RWD, open-differential equipped car is a bad idea (we tried).
“I have $1000 to spend on car stuff!”
3) Try an autocross
I’ve already written an entire article on why you should try autocross, but here’s the gist of it: It’s cheap. One autocross event will cost you around $40 and you won’t burn more than a quarter tank of gas. It’s less abusive so you won’t be boiling brake fluid, fading brake pads, or burning through tires like you would at the track. Also, you’re less likely to make a mistake and end up in a wall. It’s without a doubt the cheapest way to learn how to drive fast.
4) Try drag racing
Head down to your local drag strip, and lay down the fastest quarter mile time you can muster. Attending a “Test and Tune” at the Toronto Motorsports Park will cost you $30 or $40 (Fridays or weekends respectively), and will give you between four and six hours of quarter-mile fun. Launching a car over and over again puts abnormal stress on the drivetrain, but the same can be said about launching at an autocross. Being a mechanic’s sport, drag racing is a gate-way drug to modifying your car (which can get expensive quickly). But, if you stay stock or stick to small, affordable mods, it’s a cheap way to go fast.
5) Make friends, attend events, go on cruises
Have you always wanted to take on the mighty Tail of Dragon, or some massive far away car event? Plan an epic road trip with your car buddies and make it happen. Don’t have any car buddies? Make some. Join Facebook groups, get acquainted with the “cars sub-reddit,” or do it the old fashioned way. That guy you work with who’s into cars? Talk to him. Find out about local events like car meets and make more car friends. Next thing you know 90% of who you talk to will be car obsessed as well, and you’ll have car related plans every weekend.
Most events are $20 or less. Formula Drift Canada is coming to Sunset Speedway on June 25th 2016, and CSCS has released the schedule for it’ a massive drift/time attack/show and shine event that takes place at racetracks all across Ontario. The Facebook group #TORONTOCARSPOTTING is hosting a massive car show on May 1st, 2016. The car show giant Ertefa is expected to announce their annual car show, and possibly another meet. These are just four out of a thousand possible events out there — talk to people and figure out what’s out there.
Note: We’re currently working on a comprehensive schedule full of Ontario events that should be up soon.
“I have $50 to spend on car stuff!”
Those friends I talked about earlier, find someone who lives near you and car pool with them. Chances are that $50 will won’t buy you much gas. Attend the events/cruises/meets I spoke about earlier. Car people are super friendly, so take a leap of faith and ask for help when you need it.