Bargain Hunt November 2011

Time for another Bargain Hunt, and this month the theme is unlikely track day toys. The budget is £1,000, the idea being to find some cheap metal that might make for an entertaining track day car with minimal modifications. Power must be at least 170bhp, it must run on petrol and have a manual gearbox, but otherwise anything goes.

Cheap Track Day Car

[singlepic id=1327 w=180 h=180 float=left]First up, and topping out at the £1,000 budget limit, is a 1998 Honda Prelude complete with 2.2-litre VTEC engine. With Honda’s reputation for bulletproof reliability this could be a good choice, despite the 133,000 miles on the clock. 185bhp makes it good for 139mph and 0-60mph in a less impressive 9 seconds and the boxy coupe styling makes it stand out from the crowd.

[singlepic id=1325 w=180 h=180 float=left]Sticking with coupes, how about a Ford Cougar instead? £1,000 will get you a 2001 model with 88,000 on the clock, but more importantly it gets you the 2.5-litre 24v V6 engine. With 170bhp to call upon it only just makes it onto the list but it should hit 60mph in a whisker over 8 seconds and go on to a maximum of 140mph, and with 6 cylinders it should sound the part too.

[singlepic id=1328 w=180 h=180 float=left]The first car I found to beat the 200bhp barrier was a V-plate Saab 9-3 Turbo. With a blown 2.0-litre engine it has 205bhp, a 0-60mph time of 8.4 seconds and a 145mph top speed. Not too shabby, although Saab’s of that era had a reputation for torque-steer and scrabbling front wheels.

[singlepic id=1324 w=180 h=180 float=left]Fancy some rear-wheel drive action? How about a BMW 328i on an N-plate with 122,000 miles under its wheels? The 328i is a popular choice on track days and with 193bhp it should be enough for some powerslides, and it’s backed up by BMW’s reputation for superb handling (which was justified back then).

[singlepic id=1326 w=180 h=180 float=left]If you fancy something Italian then take a look at an Alfa Romeo 166. The budget could get you a 2000 W-plate with 104,000 on the clock, but more importantly it gets you a wonderful 3.0 Alfa V6 engine worth 220bhp. Sadly the 166 is large and heavy, but that silky smooth V6 should compensate.

[singlepic id=1329 w=180 h=180 float=left]If you want to relive the glory days of the BTCC you could always opt for a Volvo V70 T5. Yes, the BTCC racers were Volvo 850s but this 02-plate V70 with 146,000 on the clock looks the part, particularly because it’s a white estate. With 250bhp from it’s 2.3-litre 5-cylinder engine you should be able to recreate your favourite Rickard Rydell moments.

There was one car that fitted the bill quite nicely. A very tidy ’95 Volkswagen Corrado VR6 Storm with 155,000 on the clock and for sale at £995. It would be an ideal choice for a track day tool but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. You can’t go sacrificing rare and potential classics like that.

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Author: Chris Auty

Voted the Breakthrough Blogger of 2013 by SEAT and the Guild of Motoring Writers , Chris has lived and breathed cars since he was old enough to say 'faster'. With a penchant for hot hatches and an allergy to public transport, he would much prefer to drive a bad car than never drive at all. Fortunately his family has learned to put up with this obsession and the internet has provided a channel for his ramblings.

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