Have you ever heard the phrase “Built, not bought?” ever since the dawn of cars with the Ford Model A, people have wanted to exceed the limits of the stock capabilities. That is exactly what we’re going to cover today, with twenty-five cars you can pick up and have track-ready for around $10,000.
Updated March 2022: Each year, new cars cross the line between unrealistic to affordable, and each year more gearheads find excellent models for track days. These models fit the bill: they’re inexpensive, customizable, and purpose-built fun machines. That’s why we’ve updated this list to include new models that make for great race vehicles!
We have something for car enthusiasts of all tastes, from European masterpieces to US muscle and Japan-made monsters. With the proper TLC and modifications, be ready to dominate track day with these low-hanging fruits, most of the time for less than the cost of a used sports car! It takes time, love, and dedication to nurture these cars from stock to competition-ready, and you have to appreciate all the hard work that goes into these cars.
Some of the cars on this list may not look like much, but under the hood, they’ve got more power than the average driver can handle. These cars were built to be pushed to the limit, way beyond stock capabilities. Many of us haven’t even pushed our vehicles to their stock limitations! Buckle up, and join us for a ride through the world of cheap race cars.
28 Subaru BRZ
Subaru and Toyota’s partnership bore both the BRZ and the 86. While Toyota’s GR undertook tuning the 86, the BRZ remains classic from the factory. While the oldest BRZs still fetch more than $10,000, a used model provides an excellent platform for track day modifications.
The BRZ features a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that is just begging to be tuned. Its 222 horsepower is directed to the rear wheels, a distinct shift away from the average Subaru. Further, the manual transmission is a distinct advantage over the automatic-dominant competition. Subaru’s odd sports car is a great track car that’s worth a second glance.
27 Ford Fiesta ST
Ford has transitioned away from sedans, and even their hatchbacks are firmly lost to time. That means their hot hatches can be purchased for a bit of a bargain. The Fiesta ST, for example, averages $11,000 from a dealer, but we bet there are many sub-$10,000 models out there for sale.
A six-speed manual transmission gives a track day that extra bit of fun, and similar to other hot hatch models, it comes standard in the Fiesta ST. Under the hood is a turbocharged inline-four that produces almost 200 horsepower. Additionally, Ford tuned the suspension and steering for better handling through the corners making the Fiesta ST a race car waiting to happen.
26 Fiat 500 Abarth
Fiat’s small 500 is a quirky entry, yet the hatchback style and availability make it a perfect race car waiting to happen. In fact, a somewhat new 500 Abarth can be purchased for less than $10,000. These micro-cars are perfect track day options, especially with the 1.6L four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower.
Plus, sitting at 2,500 lbs, the Fiat 500 Abarth is a rather light option, and with a five-speed manual and front-wheel drivetrain, handling high-speed turns will be easier than a rear-wheel behemoth. Additionally, these cheap little cars are ripe for modifications, so that 160 can turn into 200 plus with little effort!
25 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang is one of the most beloved US muscle cars on this list, and deservedly so. From the factory, these tiny Mustangs come packed with a five-liter, eight-cylinder engine that packs a whopping two-hundred plus horsepower. They are also rear-wheel-drive, making them perfect for taking out onto the track. Easy to upgrade and maintain, they are also relatively cheap, coming in around $10,000.
The Fox-Body featured in the photo is fitted with a ten-cylinder engine from a Viper!
24 Subaru WRX STI
Possibly the best-looking car on this list is the Subaru WRX STI. This gorgeous piece of machinery comes with a turbo and is all-wheel-drive straight from the factory. It’s an excellent option for those looking for something all-wheel-drive and can commonly be found for less than $8,000.
With a few simple upgrades to the transmission and handling, this car will be ready to take on any track you want to throw at it and completely lose the competition and put down some hot lap times.
23 Toyota AW111 MK1 MR2
With body lines that you can tell are straight from the 80s, the Toyota AW111 MK1 MR2 is beautiful. They’re sometimes imported from Japan with the right-hand-drive platform, but they can still be found in the US with the left-hand-drive platform.
It’s equipped with the 1.6L 4A-GE or 1.6L 4A-GZE, both of which could be considered the little brother to the 2JZ-GE. They’re incredibly tiny, and the supercharged model has plenty of horsepower to put down some hot lap times with just a few simple modifications!
22 Mini Cooper
The Mini Cooper is definitely one of the least used cars on this list for a track day, but don’t discount it! The wide and short wheelbase gives it good handling capabilities, and believe it or not, there is actually enough room in the engine bay to swap in some pretty impressive engines.
Coming in around $8,000 for even the newer year models, it comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0L that puts out 189 horsepower and is front-wheel-drive, all of which make it an excellent option for beginner racers.
21 Mitsubishi Lancer
The Mitsubishi Lancer should definitely be considered one of the street kings. Its got a platform capable of handling enormous amounts of horsepower and is extremely common, making it easy to find one in decent condition. You can often do so for less than $8,000.
The Lancer platform can be transformed from an average daily driver to a track dominating monster with a few simple modifications. This car can be used for dirt rally, or tarmac driving, making it a very versatile platform.
20 Nissan 240SX
The Nissan 240SX is a ubiquitous car in the drifting community, but some people don’t realize that just because that’s the direction most people take doesn’t mean one can’t use it for racing! It is a competent platform and is an excellent project for any level of car enthusiast.
This car holds a certain status in the hearts of most Japan-made car enthusiasts, and rightfully so. Simple upgrades such as bigger brakes, better coil-overs, and forced induction can have this car track-ready in no time.
19 BMW M3 E36
One of the more common cars on this list, the BMW M3 E36, is ready for the track straight from the factory! But if you’re willing to put in some hard work, time, and a little bit of money, you can have yourself an absolute monster.
Modifications like a wide-body kit, upgraded brakes, and racing coil-overs can significantly improve the car’s handling capabilities. If you’re looking for a little bit more than handling, adding a turbo is a great way to increase your acceleration and top speed.
18 Acura Integra
The Acura Integra is one of the most revered front-wheel-drive vehicles of all time, holding an almost legendary status in the tuning community. This Japan tuner car is perfect for turning into a track machine and can out-perform plenty of other vehicles on the track.
People commonly add turbos and fully build out the engine with forged parts to turn this car from a daily driver to an absolute speed demon. Front-wheel-drive can have a less significant learning curve on the track too, so it’s a great car to start with.
17 Chevrolet Corvette C5
Many people would scroll away from this car on their local Craigslist because they would assume it’s too pricey, but you can commonly find the fifth-generation Corvette for under $10,000!
It’s another car on this list that is ready for the track straight from the factory, but with a few simple modifications, you can be sure that you’ll dominate on track day. Aerodynamic and transmission upgrades are widespread for this car simply because the LS engine platform has more than enough power for most of us.
16 Chevrolet Cobalt SS
Most definitely, one of the more unexpected cars on this list it’s the Chevrolet Cobalt SS. It’s small, light-weight, front-wheel-drive, and it’s only got two doors, all of which make it perfect for turning into a track monster.
As previously mentioned, the fact that it’s front-wheel-drive makes it a great beginner car, but don’t let that detour you from buying one. As you can see in the photo, it can be rear-wheel-drive swapped and is an excellent platform for engine swaps from the LS series.
15 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo was the base for many NASCAR series race cars, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it’s an excellent car for a track day. You can often pick up an unmodified Monte Carlo for under $5,000, making it an absolute steal.
Depending on how much time, money, and effort you’re willing to put into it, this car can either be a monster of a daily driver or a full-on track machine that’s capable of completely slamming the competition.
14 Dodge Neon SRT-4
Another somewhat unexpected car on this list is the Dodge Neon SRT-4. Weighing in at less than 3,000 pounds, with a front-wheel-drive, front-engine capable of 250 horsepower, this thing can really move! You can often find an unmodified Cobalt for less than $5,000.
This car can become a dedicated track beast with only some subtle modifications such as better brakes, upgraded coil-overs, and minor weight reduction. It may not be the best-looking car on the track, but it can shine on track day.
13 Ford Focus SVT
The Ford Focus SVT is a car that, at first glance, you would assume is nothing more than a glorified grocery-getter. But in all actuality, the Ford Focus is a base for many track cars used today. You can easily find one for under $4,000.
It’s one of the more common cars driven on the Nürburgring in Germany because it’s ready to go straight from the factory and companies make money renting them to tourists who can’t afford to ship their own car. However, it can become a serious competitor if you own one and have the time and money.
12 Honda Civic
Ah, the Honda Civic. We hate to say it, but a Honda that can win on a track day is harder to find than if you’re looking for Bigfoot in New York City. Sometimes revered, sometimes feared, but more often than not, they get smeared.
Notoriously under-powered with a few exceptions, they still make a great track car because they’re small and light, and front-wheel-drive is easier to drive at its limits than rear-wheel-drive. The K20 engine is one of those exceptions because it can produce around 500 horsepower with the right turbo!
11 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
The only Hyundai on this entire list is the Genesis Coupe. This coupe is one beast of a car straight from the factory, with RWD and an optional 3.8L V6 capable of almost 350 horsepower. Trust us; this best thing can seriously move.
Depending on what trim package, there’s a possibility you won’t need to do a single thing to it before you can take it out onto the track and destroy competition. Pushing this car to the limits of its handling capabilities far exceeds the skill required to drive most of the other cars on this list.
10 Lexus SC300
If you don’t know about this car, you need to. I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous Toyota Supra, well consider the Lexus SC300 its brother.
The 2JZ-GE engine that has become one of the most popular engine swaps of all time can be found under the hood of this beauty, although you would never know just by looking at it. The 2JZ-GE is one of the most capable platforms globally. It can produce absolutely insane amounts of horsepower with the proper modifications, making this car a great candidate for a track day.
9 Mazda FC RX-7
The FC RX-7 is one of the more unique cars on this list because of its Wankel rotary engine. The rotary engine is a competent platform; however, without the proper maintenance and care, it can turn into a complete nightmare.
The engines are known for destroying what’s called the ‘apex’ seal, leaking oil, and a litany of other serious problems. If you can get over that, they are absolutely incredible. With a redline that’s close to ten thousand, the sound alone is enough to fill you with adrenaline.
These Affordable Cars Are Perfect For Track Days
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