Project 10AE: Hello & Goodbye
To NB, Or Not To NB, That Is The Question

Before I get started on this, I should probably preface my ownership of this car with a bit of a disclaimer: This car was never meant to be a Speedhunters project car, and it isn’t a particularly nice example, either.

If you want to see an incredibly clean, complete, and well thought-out project have a look at Paddy’s Project GTI. If you want to see a proper Japanese performance car that’s sees the track and has been modified with great care and a plethora of fantastic JDM parts, head to Blake’s Project NSX.

On the other hand, if you want to see a sub-$5,000 project that pretty much anyone could get their hands on, look no further.


The story of this 10AE starts a few years back when I was heavily involved in shooting track days and started to get an itch to pick up a track car of my own. The idea was to buy something cheap that wouldn’t ruin my life if I binned it, but something that was fun and educational at the same time. I didn’t need to be fast, but if it felt fast that would be a plus.

Well, you know what they say: Miata is always the answer. The only question was ‘which one’, so the research began.

Budget ultimately constrained me to one of the first three models: the NA, the NB, or the NC. Seeing as how the NC is widely regarded as a boat (despite secretly being superior in several ways) as well as more expensive, this left me with either an NA or NB as the ideal choice.


While pop-up headlights are a good time, the rear of the NA never sat right with me anyway, and after advice from several friends who’ve owned a handful of Miatas I set out on a search for an NB. Ideally I’d find one with a hard top — actually this item was more of a requirement — as well as a limited-slip differential.


Eventually, a near-perfect car with a few apparent cosmetic defects — and many more unapparent defects — came along. It was a ’99 10th Anniversary Edition, so it had come from the factory with a 6-speed manual gearbox, LSD, Bilstein shocks, ABS, and a few other goodies. The seller was initially asking an outrageous price for the car, but after a bit of chit-chat he begrudgingly sold it for a relatively fair amount.

I have to say, the worst part of the car was the choice of wheels: 16-inch Sparco Assetto Garas, which had been Plasti Dip’d black. It was a worst-case scenario as some of the coating was peeling, revealing the wheels’ original bright green paint in places. They just looked awful. Honestly, if buying this car with no wheels was an option, I would have.


There were tons of other little odds and ends, like the questionable headlight reinstall and radiator support repair — both of which I assume were casualties in the damage that earned the car its salvage title — that would eventually need to be addressed as well. But as-is, it was an incredibly fun little car on the backroads and I finally owned a decent driver’s car again.

40mph never felt so fast…

The Basics

Initially I just did some routine maintenance and made Miata friends like Andres, pictured here cleaning his far nicer NA. But after a couple of track days, I rebuilt the shifter using the 5X Racing bronze bushing – which I highly recommend by the way – and set out to shove my large Western-style body into a small Eastern-style seat. The main issue was, and still is, that despite not being that tall, my torso is approximately the same length someone who is 7-feet tall.


Having access to CAD software at school and a friend’s CNC plasma cutter and gargantuan press, I decided to mock up some side mounts which might get me on the floor. The initial idea was to release a small run of these, but ultimately the design would need to be broken up into multiple pieces and welded, so I abandoned this plan as there are plenty of decent options on the market that would get you nearly as low.


Still, my mock-up went well and I was ultimately able to get my seating position a good inch or two lower than what you see in this photo. So, I had a set made for myself which just barely served to tuck my helmet under the roll bar if I removed the seat cushions. A relative success.

Boom Boom Baby

I tracked the car some more, graduated from school, and accepted a job offer in Fremont. Much to the chagrin of my landlord, I moved the Miata into our backyard and final prep for a track day at Buttonwillow Raceway commenced. Do you like my buttons for nitrous?


I don’t have any photos from that track day, but you’ll realize that shortly after I picked up another car.


A parts car, to be exact, as apparently these BP engines do better when there’s oil in them. I actually found a lot of said oil later, caked to the bell-housing.


At any rate, my good friend AJ Curutchet came in clutch and we swapped the 87,000-mile engine from the frame-damaged parts car into my 10AE.


While we were in there I opted for a new OEM-spec clutch, but upgraded the flywheel to a lightweight unit. I also moved over the silicone hoses from my original engine to the new one, and poached a couple of other parts from the donor car as well.


We made a mess of the shop we were in — which was sort of a mess when we started — but the job was done in one day, with a bit of tidying up left for me to do.


There was also the matter of the other chassis I’d picked up, and I called on my good friend AJ again many times during the part-out process. You can see him here after lending an experienced hand and posing like a proper trophy hunter with the open diff that went off to a local friend.

My shed in the back turned into a used parts store, and I actually ended up breaking even on the parts car (excluding all of the sushi and pizza AJ and I ate along the way), which meant that the engine and other upgrades only cost 4,000,000 hours of my time dealing with nutters on Craigslist and forums.


Anyway, I also salvaged some 15-inch Kosei wheels, a Borla muffler, and a Racing Beat intake from the parts car and installed them on mine. I should have figured out a way to run the Racing Beat kit — they make a special strut brace bracket that doesn’t interfere with the large cast unit — but I ended up trading it for a AEM Induction Systems setup.

Honestly, I was mostly concerned with intake sound than any power gains, but I did eventually want to build a little heat shield for the filter area. Actually, there were tons of little things I wanted to do, but life got in the way. Sara and I moved to the Santa Cruz area, and I never spent much time working on the car.

Drive It

I did drive it often though, and I tore up the local mountain roads outside Santa Cruz with my friends as often as I could.


And, finally, the car was approaching some form of being visually acceptable, although it still needed a lot of love.


I also went back to Thunderhill West a couple more times and drove at Laguna Seca twice, where I ran the horrendous green wheels again since I still had them. Their 16-inch diameter proved to be a bit better on the main straight with the gearing in my 6-speed.


Fast forward a few months and I had just picked up a set of very old, original, and discontinued 5-spoke wheels which I wanted to restore. I was also getting ready to upgrade the brakes, get some coilovers, and tidy everything up. Then, life situations started changing very quickly when our landlords sold the house we were living in.

Sara and I decided to start fresh and move to Portland, Oregon and I settled on leaving the car behind as it was California smog compliant and didn’t want to deal with moving the car up North with us. Ultimately, I let it go to a guy in town who wanted to use it for his daily commute over Highway 17, the perfect road for this car.


I just wish I’d cleaned up and repainted those horrid green wheels, fixed the gaps in the headlights, and made time to upgrade a few other parts during my ownership. Months after the car has been in the new owner’s care, these things still bother me. At least I eventually got the interior on track and replaced those green wheels, but in retrospect I’m not sure why they lasted as long as they did.


Regardless, the 10AE served its main purpose. It was loads of fun for the few years I owned it and I learned quite a lot about driving the FR layout. This was good, especially as my only previous experience in this arena involved a ’66 Mustang coupe which was quite different and often tried to kill me. More importantly, the Miata taught me what I wanted in a car.

Now, all I own is that Mustang (which is still parked up in a friend’s backyard in California) and a reliable but very boring daily driver for me and Sara which will remain unnamed.


With this in mind, we’re all settled in up North in Portland now and I’m back on the hunt for another fun car. I do have a couple of basic requirements, though. Again, the FR layout is preferred and this time around I’d like to spend under $10,000 initially. For the right car I might break either rule, but we’ll see what happens…

There are some obvious answers in this space, some better than others. If you were in my shoes today, with the market as it is right now, what would you pick up around the $10K mark?

Let me know in the comments below.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto



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You've shot enough track days to know that the answer is S2000, FRS/BRZ, or 350Z in that price range! S2000 deals come up now and then, but I think the FRS/BRZ are still usually over your budget.


Haha that's true! Looking for a car which is a bit more street-leaning in general. Still, an S2000 is a great option, as is the 86 platform. A bit spicy on the price for a good one of either, though. As for the 350Z, definitely not a fan. I used to be, but I think I've just seen too many poorly modified examples. @istubzz on ig has a really cool one that he beats on at the track, but for a street car I don't think that chassis is for me.


Ah I see! I'd look at performance wagons if you're looking for fun and practicality. Personally, I've had my eyes on the B5 Audi A4 avants and 04+ WRX wagons as a family Tahoe vehicle. Just a thought.


Going a little over 10k but still under 20k can get you a decent e36 m3, e82 135i, e90 335i, r32/r33 gtst, silvia K, soarer, ae86, clapped e46 m3, decent s2000, earlier frs/brz. 10k and under can be good for great non M e36, decent e46 330i, Z3, 350z, gen 4 Camaro, 4.6 mustangs, more miatas, etc. My personal choice for 10k and under would be e36 318is and try to build it to jtcc/btcc/supertouring spec and my choice for a bit above 10k would be s2000 or 135i.


Great choices! I actually was looking at an IS300 and the day I went to go check it out the owner decided not to sell it haha. And I almost bought a 318ti out of Seattle as well but they were asking too much and wouldn't move the price... an IS would be a better choice than the compact anyway if we're honest.

An S2000 is definitely on the list, but I sort of have the same problem of my head hitting the ceiling and not being too comfortable in it. And to get a presentable one I'll definitely pay a premium.

So many good options out there, but with values on these older fun-to-drive cars going up it's a bit more difficult to commit.


I envy you for owning such a good NB. Specially when you put those 15-inch Kosei wheels, red Sparco SW. Miata is already a fun car from Factory. and you did her right. maybe just maybe a Red MR2 will work with you. If its available there.


Haha thanks, it was a little beat up but yeah, out of the box it was so much fun! An MR2 would be nice, but looking for something a bit more practical and spacious



A nicer Miata,
A 3V s197 Mustang,
An old Lexus IS300,
...that’s about it for me, dog.


Out of the Miata game for now and I'm not one for the those IS300s although that is a good choice. Hadn't considered an S197, absolutely amazing how much the early ones have depreciated haha.

Matthew Dockery

Well at one end of the spectrum you have a G35 or 350Z or something else boring (read: made after 2000). All sensible, but hard to really make your own without a lot of $$. At the other end is a whole cohort of classic machines you can find in Portland (the scene here is so bizarre). Things like Saab 900 Turbos, VW Sciroccos, Toyota Starlets, Datsun 510s and Zs and trucks, Volvo 240s (or older), and BMW E30s.

You’re in Portland now. And Portland is weird. Embrace it and do something different!


Haha yeah that's true regarding the Portland vibe. I was on the lookout for something cool and RHD for a while but ultimately didn't want to pay the massive premium for one here and would rather get more car for my money.

A lot of people are bringing up the Z33, which I find quite repulsive haha. Heavily modded those or a G35 are passable, but yeah 2000s cars are just so bad looking from the factory, not to mention a bit too complex for their own good.

An old Z would be sweet someday, though. Hmm...


The Z has done me good! Was my high school poster car. :)


I can tell you from experience. After owning and tracking an NA Miata, an AP1, an AP2, a BRZ, an E46 M3 and now a SpecE46. Take the $10k and buy a nicer NB Miata. Because you said it yourself, 40mph never felt so fast.


Hahaha don't say that! I really do want another one and I'll probably get one again in the future (or maybe a C5 Vette, because... ~80mph never felt so fast).

But for now I need something more comfortable with a bit more space to bring around camera equipment etc. And I would like something I fit in better so I can use it every day without feeling like I just sat on an 8-hour plane ride after a trip to the grocery store.


If I had 10k USD (a shade under 16k here) I'd buy a DC2R, rag on it whenever possible and never look back.


Can a clean DC2R be found for 10k? I thought rolling shells with 5-lug were going for that much now (before they were 7k).


Yeah I'm in NZ, lots of JDM models available here... there was a 4 door for sale for $1900 USD recently.


Hold on... isn't that what you did? Love that thing btw, and possibly the only car I would give up RWD for.


I did and it's been great. Not that I use it very often, but it's an absolute banger of a car even if it is 95% standard. Not to mention bonus appreciating value multiplier.


Seriously, if you can even get close to getting your money out of a car it's a no-brainer. Miata was like that for me, but not nearly as much as that ITR could be.


I've never personally owned one but have driven a few SW20 Toyota MR2's and loved them. Only problem is that they're almost 30 years old. So they'll need a lot of work. The other one that might interest you is a ZZW30 Toyota MR-S. My buddy is a thicker fella and says that it's super comfortable. Funny enough he sold his Miata to get the MR-S! Lol. Toyotas last forever and are relatively inexpensive to maintain. There's always consumables but overall I think they would provide good bang for your buck.


The MR-S is a great choice for the price! People overlook those cars, they do look quite bad by today's standards in factory trim but with the right mods they can be quite cool, and pretty quick too. MR layout would be cool to get a good feel for on the limit, too.

I had a friend in high school whose mom bought one new before we had our licenses and we thought it was pretty sweet haha. And she almost got an S2000 instead... the market today says that would have been a better choice back in the early 2000s! Hard to believe some S2K are fetching their sticker price today while the ZZW30 are worth just few grand.


Not to forget that if you want to get down and dirty with a little project, you can swap in a 2GR-FE which is a proven swap. If it was good enough for Toyota in the Japanese GT300 series, it is good enough for everyone. That way, even N/A it would have bags more power and reliability but still be relatively cheap.


miata is still the answer, you've already made the choice, you've just come here to understand why


This comment speaks to me on too many levels...

Sebastian Motsch

Hello Trevor,

the same dilemma everybody has when searching for a fun front-engined RWD car in this price range. Obviously a Miata is the natural choice, but if you struggle with space and want to use it as a daily, try looking at a BMW E36 323ti compact with the ///M sport package. Usually way cheaper than the coupé or sedan versions and often in better condition because they are often just not on the radar.


Yeah that's a good one.

Like I mentioned above I came pretty close to buying a base one a few weeks back but the owner was stubborn on a price I didn't like so it didn't happen. I almost bought one of those maybe 6 or so years ago too, probably should have they were practically free at the time.

The M-Sport ones I've seen lately have been thrashed, sadly.


Not RWD but best FWD I have ever driven (better than integra type-r btw) Peugeot 205 gti/rallye!! If you love driving you would love this car. Perfectly weighted control, amazing gearbox(1.6 better, shorter ratio), you can steer it with throttle more than many rwd cars, pedals designed to heel-to-toe, revvy engine... I have na miata and 205 1.3 rallye. Miata is more capable but 205 is so much more fun. Have driven S2000, GT86, 350z, porsche boxster, every gen miata, e30,e36,e46,e90, integra, mr-s, fiesta st, focus st/rs, old alfas giulia, classic minis etc. my 205 rallye tops all those cars. Go drive it now and fall in love :D


What's a Peugeot? Just kidding, but not really an option for me here.

I have heard really good things about those though. Although if I got one I'd just be Ben Chandler, but more square. So maybe nothing would really change, then...


To me steering (control weight in general) is biggest letdown pretty much every new car, I like to feel that every move or shift or pedal press have weight. Best in modern car has to be gt86 but its still pretty artificial feel. S2000 has amazing chassis and feel thru seat and possibly best gear change in the business, but electric steering ruins it for me. Same goes to integra type-r, overassisted steering. Maybe its just me but cant get confidence to push car without feeling what front tyres are doing. Lotus elise or opel speedster would be nice if I could fit in one. Dream would be owning nsx-r. It haves best parts of older car, good steering feel, good throttle response and mechanical feel of everything but still modern car so everything works properly.


I doubt he'll be wanting to spend the money to import a Peugeot to the United States


Might be able to take one carry-on, though


You should check out an 04-06 Pontiac GTO. It's an Aussie car with Pontiac badges and a LS V8.


Hadn't thought of that! I've seen a good few of those built to be pretty nutty drift cars. If I went for a v8 it would probably need to be a C5 though.

Vladimir Ljadov

As a NB Miata-owner myself I've immensely enjoyed the article and understand your struggles :) NC Miata is always the answer for bigger people.

In my part of the world usual track beater is always a BMW E36 or E46. Loads of parts and cheap mods on these ;)

S2000, a sick car with one of the best engines in the world, but it's not a good handling car, not when stock and compared the fun a Miata gives.

C5 corvette has a place in my heart as well. I think my choice of car for $10K would be a Gti or a Focus ST tbh, these days I'm also in search of practicality :)


Nice man! Yeah NC is better than the hate it gets but still... not really my thing haha. Facelift ones can be made to look pretty nice though.

I've heard the S2000 described as the one of the best-handling cars but it might depend who is driving ;)

C5 is a really good one, I was surprised to see that they've gotten that cheap. I'll probably need to get one someday just because.

Not practical tho. No fwd for me, but there are lots of rwd options...

Vladimir Ljadov

Handling is very relative. In my experience, S2000 has more grip, but when it snaps, it's hard to catch it, while saving a Miata is no biggy.

Basically, some after quick lap times, others like to have fun while driving :)


Fair. Saving a Miata is the best feeling, it's so natural and you can push the limit so far!


Great article! The NB is such a good looking car.
I'm currently in a similar situation. Though my miata story sadly ended upside down in a frozen ditch. (RIP)
Now debating whether to wait and save up for an EVO, or to go for an RX8. Affordable, and highly praised, but then you might want to know someone that does dorito wizardry.


Haha get an RX-8 and continue saving in the meantime (said no one about a rotary ever). If you find a low miles one and it doesn't explode you can probably get most of your money out and you'll have something fun in the meantime... If it doesn't explode. Maintained properly and not abused I'm sure it would be totally fine, but don't quote me.


I'll see what I can find in your area...


Paraphrasing Jeremy Clarkson, "I went on, and I found this:"
Lowest to highest price, divided between stock and modded cars, all below 11k, except for two. Some of these are OBO.
I'd normally archive the ads so that the links remain relevant even after they expire, but you'll easily see why this time I chose not to bother.
- $2800 Porsche 924
Original manual, keys, window sticker, all that, plus an OEM radio some tapehead would murder for. Guess what, some hoses need attention. Original paint, apparently. Quite clean.
- $3500 Porsche 944
For something meatier. Lot more scarce an ad, but what little info is given hints at a decent example.
- $3900 300ZX
If the Z33 isn't for you, why not give the Z31 a shot? You get the pop-ups you missed last time round, steering wheel controls, and another 6 speed manual. What's not to love?
- 4500$ Porsche 928S
There are others around as well, but this one is cool, black, V8, grey-import, and won't start due to electrical issues. So there's that.
- $5000 FB RX-7
Rebuilt engine with a 12 months warranty. Need I say else?
- $5890 Subaru Impreza
As stock as an Impreza is ever gonna get, really. It looks like an STI but isn't, and a couple disconnections away from being RWD. Likely the most practical of the bunch though.
- $6000 FC RX-7 (Turbo II swapped)
"One of the cleanest FCs out there" and "as reliable as a rotary motor can be" are both quotes from this ad, and the pictures do seem to back that claim up. There are indeed a couple mods, but the average Joe wouldn't know.


That 944 is definitly going to need some motor work. 200k miles is a lot on them.
The 928 with electrical issues..... well you might as well rewire the entire car and go with an aftermarket ECU

Then there is the Porsche tax... those sub $5k cars can easily turn into $15k + cars


Oh, right.
After years of scouting for Miatas, I'm just not used to thinking "Wow, that's a lot of miles, this might need work" anymore.


That grey market 928 is so cool! But yeah, not willing for the issues that car has


- $7000 Nissan 240SX
Yes, a stock S13. Well, not full stock, but you know, still on the ugly seats and 'granny's dishes' wheels. At times it has an issue with going over 3.5k in 4th and 5th, but, you know, is anybody perfect?
- $7500 "Adult owned" E30 325e
No rust, no dash cracks, no oil leaks, no rough shifts, and I'll throw in a bet that it's even gluten-free.
- $7800 E21 320is
If you fancy something a little earlier, but still in great condition. It has an LSD and Recaros that if my research doesn't fail me won't hesitate to make you back a quarter of the asking price.
- 9500$ Porsche 944 S2
The new parts are too many to list, and the car is too good-looking to skip. It might be a tough call to say it's worth that much, but the market (or your best offer) will tell.
- 10000$ Toyota Starlet GT Turbo
You mentioned you were looking for some fancy RHD gimmick, right? Well here you have one, if not RWD.
- 10500$ Nissan 240Z
It runs, it's got a battery, that battery is new, it's got a passenger window, that passenger window's off track, it's got a clutch, that clutch needs some work, it's got some maintenance records, and that's all the seller's bothered to tell ya. But hey, how much is it really going to take before we look back at when one of these was ten grand sighing in nostalgic regret?
- $11000 E36 M3
Because convertibles are the best. And because an E36 M3 that needs nothing mechanically is nothing to scoff at.
- 11000$ BMW 2002
Freshly restored, coming from none other than California! It's never seen salty water, and you just HAVE to look at that interior. Really, it's a legal requirement.


- $5000 RB-20 swapped 280ZX
It's a 280zx with a turbo RB20. I don't think I need to add anything else.
- $5500 SR20 240SX
You'll never guess, it needs some work. There's some quarter panel rust (though apparently not elsewhere), the turbo needs to be rebuilt, the manifold is cracked, it needs a new brake fluid reservoir, and the front bumper is mismatched. I'd reckon the most surprising part is there's a chance that this is it.
- $5500 Onevia
Oop, this is a pretty one. A mostly stock-looking, KA24, supercharged Onevia, with a good chunk of suspension bits. If this isn't enough to spark your interest, skip this ad. Unless you like automatic seatbelts, in which case, ooh, you're in for a treat.
- $5500 240SX S14 KA24
There's not much to say here that you couldn't guess by yourself. Bodykit, Garret turbo, mystery box coilovers, and matte black paintjob. If that's what you're into...
- 11000$ 1JZ swapped E46 325i
Imagine having an E46 BMW with a reliable engine. This dream can finally become a 13 psi-running reality.
- $13000 AE86
Over budget, but for good reason. A 20-valve Blacktop mated to a TRD LSD isn't something you'll find any day, and certainly not with looks to match.

Also, posting lengthy, link-heavy comments in here is a bit of a nightmare.


Alright dude, finally worked my way through all those tabs! Would check one out here and there throughout the day between being productive. I've seen a number of these before but most were new. I think these are my favorite:

- Z31 is sweet. If it wasn't a couple hours away I'd check it out right away. Might have to give them a call, good color and good options. Maybe almost too nice to heavily modify, which is what I'd want to do with a Z31.

- The grey market 928 is really cool. Really, really cool. Something different that people wouldn't know right away is different. If get it in a heartbeat if these weren't notoriously cantankerous and didn't have a bunch of finicky issues already. Never really seen one all that modified either.

- Turbo II-swapped FC is nice, and seems like a decent price if it's in good running condition (apparently it likes to flood out, but could be worse haha).

- That E30 looks like a great base but for whatever reason these cars never did much for me. A drive in a well-sorted one would probably change that.

- That E21 has been up for a while. Sweet car, I'd be interested in seeing how it drives. Never been behind the wheel of one of these but I imagine it would be a bit like the Miata in the sense that it would feel much faster than it is haha!

- 1JZ E46 is cool. Always scary to carry one someone else's project but it's definitely different!

- AE86 is an awesome project and probably good value for what you get. Nearly a complete project though. Rather get a stock one and ruin it with mods myself haha

- Starlet GT is rad

- 240Z would be so cool to own

-Best to stay away from s-chassis up here as they're all drifted to oblivion.

I spend way too much time on Craigslist as it is, and the decision has been a tough one since I started thinking about this seriously. As great as this list is it hasn't made making a choice any easier!

Good problem to have, and a good time to be a car enthusiast.



Now that looks like a solid list! I'll have to check when I'm done with work for the day and get back to you. Otherwise I suspect I'll get no work done today at all...


I suggest you a Elise\ Exige platform would be a great choice.
Very light, very responsive, great driver’s car.
Not that expensive tu run.
At least, that’s what I think!


Really nice cars around a track but my head goes approximately four inches through the roof even in the factory track edition with the seats on the floor. Also a hair over my proposed $10k limit


I’m a Porsche 944 guy. If you haven’t experienced a properly sorted one you should. Not the most powerful obviously, but for a momentum car, extremely capable. Allows me to show poor drivers in fast cars the nut behind the wheel is the most effective modification you can make. IMHO worthy of consideration.


Keep up the great work Trevor. Love your enthusiasm.


Haha driver mod is the best one you can do! 944 is definitely one to consider, never driven one.

Boost Brothers Garage .

I’m currently 07K swapping my 944. A kit is just about out to do an 01E trans swap. These platforms are really gaining some new capabilities. Plus, they are gorgeous!


why an 01e? ive heard of people using cayman trans in their 944 and ive even heard of audi 1.8T swaps for the engine. I like the idea of the 07k though, havent heard of that one before.

There is always the LS option too

Boost Brothers Garage .

I’m documenting all the 07K swap stuff on my YouTube channel (Boost Brothers Garage) so you can see more there.

As for the 01E, it just has far more aftermarket support and is more cost effective. The NA 944 transaxle is junk, the turbo transaxle can hold decent power, but to make serious power you need a 968 trans which are getting silly expensive. The 01E gives you 968 strength, with the ability to get dog ring gear sets, convert to sequential etc.

The LS is an option, but I have a number of friends that have LS swapped their 944’s and popped them on track due to oil starvation. That can obviously be fixed, but the 07K just fits the original design language better and its cool that it’s in the VAG family.

Boost Brothers Garage .

Be different, Porsche 944


C5 Corvette. You don't have to get a Z06 and there are plenty out there and plenty of upgrades. If you can find a FRC that isn't a Z06, they make the best non Z track cars.


Dude, it amazes me how cheap those have gotten. Definitely a dream car in middle school so it would be cool to own one. Really curious if the market will continue to drop or start bouncing back up as nice examples are snatched up. Seems like there are plenty out there, though.


I'd say look for an e30/e36! They're a dime a dozen, easy to work on and the sound of that inline 6 is angelic. They're relatively lightweight and a lot of fun to throw around a circuit. You can for sure find yourself an e36 M3 for around the 10k mark!


Yeah, I've always loved a good E36 and there's so much aftermarket support. Kind of hard to argue with with that.


If you double your budget, you can get a stickshift 228i. I've always wanted to see someone modify one of these. Dimension wise these are like a shorter, wider 240sx.


If you pay for the other half I'm in!


If you want super cheap fun it's tough to beat 300 hp in a 93-02 Camaro/Firebird. Lt1 cars are 3-5k all day and LS cars 4-6k. I picked up a 97, black on black, 6 speed for $2600 with 92k on it... Spend the rest of your money on suspension and putting 10.5's on all corners and you won't be disappointed.


I loved those when I was a kid, I have a distinct memory of looking down at one from up on a hotel balcony and thinking it looked so cool. I was like 10 or something.

Today, I think I'd rather an F-body. I don't dig the swoopy lines anymore, but a modified fourth gen could be pretty cool.

So many potentially great options it it hurts.

Herminio Ramirez

I suggest a g35 or preferably a 350z which can be found under 10k, used engines run about 1000 or less and there is room for a v8 Ls if you plan a swap. I personally went this route with a g35 that I found for $700. It's still pretty much a project but it's fun to drive.


Can't argue with a $700 car, but neither of those speak to me personally. I think I just like older stuff in general.

Michael Rinaldi

Dip into the late 80's/early 90's and there are lots of good rear drive + manual trans options. They're new enough getting parts is easy, update/upgrading is also pretty straight forward, and you have the choice to work on them yourself with basic tools and manuals, at least with most of the European brands.

Not sure about your living situation, but my place in Slabtown sucks because all the apartments don't allow for working on cars per se... but you've got friends I'm sure!

Some ideas -- 190E manual, 924/944, 3 Series, Starion (for the legit odd man out choice), GTV6... and if FWD is an option the Corrado is sleeper today, just cuz I'm a VAG guy lol


You make some good points. We're right near slabtown so yeah, street parking and I need to go to a friend's to do anything more serious than putting on a license plate. Kinda sucks, but a great area to live otherwise.

Michael Rinaldi

And make sure you're running your front plate bolted to the nose and not sitting in the dash like the rest of us transplants from CA try to get away with... ask me how I know -- (insert $80 no-front-plate ticket emoji here)


Oh. Now you tell me...


What about motorcycles? They cost much less to track, they’re more fun, and can be towed by any car.

Personally, i’ve spent a ton building my track car and it continues to be a money pit, so I’m pulling the plug and going with bikes.


Those are good points. However, I'm not going into this next car with the main plan being to track it, although being 15 minutes from Portland International Raceway that'll probably happen sooner or later.

I learned to ride on a WR250X and have never tried a sport bike, sort of on purpose. I bet if I got into MotoGP I'd get the itch for one though haha, but I'd only buy a supermoto-type bike for the street. Otherwise I'd be dead within 4 days.


It's amazing how cheap you can find used FR-Ss now, in relatively good shape. Many in the <$10k range.


The 10k ones I've seen have been pretty clapped out. Hopefully the continue to drop, and I could see myself buying one that's not in fantastic shape and stripping it out instead of buying another Miata again in the future. The Miata was just so fun to drive, particularly on the limit. Haven't driven an FR-S in anger but I can't imagine it quite comparing.


I like old cars so I would look for Alfa 75s, volvo 740 Turbos, volvo 240s, porsche 924s. Those have many obvious arguments against them but they are special and not mainstream. They are quite practical also.


'They're practical besides the arguments against them,' haha I think this pretty much sums up all older cars. They definitely have more character though, and I do want something with a nice analog driving feel which means pre-2000 at least.

Sara would love a 240 though, I know that much for sure.


honestly, if i wanted a FR manual layout, my choice would be a facelift E39 540i, or if you want something a bit beat, maybe an m5 can be found around there. Great v8, good transmission, and good looks to back it up.


Yeah those are cool. I've found a couple good 540/6s locally, but ultimately they were too questionable to actually buy haha! I saw a pretty nice looking M5 version on CL but it was a bit spendy so I didn't check it out.


10k -

Hmm let's see:

BluePrint Crate Engines #BP3024CT - 300hp/330tq from a 302 - $3199
Cobra Automotive Inc, '65-66 Mustang Competition Front Suspension (I don't remember your year, but they all cost the same) - $4215
4x225/50/15 Yokohama Advan A052s delivered from TireRack - $791
Cobra Monaco Racing Seat - $212
Autopower Bolt-In 6-point roll cage - $1044

That's enough left over to rattle can it primer grey and take the lady out to dinner at Red Lobster.

Just sayin'...


This is clearly the answer. Not only do you own it but you can do *anything* you want with it. Anything at all.


Haha you make a really good point!

Basically the body of my '66 Mustang has been beaten up (dents in both quarters) after daily driving it for about three years so I haven't wanted to invest in it in a serious way. It would make a pretty good track car due to this, but I can only assume it will kill me if I do that. And still, if I invested that much money into it I'd rather start with a different car in better shape.

I've had a couple other ideas for it and I'll bring it back eventually. I think it'll end up a pretty non-traditional build, since if I really wanted a first-gen Mustang, again, I would simply start with a different chassis as mine is quite... tired.


OR... You could put a rotary in it. Rotaries make everything better.


If you keep the power reasonable and keep plenty of tire under it, you'll be fine. The beauty of a vintage Mustang is...every single part is available. If you need race parts? Cobra Automotive, Maier, Global West, etc. all have specialized race parts for the front and back.

If you strip the interior and use a 302 and 4 speed, you'll keep it light enough that stock brakes with aggressive pads and shoes will keep you going for some laps (fade will be inevitable with the stock setup).

As for the chassis, some sub-frame connectors and a cage will tighten it right up without issue.

Dents just give it character.

If you just want to build an HDPE car, a Mustang is hard to beat for the cash. Basically it should go Miata -> Mustang -> Porsche for outright driving and speed for track cars. Since you've had the Miata...


Yeah fair enough, the idea with this next car is to have more of a street car. I do miss driving the Mustang on the street tho and definitely always wanted to sort out the suspension.

As it sits now it has a '90s 5.0/302 stripped back with a carburetor and a rebuilt T5 5-speed. Maybe 300hp ish. It has disc brakes all around but the fronts are horrible, and the rears are thanks to an Explorer axle which is pretty heavy.

Just talking about it makes me want to get it back and drive around town again, there's nothing like it. Probably need to buy a house first though, honestly. Need space to work on it and store parts.


This is. The. Best. Plan. Yet!

Or buy my half done VR6 swapped (still rear engine, rear drive) baja-kitted beetle.


I'm probably throwing a curve ball here but.... get a slighly janky s30 280z and go ham. nowhere near as fast as the others but I feel rewarding all the same.


Would be fun but at the moment I need something at least a touch more practical.


I would go for a e46 330i touring and with the spare cash use it to buy m3 upgraded to make a touring m3

Simen Zimmermann

I might not be you, but I know how I'd spend my money. The thing is, I'd probably get yelled at by my mates, as they know how my broken logic works...

Key, I feel, is looking at what the car would cost you, as you'd actually want it to be. Say, wheels, and suspension is a must, then you have to factor that into the inital cost. With that faultless logic in mind, here's my suggestions:

Candidate 1: Mazda RX8, with spare engine.
Like your MX5, it has sharp lightfooted handling, turns in like nobodys business, and loves to rev!
Sadly the coilpacks aren't quite there, the little self harming emos. They like not starting fires, which in turn leads to a missfire, which ruins your apex seals. You know how it goes. The cat also likes doing things its own way. Usually that means developing asthma, which makes your engine breath hard. Which in turn ruins your apex seals. You see where this is going?

Therefore I'd suggest this rx 8 as it has a racing beat exhaust, and some other goodies.
Factor in new coilpacks, and a new cat, just to be safe, and you should be good for a while!

For the inevitable failure, heres a spare engine and box, that you could have inspected / overhauled, and just waiting for the day you come home on a flatbed.

All in, that leaves you inside the 10K budget, and you still avoid being without a car for more than a few hours if it should fail.

Candidate 2:
The 5.0. The sound of detroit. The lightweight, mullet wearing, understeering, snap oversteering, crowd killing foxbody!
Prices are going up, Radwood is in fashion, and lets be honest here; the foxbody was basically americas answer to the 240sx, except it came out a few years earlier. I'd suggest you avoid the earlier cars (like mine) and go for an 87-93, as its efi, roller cam etc.

Step one: get a half about one:

Step two: Maximum grip package from Maximum motorsports:

Step 3, if you want more power, afr heads:

Depending on what the bidding goes to, you're still within budget!

Candidate 3:
Break your budget. Sell something you dont need. Then get what the mx5 should have always been! A 2 seater with space for your trackday stuff in the back! at 13.500 the Z3 Coupe comes in "slightly" over budget, but the prices are going up, its super cool, and its like an mx5, but faster, and way more practical.

Candidate 4: E36. But not the fake M3.
How about this; Theres not a lot of mint E36 coupes about anymore. How about ruining this one?
You dont need an m3, because you didn't get real ones anyway, so just go with a 328. It's got a bulletproof engine, that takes boost really well. So Add some boost! Not a turbo though, because theres no room for those. I mean, what's everyones favourite turbo positioning? Low mount.... ? How far forward should it be? All the way! Like next to the radiator. Right where you have no room to fit a filter. Right where its the first thing to eat a gravel trap. Lovely.

Thats why I'd suggest a supercharger kit. Plenty of power, no lag, and actual air filtration, rather than gravel trap induction.

Then just fit the suspension you want, and off you go! Minty little project car, with plenty of room to grow! All within budget too!

Candidate 5: Probably the one I'd go with;
1978 Alfa Romeo GTV.
Loverly twin cam engine. Great looks, webasto roof, mint condition. What more could you ask for, except tasteful wheels? Loose the horrid 18" wheels, and spend the rest of the money going for a drive! ( and breaking down, and finding parts, and paying for the tow truck, and hotel, and tipping off a weirdo mechanic, down a dark alley, in a bad part of town, thats only open on wednesdays after midnight, but somehow is an Alfa specialist. )

Thats it for now, but if you want more suggestions on how to ruin your life, I could start talking about Jaguars. And Triumphs. And Reliants....... .. And maybe Gilberns. Eh.... I'll get my coat.


It's interesting to see what these ebay cars are fetching. Let's break this down, though...

RX8 was never a very good-looking car. Actually almost bought one and Sara said she didn't like how it looked. Also I know nothing about rotaries so she probably saved me a painful experience down the road haha.

Have to pass on a Foxbody since I already have that drivetrain in my '66 which is a lot more fun to drive despite being far worse at everything except looking good.

Z3... thought about it but I'm done with small cars at the moment. Would be fun to have one for a weekend, though.

E36 definitely makes a lot of sense, but I think it would have to be the M.

That Alfa is rad. Ahead of is time, but not knowing anything about 'em I'd better save that one for you. Buy it!


Trevor, I think these kind of Speedhunters articles are my favorite. Well written and about a real world, budget limited build/resurrection. Look forwrd to your next vehicle and project especially if its a 944 - I’ve been thinking about those too.


Thanks Paul! I'm hoping my next project can be the same way. Something fairly attainable and imperfect, but fun to drive and at least sort of practical.

There are a lot of options that fit my criteria, but I think I've finally settled on something. Check back soon!


Why not just another Miata?

You already know your way around them...:)


S2k would be like equivalent to what you may have in mind but when I think of FR I tend to think of heavier bodies like the Genesis which in fact fits the bill perfectly I mean no more JDM it's KDM now haha