The challenge went something like this: 1) Buy a car for £300 with tax and MOT; 2) Drive it to our chosen track (100 miles from Autocar HQ); 3) Race it for 90mins; 4) Scrap it.
The point was to see how cheaply you could have fun on track, and whether it was still entertaining even when buying cars at the fairly scummy end of the car market. The answer was a resounding yes.
Three Autocar staffers, myself included, took up the challenge. I ended up with a Mk3 VW Golf 1.8, and my competitors had managed to obtain a Mk1 Ford Focus 1.6 and, amazingly, a Saab 900 2.0. All were road legal and all had been bought for £300 exactly.
None were perfect. The Focus had a drastically slipping clutch, the Saab a dash full of warning lights that the seller had guaranteed were “just sensors” and you could see daylight through the rust in just about every panel on my Golf. And it rode on comically bad, lowered springs.
You’ll have to read the full feature in March to find out which car won, or indeed finished the race. But it wasn’t only a success in terms of the entertainment factor.
Do the maths and the appeal is clear. Your average track day will cost around £200 and the car cost £300. But scrap metal is worth a lot these days, and on average we got £150 back per car, and that’s including the convenience of having them picked up from the track. So that’s £350 for a track day in a car that you don’t mind abusing, and your daily driver can stay safely in the car park. Split the costs with a mate and you’re laughing.
Some people may know what it’s like to run a car you don’t care about. If you don’t, you should give it a go. It’s a truly liberating thing. And though my Golf lived up the fairly dire reputation the Mk3 has for being overweight and uninspiring, it was the most fun I’ve had in a car for a long time.
Everyone should do it. It proves that being an enthusiast can be a complete riot, even if you don’t have thousands to spend on a sports car.