11 August 2015

Best Buys in Vintage Racing

There’s a great old saying in racing: Speed costs money; how fast do you want to go? The adage was as true at the French Grand Prix a century ago as in this year’s Formula 1. And it’s also completely true in contemporary vintage racing. When a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold at auction last year for a record $38 million, it cemented vintage racing as easily the most expensive form of competition extant, when taken on a car-by-car basis. But vintage racing needn’t cost the GDP of a small country, because you can actually sneak in for less than the price of a new Chevy Spark. Here are four classes that offer great potential for cost-effective fun, for about $10,000 to $40,000.

Small-Bore Production Sports Cars
With their diminutive four-cylinder pushrod engines, small dimensions and light weight, racecars like the Austin-Healey Sprite, MG Midget, Triumph Spitfire and similar are simple to own and maintain. And with limited power, they are not daunting for new racers to learn. Values can range from $10,000 to $20,000, depending on preparation and history. One level up, in size and cost, are cars like the MGB, Triumph TR4 and Datsun 1600 Roadster.

Formula Vee & Formula Ford
For decades, the open-wheel Formula Vee and Formula Ford classes were designed to offer competitive, fun open-wheel racing with strict cost constraints. Early Formula Vees used essentially stock air-cooled Volkswagen engines, steering and suspension systems, while Formula Ford utilized more powerful 1.6-liter pushrod engines and dedicated racecar suspension. Anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 should get you into a race-ready single-seater.

Spec Miata
The oldest Miata is now nearly 30 years on, qualifying it as a vintage ride. And as Mazda likes to point out, it’s the most popular brand in racing. Appropriately then, putting the words “Miata” and “racing” together quickly gets you to the nationwide Spec Miata class, where large fields of carefully regulated Miatas offer huge competition at reasonable cost. A fully prepared, turnkey Miata racer can be had from under $10,000 to $15,000.

A Sedan/B Production
You don’t need a $200,000 1965 Shelby GT350 to have a big dose of V-8 fun. Virtually any Mustang from 1964½ forward is a viable candidate to turn into a racer, and over the years many folks have done just that. As such, there’s a world full of track-ready Mustangs already out there from $20,000 to $40,000, depending on the model, year and preparation. Comparable Corvettes are well past the $40k mark, but V-8 alternates such as the 1963-65 Ford Falcon, or even the Dodge Dart, also deserve attention.

Vintage Racing Resources
Two standout club-racing organizations include the SCCA (www.scca.com) and Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) (www.svra.com). The SCCA focuses on contemporary racing but still has classes suitable for vintage cars. While SVRA, predictably, is all about vintage racing. Check out the website Bring a Trailer (www.bringatrailer.com) which occasionally features vintage racecars, and Vintage Motorsport magazine (www.vintagemotorsport.com), which specializes in vintage racing.

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Silver Vette NJ August 12, 2015 at 13:34
    SCCA and NASA C5 race prepped Corvettes are selling in the 20s. Lots of really nice deals out there.
  • 2
    Bill Johnston Grosse Pointe, MI August 13, 2015 at 09:44
    I like that you included the Austin Healy Sprite in your list. I drove my '59 Bugeye while attending college in the late 60's. Fun car, but far from fast, a good running VW would give it a challenge in a street race, but it did handle well. I kept the car for many years, but did graduate to a 64 GTO.
  • 3
    Gary Perser Texas August 13, 2015 at 12:28
    Some additional points to consider: SVRA, as the premier national commercial vintage racing organization, races large grids at bucket list tracks. As such it is considerably more expensive and not really best suited for the entry level grassroots driver. Start with the regional volunteer clubs such as CVAR (TX & OK), RMVR (CO & NM), VARA (CA), SOVREN (Pac NW), VSCDA (Upper Midwest), and many others. Pick up a copy of "Victory Lane". It lists contact info for 25 vintage and historic road racing organizations. Important: before you buy or prepare your vintage race car, check with the club you intend to race with to see what is legal. Unfortunately, definitions of "vintage" and "historic" vary widely, as due the allowed modifications. Most clubs will allow you to race with them as a visitor for only one or two times with a safely prepared race car that doesn't exactly comply with their rules. Best plan for a beginner is to buy a car that has been reliably racing in the club you plan to join. Gary Perser CVAR MGB #90
  • 4
    JOHN C KONTOS COOK December 9, 2016 at 12:22
    The Triumph Spitfire has had the most SCCA National Championships F production wins than any other car in its class in the history of SCCA's records. They are still out there battling today.
  • 5
    jason wilberding CA - California May 31, 2017 at 18:41
    porsche 944's are great entry level cars and still can have a little more expensive parts if you aren't a diy person or a affordable mechanic BUT, they can hang with the miata's and depending on set up run faster....84-88's can be picked up all day long for under 3k and many already are set up for track. i personally ran with 944 spec class for many years and it's a great training ground for momentum driving!

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