T Nation

Tuner Cars

I love cars and I fucking love driving. I have a '98 Altima with 110k miles right now. It’s a great, reliable car, but I really want to drive something that I can have some more fun with.

I’m 16 and don’t even have a job right now, so buying something new is pretty out of the question, but I’ve been considering saving up money once I get a job again and buying a used car. If I invest some more cash into it wisely, it would be a pretty respectable car.

I know a good amount about cars, but not nearly enough to make an educated decision about this on my own. Does/has anybody have/had a tuner car? What was your experience? How much did it all cost you?

I might be able to sell my Altima for a grand. I was considering a '99 Eclipse since it’s turbod and AWD. I’m not going to be spending money on bullshit need for speed mods like body kits, underglow, and cute paint jobs. I just want the car to look decent and be able to perform. I’d probably get an intake/exhaust/headers first…

So, what have your experiences been? what do you think?
Thanks


Ive had 2 camaros (1 iroc-z28 and 1 z28), and 2 firebirds (1 trans am) all of them V8s. You can’t go wrong with a muscle car Artem especially if your not willing to spend alot of money. They have small block chevys. SBC is the most common motor on the planet. Parts are hella cheap.

Ive got a 383 stroke going in the iroc-z over the Christmas break. Should be ~500hp and has cost me under $5000 built tranny, quality hot rod parts and all built from the block up. If you want to just throw in a cam, headers, exhaust and a bigger carburetor, you can prob get it for under $500 if you shop around.

If you want an import, I would go with a volkswagen gti or something along those lines. Maybe a nissan 300zx, but don’t expect parts for those to be cheap.

Hey, your car is the same year as mine. I have a 1992 Maxima GXE with 82,000 kms. I’m not planning to do anything other than maintenance with this car. (It’s auto… if it was the SE Manual version that would be a different story.)

What I am doing is waiting until 2010 to save money and see what new cars will come out. I would really love to have the Suzuki generation IV Swift and start from there. Not really sure what car I’ll get, but I would only spend money on performance mods if anything.

Otherwise, it’s a win-win situation, because today’s cars will get older and if I don’t like anything new I can always buy used for cheaper. If I knew a lot about cars I would get a r32 skyline gtr or some other import. Have to remember to get leather seats with used cars to avoid cum stain absorption.

I would suggest an STi/EVO, as they are reliable and very fun to drive at the track or as a daily driver, but since you don’t have a job, I wouldn’t get one yet. Other than that, you can get a 240sx for cheap and modify it, or get an RSX-S. An eclipse is a decent choice too. All of these small imports respond well to initial mods.

I agree with elano. A camaro or a Nova with a SBC is the way to go. I had a 64 Acadian (Canadian version of the Chevy II). It was cheap and easy to fix. You can build a fast car for very little money. You could even throw a turbo on there if you wanted.

Of course a lumpy cam and other horsepower mods, except a good exhaust system, will kill you at the gas pumps. You’ll have an easier (cheaper) time getting horsepower out of a Small Block V8 than you will out of a 4 banger even with a turbo.

I’m a fan of making turns though. Also, gas will be more expensive.

Yeah, domestics are great for going fast in a straight line for a small amount of money, but thats about it. Stick with euro’s or imports if you enjoy the twisties.

[quote]OrangeBroccoli wrote:
Yeah, domestics are great for going fast in a straight line for a small amount of money, but thats about it. Stick with euro’s or imports if you enjoy the twisties. [/quote]

3rd Gen Camaros are great cars for turns.

Course, my Mustang has all kinds of suspension mods and it handles quite well.

Here’s my old IROC (that I stupidly sold and want another one). It was a decent car till I started modding the heck out of it, lol then all my money went towards that.

Dude, I just traded in an 05 acura TL (auto) for an '03 acura CL-S 6 speed wuth 97xxx miles and I’m happy as fuck I did it. This thing is way more fun to drive.

I bought it used, and the previous owner put on a CAI with K&N filter, and slotted rotors. Those are really the only performance related mods, and it’s pretty fast with 265HP (assuming only 5 HP gain from the CAI and filter.)

If you look around, you can find some in good shape for good prices.

Hey guys, take a look at this:
http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/cto/950656957.html
The guy said that he’d be willing to trade for the Altima. What do you think? Any evident flaws?

[quote]Artem wrote:
Hey guys, take a look at this:
http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/cto/950656957.html
The guy said that he’d be willing to trade for the Altima. What do you think? Any evident flaws?[/quote]

Aside from not having a first gear? lol

Get the vin and post it in Hogear’s “Buying a car? Free carfax” thread. I think he may have a few more vin’s to give away.

What’s a vin and where’s this thread?

And he says he has a spare tranny he’ll give me.

dont go down that road with a DSM. Do you even know how to replace a transmission on an awd car. I awesome that car was the AWD version i didnt read it all. Just save your money my friend. When you get a bit older buy a cheap crx or something and throw another motor in it. It will be cheap and kinda fast.

[quote]OrangeBroccoli wrote:
I would suggest an STi/EVO, as they are reliable and very fun to drive at the track or as a daily driver, but since you don’t have a job, I wouldn’t get one yet. Other than that, you can get a 240sx for cheap and modify it, or get an RSX-S. An eclipse is a decent choice too. All of these small imports respond well to initial mods.[/quote]

I have to say an EVO is not a good daily driver. Hard, loud, use lots of gas. Expensive maintanence, expensive parts. Track yes.
An Impreza is better for daily use. Even an STI or S204 are better for daily use.

I’ve owned quite a few fun, sporty, cars and even started a local import sports car club a few years ago. So I know a thing or two about tuner cars.

First, never, ever buy a tuner car from someone else unless you know that person very well and know everything about the car. Buying a tuner car (like that Eclipse) from someone else means you’re about to inherit all the problems they couldn’t fix or got tired of trying to fix (i.e. the money pit).

Second, I recommend finding a car that has performance and handling right out of the box (stock). This will save you a TON of money, disappointment and various headaches when trying to take an okay car and turn it into a highly tuned performance machine.

Third, stick with cars that have a good track record for performance, reliability, gas mileage, maintenance, etc.

I’ve owned cars that were awesome completely stock (Acura Integra Type R, Honda S2000, WRX), and I’ve had cars that made good tuner cars (Acura Integra, Honda CRX Si, Mazda Miata). However, the cars that I had to make upgrades and changes to in order to make them like tuner cars (Integra, CRX, Miata, Civics, etc.), cost me a ton of time and money and they still didn’t end up as good as a car that is already sweet from the start.

As a founder/member of an import sports car club, I saw plenty of guys (and a few girls) that took cars like WRX’s, RX8’s, RX7’s, Toyota MR2’s, Nissan 300zx’s, Eclipse GST’s and GSX’s and put all kinds of money into them. Some of those cars are easy to make upgrades because they are sweet cars when stock. But some of them were very high maintenance and took a ton of money to get them where the owners wanted them. Not to mention that reliability was an issue for some of them.

Most of the guys in the club or that I knew would end up selling their cars after they tinkered with them for a while. Usually, there was something that they could never get to work right, or they just kept sucking down every penny the owner had to constantly fix or upgrade. And some of these cars didn’t make good daily drivers.

At 16, you most likely can’t afford a new car like an EVO, WRX STi, RX8, 350z or Skyline, etc. However, you can always buy a good used import sports car.

I’d highly recommend a Honda S2000. That was one of the best cars I’ve owned (I owned two different ones - a 2001 and a 2003). They are one of the best handling cars I’ve ever seen completely stock. They are fun to drive, get pretty good gas mileage (20-27mpg city/hwy) and the maintenance is easy to do and very minimal.

You can find them used in the $14,000 range for a fairly low mileage one.

I really loved my Acura Integra Type R and never should have sold it. That car was incredible for a front-wheel drive car. It was great completely stock. Unfortunately, they are hard to find without them being abused or no longer stock. And the prices for used ones are still way too high.

Some other good used cars that make good tuner cars would be a WRX (2002-2004), a Mazda Miata (90-00’) and even an EVO or 350z if you can find them for a good price, decent mileage and not abused.

I sold my S2000 almost three years ago and bought a Mazda Miata in the hopes of saving money at the time. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out that way. The Miata has required so much more routine maintenance than my S2K ever did (one benefit to owning a Honda or Acura is how little maintenance they need - fluid changes and tires!).

I’ve also replaced things on the Miata as needed to make it better. I put on lightweight racing wheels (Kosei) and sticky tires, upgraded brakes (rotors, pads, stainless steel lines, racing fluid) and a full suspension set-up (sway bars, adjustable shocks, springs). All of these things have cost me a lot of money and the car still isn’t up to the same performance of my S2K (and I still have 100 less horsepower than the S2K - a turbo kit would cost me another $3,500-4,000).

So if you go the route of taking a car and then turning it into a tuner car, be prepared to put in a ton of money. And it always seems like there is something else to do. It never stops. It’s almost an addiction. You make one upgrade and then need another. Over time, you’ve put in more money than it would have cost you to buy a far better car to begin with that won’t even need upgrades to make it fun!

But I will say this about the Miata. You can find them CHEAP. And with VERY low mileage. They are also very easy to upgrade (similar to the early 90’s when everyone was buying Honda Civics), they have many parts for them and a good online community/forum of enthusiasts. They are also rear-wheel drive, which is preferred for a sports car. After driving FWD, RWD and AWD cars, I definitely prefer RWD first, then AWD and FWD last.

I still see some of my friends from the car club every once in a while. Ironically, three of them own Miatas and have been tuning them. Another good thing about them is that they tend to run forever and are reliable every day drivers and get good gas mileage.

Make sure you do plenty of research before you buy anything. And listen to what I said above. It could save you a lot of money and headaches.

[quote]pbsis405 wrote:
dont go down that road with a DSM. Do you even know how to replace a transmission on an awd car. I awesome that car was the AWD version i didnt read it all. Just save your money my friend. When you get a bit older buy a cheap crx or something and throw another motor in it. It will be cheap and kinda fast.[/quote]

I completely agree with this. Stay away from all DSM’s (Mistubishi Eclipses), as they are all garbage cars. Anyone that has owned one has had a slew of problems with it, especially if it was a GST or GSX. They are notorious for tranny problems.

Stick with a Honda S2000, Honda CRX (if you can find a good one that is still stock), an older Acura Integra or RSX-S, a WRX or a Mazda Miata.

Also, I plan on buying another S2000 in the future once I can afford a car payment (paying off some bills and working on saving money right now).

I really loved the S2K, and for me, the car fit me so well - in all regards (actual fit of the seating/cockpit, my personality and style of driving, etc.). The car handles corners like it’s on rails. And I drive aggressively and enjoy going to the track for autox and street drags every now and then for fun. And that car just performed so well on the track and on the street.

They also have a really good community of S2K owners online that even get together a few times each year for events and various “country” rides on twisty roads or trips to the “Dragon” in Tennessee. I’ve been a member of numerous different car forums and clubs, but I think the S2K community was by far the best of them all (and one of the most well-organized).

I’d be interested in getting the S2000 CR (club racer) version in the future, but I would definitely buy it used with ultra-low mileage to save quite a few dollars. Even if buying a regular S2000, they are easy to find with low mileage for a good price and still in stock condition.

I had a 1996 Honda Prelude Si and tuned it out quite a bit for being poor & in college. Intake, Exhaust, full suspension and brakes…and it was killer. Look up some Preludes; the best was the 2001 Prelude SH. They can go for around 8-10k with decent mileage.

After that I had a WRX; and wish I still had that. 4 door, good gas mileage; ton’s of “git-up-n-go” and good year round with all season tires.

I had a 350z for a while too. That car was ultimate. It had the full brembo/wheel package, leather and navi. But had just enough room for my gym stuff and my dog. (Small beagle) While it was blazingly fast and utterly head turning; it wasn’t the best investment.

I currently have a 2007 scion TC. It’s got a handful of mods on it and is really good on gas. 30+mpg

If I were in your shoes; with no job…I’d set a spending limit.

Cheap cars that I’m considering (in order to have a lower loan/monthly payment):

Honda Civic SI; stock…it’ll be tough.
Integra GSR
Acura TL-type S
Audi A4

I’d like to get a car for like 5-8k for a while. Speed & reliability are my two main concerns.

Let me end with some words of wisdom. I’ve had tons of cars; and I can say that it is NOT worth having thousands of dollars in debt for a car. Right now I’d be fine with my original prelude and still paying $120/mo instead of what I’m stuck with now.

Be smart, think in the long-term.

/oldman rant

[quote]Artem wrote:
What’s a vin and where’s this thread?

And he says he has a spare tranny he’ll give me.[/quote]

don’t bother. that car will be a PITA. he says the spare trans is good, but you have no way of knowing.

VIN= vehicle identification number, usually located on the dash and visible from the outside on the driver’s side

Ahhh, yes the Honda Prelude. I forgot to mention that one. The newer versions (1997-2001) were good cars. But it’s very hard to find one that is a manual (most are auto with the “sport shift” - gay!). But they can be found for a good price and in good condition. The SH (super-handling) would be a good one to consider if you can find it as a manual.

The Integra GSR’s are great cars (1994-2001) and easily tunable and get good gas mileage. But again, they are hard to find stock.

If you go with a Honda Civic Si, I’d stick with the 2000-2001 models or the newest version. The hatchback model during 2002-2005 was a piece of garbage. Poor handling, lost a lot of it’s kick and doesn’t respond as well to mods unless you are going to sink a lot of money into it. But the older ones (2000-01 Sedans) and the newest ones are pretty sweet.