One of my interests is sports cars. Many people use many different definitions for what constitutes a sports car. Let me give mine.
Two characteristics make up a Sports Car: it must be, at least in principle, street legal (does not have to be licensed and driven on the street, just able to be licensed and driven on the street) and it must be designed, either by the original manufacturer, or through subsequent modification, to go around a closed course track, involving turns in both directions (not oval tracks) as quickly as possible.
Sports cars do not have to have big, powerful engines. They do not have to have a high top speed. What they have to have is good handling.
This is the essence of what I look for in a car. Of course, I look for something that's economical to drive. (The less money I spend on gas, the more I can drive the car.) I look for something that's reliable. (What's the point of having a nice car if you can never drive it because it's always in the shop?) But on top of all that, I want a car that's fun to drive. Otherwise, what's the point?
Handling, however, is something of a good news/bad news situation. The bad news is that most everything available in the US handles abominably. Mushy steering and an almost complete lack of road feel are the norm. However, the good news is that some work, and some money, can make most cars handle reasonably well. They'll never hang with the best Porsches and BMWs, but then I'll probably never hang with the best Porsche and BMW drivers either.
There is a safety issue with handling as well. If something unexpected happens on the road, most people seem to have the tendency to brake. "Stomp and pray" seems to be the watchword. Sometimes that's the best thing to do, but many times it's not. Very often the best way to avoid an accident is to steer around the situation. Doing so quickly and precisely requires both training in that kind of driving (Autocross is a good source of that training) and a car with good handling.
I satisfy my Sports car craving through one means right now: Autocross (SCCA Solo II). I hope to add Improved Touring racing to that sometime in the future and maybe branch out from there.
My current car is 1997 Mazda Miata. It competes in C Stock in SCCA Solo II. The truth is, I'm not very good (yet) and routinely come in last in my class. But I have a lot of fun doing it and the things I have learned in Autocross have helped me avoid accidents on more than one occasion. Currently, the car is completely stock. I eventually hope to have it set up to either Street Prepared or Street Modified rules. I don't really expect the car to be competitive in its class, but I just want something that's fun to drive. I can worry about competitiveness later, when I'm better. To check out the rules in more detail, see this online source: SCCA Solo II Rules.
I've created a Miata car for the game Sports Car GT. The body in that is actually an Austin Healey Sprite design I got off the internet. Eventually I plan to replace the 3d files and bitmaps with a set appropriate for the Miata. In the meantime, I've been working on the physics of the car. Feedback is appreciated.
Sprite/Miata SCGT Car files.
My previous car, the 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS 16V (2.0 Liter engine) is no longer with us. The car suffered from a slipped timing belt, leading to a broken valve imbedding itself in a piston. And the result of that was a car that I just was not willing to pay to have fixed. RIP.
I've created an overview of the permitted modifications in the various Solo II classes. It's not entirely comprehensive, but it gives a good idea of where you're likely to be with given modifications. SCCA Solo II Permitted Modifications.
One of my current projects is research toward selecting a base car to become my eventual Improved Touring racer. Toward that end, I started with the car listing on the SCCA web page. I separated out the cars listed for the different SCCA Improved Touring classes and then did some basic research on individual cars. Specifically, I looked up the horsepower and curb weights of the individual cars and computed a power to weight ratio. I also searched race results and counted up the "wins" by each car model. This is not a definitive list, but I hope it will offer some insight into what cars will be competitive in a given class. The big question I have is how does the SCCA decide which class a car that is not currently listed should compete in? For instance, if a Showroom Stock car (which must be within the last five model years) "ages out" of its class, where would it go in Improved Touring trim?
The results of my current research are here: Improved Touring car ratings
Autocross runs (note these have very large graphics and take a while to load):
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