Several weeks ago I wrote a post about my misfortunes taking my almost stock and purely street 1969 Plymouth Road runner to the drag strip to “see what she’ll do.” In summary this was a very solid street car but not a car for the track, not by any stretch of the imagination. I made one pass and broke three things. Then, since I drove it to the track I had to drive the car an hour to get home with no brakes, misfiring and shaking.
I have friends in both both drag racing and circle track that regularly competitively race. I even know some guys that go offshore boat racing, talk about an equipment pounding adventure that is. The difference is these guys all have the best of the best as far as equipment and tools. To go racing and do it right you need to invest a lot of time and even more money. It has often been said boat is the acronym for break out another thousand or that a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into. Being an avid boater and an avid car guy I can honestly say the only thing that rivals boating for expense is racing cars.
Very often with the car bug comes the “need for speed,” in my young and dumb days we did some of that in the worst possible spot, the street. Today, my reduced testosterone levels have brought along a much more cautious manner on the street, today I am very against any kind of street racing. That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally put my foot in it a little, but never around other cars or never crazy fast, just quick. If something does happen the only person that is going to get hurt is me. So, without a pocket full of money how does the average car guy who wants to push the machine a little and get his speed fix without tearing up a car or putting other people in danger on the street?
The best thing I have found to provide a speed fix and not hurt man or machine (other than you tires and pride) is autocross. Autocross is a timed event where a road course type of track is marked with road cones and chalk lines in a large open parking lot. The cars are assigned to appropriate classes based on driver ability, the cars performance and upgrades. The drivers circle the track one at a time and the lap times are recorded. Obviously the best lap time wins that class. If the track is set up properly you won’t go much over 50-60 mph and other than tires (depending how hard you go) you shouldn’t do much damage, the only thing you can hit is a road cone. Driving and autocross will give you a whole new appreciation for drivers that drive 400, 500, & 600 mile races. After a couple laps you are worn out from all the turning and adrenalin rush.
When it comes to autocross, handling is more important than horse power, I wouldn’t suggest using old muscle cars or other antique cars unless they have had major suspension upgrades. They don’t have to be cool cars, you can drive almost any other type of car, compacts work great for autocrossing.
I belong to the Motor City Viper Owners and we autocross once a year on a large asphalt tarmac at the Chrysler proving grounds. This is annual event is always one of our most popular events. In addition the MCVO autocross event our members often attend autocross events with other car clubs like the Fiat owners club. The great thing about doing an event with our club is everybody has fun and nobody takes themselves too seriously.
Almost every specialty type car has an enthusiast club and just about all these clubs have an autocross available for their members. If there is not a specific car club that you are affiliated with then just Google “autocross clubs” and you will find many groups like this one Auotcross.com. They can set you up with all the information you’ll need to get started. Do a little research on it and give it a try, if you have the need for speed there is no better way than autocross to have some fun on a budget.