My incredibly prestigious (not really) autocross and track day career started when I was handed the keys to my mother’s 2006 Civic Ex Coupe. In my mind, this meant two things: I had a car, I could modify said car. To be fair, I modified it whenever a there was a need. I burned through the all-season tires in record speed, so I bought stickier tires. The stickier tires accentuated body roll, so I went out and bought aftermarket shocks, springs and sway bars. Now that I was running faster lap times, I started boiling brake fluid and fading brake pads. On went a big brake kit, aggressive pads and stainless steel brake lines.When I wasn’t installing mods, I was fixing it. I managed to destroy an engine mount so badly I barely made it home, bent two rear wheel bearings, snapped a front wheel stud… the list goes on. I was always swapping suspension on and off, lubricating aftermarket bushings, and diagnosing weird sounds.
It was a project; had I owned it longer, I would have ended up gutting the entire drivetrain and swapping a k20/k24 into it.
Instead, I bought my NB Miata, bolted on a roll-bar, got stickier tires, installed track-rated brake pads, and that was it. That’s when something different happened: instead of wrenching constantly, I was actually driving it. I put 30,000 km in my first year of ownership without a hitch from the 16 year old car. More so, it was cheap: money spent on suspension components was instead spent on gas and track fees. The factory ECU tune means I can run cheap 87 octane, and the factory suspension is pleasant on road-trips.
Would I mod the hell out of it if I could? Absolutely. But I’ve learnt something in the process, driving a stock car is awesome for a lot of reasons. It’s cheap, it’s comfortable, and it’s reliable. I’ve watched loads of friends pour so much money into their cars, that when track day season comes along, they haven’t got enough money to pay for gas and track fees. They’ve spent so much on their cars that they can’t afford to drive their cars. In car culture, we’re constantly emphasizing “build over bought,” and for good reason. Anyone can buy a car, but it takes imagination, skill, and a whole lot of perseverance to build something.
But, if budgets are tight, don’t beat yourself up for not being to afford mods. Hit up the racetrack or your local autocross in whatever the hell you have. Whether you’re making 400 hp on coil-overs or 140hp on stock suspension, driving is still driving, and you’re still going to have a blast.