High performing cars are cool, driving them is exciting, and as we all know, they’re expensive. Performance costs a lot, so not everyone has the kind of money required to buy an exotic brand-new high-performance car like a Ferrari or Lamborghini, let alone go racing with it.
One way to deal with this problem is becoming crazy rich so that you won’t have to worry about how much you spend on your fast going toys, which obviously does not work for everyone. Another way around this, which is the way for a lot of people, is getting a second-hand sports car in good condition and making a race car out of it.
The following are some of the best picks for used sports cars which are suitable to be turned into race cars. Everyone could buy these for $8,000 or less, a budget limit that will even let college students have a shot at owning them. The prices are taken from automotive shopping websites such as CarGurus and CarMax.
20. 1998 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible ($7,500)
via Wheels Age
This fourth-generation Camaro looks nothing like the latest generation of this legendary American muscle and it's not nearly as expensive, either. It also uses a 5.7-liter V8 LS1 engine of the Corvette C5 with a total output of 305 hp as well as revised suspension and improved brakes, giving it formidable performance on and off the track.
19. 2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder (&6,000)
via Zomb Drive
Mid-engine cars have superb handling characteristics due to the perfect weight distribution achieved in this configuration. Combine that with a compact body, nimble handling at high performance, powerful 4-cylinder engine with great fuel economy, and stylish design, and you'll surely buy an MR2 Spyder since that’s practically a steal at these prices.
18. 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS Coupe ($7,000)
via Car Throttle
The performance-oriented model of the first generation of Subaru’s world-famous sports car doesn’t need much work to look and feel like a race car: a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine with 165 hp output, visual upgrades like the rear spoiler and a hood scoop, and last but not least, the proven performance of a top-tier racer.
17. 2000 Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 Kompressor ($6,000)
via Fastest Laps
The SLK 230 Kompressor has a 2.3-liter in-line 4-cylinder supercharged engine with 190 hp of output and offers superb handling. Although not the most powerful of all models of this class, this slick German machine can reach 62 mph from a standstill in less than 7.5 seconds while offering luxurious comfort you expect from a Mercedes-Benz.
16. 1999 BMW M3 Convertible ($7,000)
via Bring A Trailer
The 1999 BMW M3 is the last model year from the E36 era and is a great choice for anyone looking to turn a classic German sports car into a race car: 240 hp of power, stiff suspension and the great driving characteristics of the E36 chassis are all things you should consider about this one.
15. 2005 Ford Mustang V6 Deluxe ($5,000)
via GT Car Lot
The fifth generation of the legendary Mustang, unlike the ones produced during the 90s, looks like a proper muscle and has the firepower to back it up. It can reach 62 mph in less than 7 seconds thanks to its massive 4.0-liter V6 engine and drives like a classic since it has a solid rear axle.
14. 2010 Dodge Charger SXT ($6,000)
via Adernaline Auto Sales
Another American classic reborn, the Charger was brought back to life as a four-door sporty sedan and as the true successor to the classic Chargers made by Dodge during the 60s & 70s. It has a powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine that sends 250 hp straight to the rear wheels, accelerating to 62 mph from stop in 7.5 seconds.
13. 2001 Audi TT 1.8 Roadster ($5,000)
via Auto Evolution
The Mark One series of the lovely Audi TT is a high-quality, high-tech German sports car with distinct looks, a 20 valve 1.8-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine capable of generating 222 hp, ESP and ASR for great handling at very high speeds. All these make it a perfect choice for a low-budget race car.
12. 2002 Pontiac Trans Am Convertible ($8,000)
via Car in Picture
The fourth and final generation of the iconic Trans Am has a lot of options for a sports car, and just like the Z28 Camaro it shares the 5.7-liter V8 engine of a Corvette, which is capable of delivering 345 hp to the rear wheels and launching this massive car to 62 mph from standstill in just 5.0 seconds.
11. 2003 Mazda MX-5 Miata ($3,000)
A great lightweight front mid-engine sports car with a cult following and worldwide reputation as one of the best cars in its class, the Miata is a sure choice for anyone looking for a project race car. Although MX-5’s engine is a mere 1.8-liter, it generates 140 hp and can launch the car to 62 mph in just 7.8 seconds.
10. 2002 Acura RSX Type-S ($4,000)
via Daily Turismo
A superb front-wheel-drive sports car from Honda, the RSX Type-S has a 200 hp 2.0-liter engine and a 6-speed manual transmission that can zoom it to 62 mph in just 6.1 seconds. The car has great handling on and off the track, and a lot of options when it comes to modified body parts and performance kits, you can’t go wrong with this one.
9. 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Coupe ($6,000)
via Grassroots Motorsports
This sport compact version of the not-so-successful Cobalt is a supercharged FWD car with a 2.0-liter engine that makes 205 hp that can help it reach a top speed of 158 mph and launch to 62 mph in just 5.9 seconds. You would also save some money on upgrading the vehicle since it has a lot of racing car features built into it.
8. 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS ($3,000)
via Car Throttle
One of the most beautiful Japanese sports cars of the 90s. The second generation of Eclipse offers the driver and passenger the real driving comfort while keeping the looks & the spirit of an “import” racer. However, The 1999 eclipse isn’t as fast as it looks, and the 140 hp engine could have some improvement.
7. 2005 Volkswagen GTI ($5,000)
via Daily Car News
The Golf has always been a favorite for people who like working on and upgrading their cars. But the GTI is a whole different story. With extensive use of high-end materials inside and outside the car, this model is a true successor of the legendary Golf Mk1, albeit so much faster.
6. 2008 Mazda RX-8 Sport ($6,000)
When you choose to have a Mazda RX-8 as your race car, you don’t just get a pretty looking car with decent performance. You get to have a race car that runs on a different kind of engine that is as fast as it is nimble on the road and ready to surprise you with its raw potential.
5. 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 ($8,000)
via Wheels Age
The second generation of the Mercedes-Benz SLK class saw the addition of new manufacturing processes resulting in increased chassis strength, reduction of weight, and improved aerodynamic efficiency. As the name suggests, it uses an engine with a 3.5-liter displacement and 6-speed manual transmission, guaranteed to deliver performance when the driver demands.
4. 1999 Mitsubishi 3000GT ($6,000)
via Motor 1
Although big and heavy, the 3000GT is a classic Japanese sports car with serious performance on and off the track. This gorgeous Japanese car is capable of reaching 62 mph from a standstill in less than 5 seconds thanks to its 4WD drivetrain and 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo engine and is just one of the best looking cars of its era.
3. 2005 Nissan 350Z Coupe ($6,000)
The 350Z not only appeared on the cover of the Need for Speed: Underground 2 video game cover art but also has an actual history in motorsports and has established itself as a reliable and capable compact sports car among drivers, experts, and racers, carrying on the tradition of the Nissan’s Z-car line.
2. 2005 BMW Z4 2.5i Roadster ($7,000)
via Exotic Motorcars
The first generation of the Z4 and the fourth car in the BMW Z Series is a marvel of engineering, powered by an all-alloy 2.5-liter in-line V6 engine generating 189 hp and launching this compact coupe to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds. The car’s superior handling and performance led BMW to modify it as a GT racing car.
1. 2003 Porsche Boxter ($7,500)
via Wheels Age
The famous German automaker isn’t known for making cheap cars, but luckily, their 2003 Boxer has become available to masses after over 15 years of entering the market. For less than $8K, you will have an authentic exotic car with an eye-watering performance and a unique style that never gets old nor mistaken with any other car.