In 2000, I purchased a 1987 Porsche 924S. The car had quite a history, and I was its fourth owner. It had a roll cage and a stripped interior, but was street legal. Even without a catalytic converter, but it still passed emissions!
|The car had been painted at least once before, and wasn't exactly a pretty rig to look at. The seller wouldn't budge on price, probably because he could sense how desperate I was to start racing.|
It didn't have an adjustable suspension, but the suspension parts were quite beefy: the little car had a front roll bar that was more than two inches around!
I had come to call the car my "ess-ster". It's not a Boxster, by any stretch of the imagination. I thought more of the guy on Saturday night Live who talked about "the Flynnster, makin' copies". The 924S-ster served me well, though it didn't take long for me to outgrow it.
Since I had spent so much time at lapping days in my expensive street cars, I was liberated when I first started driving the ess-ster. Suspension damage to one corner of my 911 would cost as much to repair as I had paid for this whole car!
When I started to drive the race car, I stopped driving with my wallet and started learning about the subtleties of handling a car at its limit. Instead of avoiding mistakes, I could flirt with the limit and learn how to recover from mistakes!
While the ess-ster provided me with quite an education, I quickly became frustrated with it. The car had a couple of mechanical failures that were quite expensive to repair; I rebuilt the top-end of the engine twice, each time spending almost as much as I had paid for the car when I bought it! Worse yet, parts were difficult to obtain and when we finally found them, they were quite expensive.
I sold the car locally, and I hope it has a happy home. While it isn't competitive, it's a great car for someone who doesn't want to risk damage to their daily driver (or their exotic sports car) while attending lapping days.
|The dashboard is completely stock, though there's a couple of aftermarket gauges in the center. This car was stripped to race; there's lots of things that are torn out. That's a big difference compared to my current car, which was prepared to race.|
Preparation involves stripping the car. But it also involves cleaning out everything left behind in the car to make it "down to paint" clean. The ess-ster had lots of glue residue, carpet and insulation fibers and plenty of electrical bits lying around. After race preparation, a car will get some new features; some sheet metal for a dead pedal and the floor pan in the driver's side, for example. And some features that make race day friendly.
The seats in the ess-ster were quite nice. I'm not a tiny guy, and the Corbeau seats in this rig were very accommodating. The side-bolsters were quite comfortable (since they weren't pointed to a sharp count our). Corbeau seats aren't that common, so parts might have been a problem sometimes, but I wouldn't mind racing a car with these buckets installed.
After some disappointing reface results (including finishing less than eighty percent of the races I entered!) I realized the ess-ster might not be a perfect match for me.
In October of 2002, I rented a 1993 BMW 325is for the last Conference race of the year, held at Pacific Raceways. I gingerly drove the car through the practice and qualifying sessions and was quite impressed. Earlier in the year, I had considered buying the car but it was wrecked in a race when the owner took it out for one last spin.
After spending the summer reconstructing and repairing it, the car was a back together. I didn't notice any problems while driving it, and so I made the owner an offer and the rest is history!
The new car features a completely stripped interior, a weld-in roll cage, and a Recaro seat on a custom bracket. There's also a fuel cell, which thrilled me completely because I'm terribly afraid of fire in the car. The engine needed a little work (which I had completed early in this season).
Between the 2003 and 2004 seasons, I performed a complete rebuild of the suspension in order to get the car to handle a little bit better. Before the work, it wasn't exactly a wallowing pig. The E36 BMW body is notorious for tearing some of the suspension mounting points, and I had those reinforced at the same time.
I removed the stock plastic center console from the car and had a replacement fabricated from sheet metal. The unsupported plastic was flexing substantially, and the hazard light switch sometimes twisted in its mounting hole. If you saw me at the races, I was often flying down the straightaway at full tilt ... with my four-ways blinking!
The BMW community in the Seattle area is very strong; I have lots of support just because I'm running a very popular car. Parts are easy to get, and are actually much cheaper than those for the Porsche 924S I was previously running. Competition parts are very easy to find for the BMW, and I'm thrilled to be driving it.