New Car – E30 M3 J-Stock

Last fall, I posted about two issues I was having with my current track car: the lack of headroom, and the fact that it didn’t have the safety gear required to go racing with either the BMWCCA or with NASA. So over the winter, I went shopping for a full-on race car.
Ask anyone who has ever built a racecar on anything less than an unlimited budget, and they’ll always tell you not to do it — to buy one that’s already done instead. I looked at a number of cars over the winter. One car I looked at was beautiful, but of questionable legality; another had a fairly fresh motor, but looked like it had been flogged at the Targa Newfoundland for three years running (in fact, it had); and another was very nicely prepped, but had an older, 100k motor. Just when I was contemplating actually building my car, another car popped up that could be best described as half-done; fresh motor and the suspension I wanted, but a crappy bolt-in rollcage and stock seats left a fair amount to be completed.
So I went for it. At the end of the day, that turned out to be a good thing, giving me the chance to have the cage designed with my abnormally long torso in mind, and to buy a nice new set of seats and harnesses for a proper fit.
So new Cobra Suzuka S seats and Schroth harnesses came from HMS Motorsport, and Mario Langsten at Vintage Sports and Racing set about building a new cage. I helped out with some of the grunt work where I could, including a fun day sanding and prepping the cage for painting:

Everything finally came together last Friday, when a new windshield went in and the maintenance work was completed. Friday night, after promising Mario to keep the newish motor under 6800rpm it was off to Lime Rock to try it out at what must be the first day of the year there — a Porsche club driving school.
I’m happy to say it was absolutely worth the trouble. First, driving without constantly cramming my head against the roof was a revelation, and my shoulder muscles will be enternally grateful. But beyond that, the new car is a significantly more precise tool than the old, thanks to the stiffness of the suspension and the welded cage.

At Lime Rock, the difference showed up mostly in faster corners like west bend; the faster reaction makes it much easier to get the turn in point exactly right, and the neutrality of of the suspension set up makes it much easier to get into the apex. In the downhill, it’s definitely a less comfy ride; the car wrenches the steering wheel around a bit in your hands through the bumps just off the apex, but it’s manageable.
No lap times yet; I didn’t want to give myself any unnecessary temptation on the my first day with the car, with a constrained rev limit at that. Overall, though, it’s a fantastic change, and I’m really excited to see what this year will hold.

Thanks to Adam Reitano for the photos, and Mario and Byron at Vintage Sports & Racing for the excellent work on the car.