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bikeflyride

I'm Buying Either a SM or Spec E30 - Seeking Opinions

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bikeflyride

Within the week I am going to decide between purchasing a SM or having an E30 built. I have been getting advice from lots of folks, but I don't know any SM owner/drivers and would like very much if some of you experienced guys would please give your opinion as to why I should go with the SM. The SM and important extras that I am considering is to be shipped (if I buy it) from NC at seller's expense. It was built by the owner (a Honda dealership employee/tech mechanic ?) in '09 and has very few races on it. I have many photos and details, but obviously won't see it until it is shipped. The purchase price includes the car, a very nice trailer, lots of spares, wheels, tires, parts, etc. The Spec E30 is to be built by Midnight Oil Motors in San Diego for the same price as the SM, but it will not include paint, wheels or tires or any spares.

 

Why, or why not, should I choose the SM over a "new" E30 and why compete in SM as opposed to Spec E30 class, is my question. Seth at MOM says that E30 BMW parts are cheaper and more available than Miata. I find that hard to believe. What is your opinion?

 

I have observed, as have others, that the S. Cal SM class is very aggressive (plenty of bumping and contact) as opposed to the E30 group. I have wittnessed some badly damaged, even destroyed SM cars I have also been told that there is no way one can compete among the top 5 or 10 without having invested over $20K in your car - besides obviously being a top driver. My impression is that top cars may not "quite" be within the Spec rules, but I have no real authoritive information.

 

The seller tells me that at top S. Atlantic NASA driver, who drove this car, said that it could be very competitive, but the owner admitted that he readily gives up a track positions in corners because he was relatively inexperienced, much like myself. I would probably run at the rear, at least for awhile, but would hope to move up into the pack. I have no illusions about podiums with S. Cal. SM, but think that I would enjoy racing with other very similar cars.

 

I'm wondering what you racer opinions are regarding running in Performance Touring class instead. I've been with NASA for 4 years, running 4 different cars in HPDE. I've completed Driving Concepts race school and AROSC race school. I've been racing with the Alfa Club, TCRA and NCRC for the last two years in one of Danny McKeever's, Fast Lane older Toyota Celica GT's that I bought 4 years ago - when I was considering a SM then. I may just continue racing either the SM or E30 with these clubs, if SM is too crazy. But the Spec E30 class seems more "sane" and I have little hesitation about running there. Maybe I'm wrong, so I'm very eager to learn the real deal.

 

I'm very inclinded to want to go SM, I believe that it is the better race car, but I will really be grateful for any and all sincere comments. I've also contacted the Reg. Director for Spec E30 to provide the E30 argument.

 

Thanks for any help. Maybe I'll be meeting you with the SM...

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icemang17

I also am a "noob" to racing....with nearly all of my track time in a "lemons" car I built....that turns lap times similar to SM or Se30.....

 

I have been debating jumping into a spec series and have many of the same concerns you do..... Even in "lemons" contact between cars is quite rare....vs the near bumper cars of SM....I ALWAYS see SM's with body damage after just about every race....it never changes....vs the SE30 cars that I rarely see body damage on....

 

I also think SM's are much more developed...so it takes a VERY well built car with a pro engine to be a top level car.....which is NOT the case in SE30.....a strong stock engine can be a top level car....

 

Another thing I noticed is the SE30 is much more roomy than the SM...if you are a big guy....that is a consideration.....at this point I am leaning more towards SE30.....but want to drive a good one do see how it feels....I have plenty of time in SM's...and like the way they drive.....

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kbrew8991

You see variances between clubs and even different regions within the same club on the whole "contact" angle.

 

I'd visit an event with the club & region you're going to run and talk with some of the competitors to get a lay of the land. It'd also be a good way to get a feel for how big each class is, how competitive they are, if they're fun people to be around, etc. Don't neglect 944-Spec either.

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Tim Comeau

944 Spec would also fit your budget, it sounds like.

Great class and although contact happens, we consider it TABOO, and not an expected occurance. I have lots of body panels at the shop if and when it does.

Call me during the week and we can talk about currently available chassis in San Diego, build costs, what you can do yourself to save $, etc.

Tim 619.994.0919

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skrzastek

Have you driven either car on track? I would try and rent both to do a track day with and see which one you like better

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Ole

The story of needing a $30k car to compete is rediculous. My car was a rental (by me) when I bought it and have upgraded a few parts on it until it is a strong competitor. I have won many races including the 2010 NASA-MA Championship, 2011 Hyperfest and 2011 SCCA National race at Summit Point against many other $30k+ cars. The great thing about SM is that it is cheap and easy to find parts, its is usually the largest single-class run group (we get 30-50 cars on track at the same time) and you almost always have someone to compete with whether you are a front runner or someone that just comes out to have a good time. We are all friendly with each other and I have made some of my closest friend with my strongest competitors.

 

The reason you hear so many stories about contact is because of the success of the class. No other class has the numbers that we do and we are very closs in times from the front to the back, that means we get really colse racing. If you want to go out and race against 3-10 other cars with 2-3 secs of difference, yoiu may as well just participate in Time Trials (no offense TTers). If you want some of the best, tightest, competitive racing you get on a small budget, then you need to look at SM.

 

After having said all that....my car is for sale

 

Regards,

Alan

 

 

PM me if you would like to have a better conversation about racing in SM.

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Tim Comeau

The only major drawback to racing in a Miata is that you have to turn in your Man card because the Miata is a total CHICK car!!

You're better off in a manly-man Porsche 944

....steps into flame suit and waits........

 

No, but seriously, I did ask the guys at Rush Motorsports a few years back what it would cost to build a competitive miata and I was told around $30K. That's having a pro shop build one for you. You can always cut costs by doing some work yourself, whichever car you choose.

Also true that the closer the lap times, the more close traffic there is for a longer period of time. No one wants to bang cars together. Contact sucks and it costs both drivers money and time.

A large part of enjoying the class you choose is the drivers. I'd go to the events and check out the crowd in the class.

Cheers!

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bikeflyride

Thanks to all who have replied to my SM vs S-E30 question. While I've been doing HPDE at So. Cal. NASA the last 4 years and racing a Celica GT with other clubs the last 2, I've watched the racing competition at NASA. I've seen lots of banged up body panels, and much worse in SM, but I've also seen some great competition up front and throughout the group. The bigger the numbers, the more likely contact I guess. I haven't seen either in the clubs that I raced in.

 

S-E30 seems like a really good group in S. Cal. since it's small, but growing - with few, if any contact issues. Finding a good S-E30, having one built, or renting one are all more expensive than with SM. Although I've been told (by Midnight Olil Mtrs./ S-E30 builders) that BMW parts are cheaper and more available than SM parts, I'm skepticle.

 

I believe that the SM is the better track car, and it was the original interest that drew me to NASA. Consequently I have found one and am final stages of pre-purchase inspection for likely shipment across the country to me.

 

If I find that SM is just too agressive/crazy - with conintued contact always prevelant - I will go back to racing it with less agressive and smaller classes in other organizations.

 

Thanks again. I hope to meet some of you racers at S. Cal., NASA SM.

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Steve D

I own both. You can get more information over at SpecE30.com, specifically http://spece30.com/forum/16-general-discussion/59705-introduction-and-thoughts-on-sm-gse30#59709.

 

I built both cars and as "no excuses" cars, the costs were similar overall but BMW parts costs are higher. I didn't feel like I needed a "pro" motor in SE30 to compete in 2008 but the class has grown a lot and I now have a built motor in both cars.

 

Based on my experience at NASA Nationals, there is more contact in Spec E30 but overall they key to keeping your nose clean is knowing who you are going door-handle-to-door-handle with. And staying away from the guys who wreck a lot of cars. And outqualify them. And get lucky. I guess that's 4 keys. Oh well.

 

They are both fun as hell. There are people 'optimizing their mechanical programs' in both classes. My favorite of the two is whichever one I drove most recently.

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Ole

The above answer is spot on. I know Steve and haved raced in SM with him on many occasions. He is a no BS type of guy when it comes to advice like this.

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pcdrj

I run SM in NASA NE and wrecked my car this summer. I have also been considering the move to E30 mainly due to larger run groups in my region so I rented one and raced it last weekend. IMO they are fairly different drives and it'll depend on what you prefer. My advise is to drive them both.

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dstevenslv
The story of needing a $30k car to compete is rediculous.

 

I think that depends on where you are going to run. The top cars at the Runoffs, June Sprints or in SCCA SEDiv are $25-30k cars. I think a better question is what does it cost to have fun. Certainly not $30k, for me at least.

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BigKeyserSoze

I am a lot like Steve D. I own a Spec E30 (1987 325is), a Spec Miata, a Factory Five Challenge Racer, and an INEX Thunder Roadster, so I get to sample a lot of stuff. I have also rented seats in a bunch of other stuff, including a Spec 944 Porsche. This isn't a Miata bash, just my opinions. Frankly, I like driving all of my cars, but then again, if there were 50 Spec Daweoos at my local track, I'd buy #51.

 

In a perfect world, everyone would own and race a Factory Five, but that wasn't the question, so the rest of these comparisons do not apply to the FFR, which, again, you should own.

 

Realistically speaking, the SE30, SM and Spec 944 all drive about the same, and have about the same power to weight ratio. They are are relatively slow momentum cars that handle pretty well and run a small tire. They all are pretty easy on tires (the Miata being the best of the bunch on tires), brakes (Miata again being the easiest on brakes) and other consumables (the SE30 being the best on general consumables), particularly compared to other, faster race cars.

 

Personally, I like the SE30 better, for the following semi-shallow reasons: 1. The SE30 is slightly faster, although in the land of race cars they are both slow 2. I think the SE30 is better looking. 3. The SE30 is far roomier inside, and I'm 6'4" and like the space. The SE30 has better side room, head room, and its easier to get in and out of. 4. You get to keep more of your man card with the SE30. Let's face it, Miatas are chick cars. Sorry.

 

SM is an established class with stabile rules. SE30 is getting there fast, and unfortunately, both classes will soon be at the point where you really do need to spend $25,000 on a car to run at the front in Nationals. Race engines for both are in the $5,000 range. I don't care what anyone here says, if you want to win a National race in either, in addition to you having to be one hell of a wheelman (this is way more important than what you spend), you will have $30,000 in your car or the equivalent in manhours of your own time. You WILL NOT WIN A NATIONAL RACE IN A BEATER NO MATTER HOW STRONG AT THE WHEEL YOU ARE. Fact. Also a fact is that if you are talentless, you can't win in the fastest car ever produced. Its a mix. National Championship winners have good cars and incredible wheel skills.

 

Mechanically speaking, one isn't any better than the other. Everything eventually breaks when driven hard, I don't care what it is. They both hold up pretty well to a beating. Both have strengths and weaknesses.

 

Here's the real answer: If you only have the time and money for one car, buy whatever has lots and lots of them at the local tracks you will run the most often. This isn't field of dreams, and if you build it, they don't always come, so pick something with a good sized field right now, so you can have instant fun.

 

As noted above, if there were 50 Daewoos and a Spec Daewoo class, you'd have the best time of your life taking green flags as often as you could. It isn't the car that makes racing fun. Its the quality of the people around you and the amount of similar cars on grid. Let that guide you and you can't go wrong.

 

-Scott

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pacemaker

Geez Scott, I never pictured you in a Daewoo....

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Reggie Simmons

Looking at national results, you'll find E30 and SM neck and neck, with Sms being faster some of the time, and vice versa. But you'll almost always find more competition in SM class, and that means more fun.

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gkmccready

Where does an SE30 crossover in to PT? SM cars crossover in to PTD or PTE depending on mods, typically. That way you can supersize a weekend and still be somewhat competitive in both classes.

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kbrew8991

SE30 laonds in PT very similar, though they're actually a little easier to squeeze into PTE

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Pauly

I'm trying to decide if I should commit to a series run in SM with NASA or SCCA. Any thoughts would be welcome.

Thanks!

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gkmccready

I actually decided to rub my Miata in PTE with NASA-- it doesn't fit in SM and it doesn't really work in SCCA, but it's about perfect for E3 enduros and PTE. It really depends if you want to run SCCA (ITE?) or enduros (E3? 25 hour?) to throw the switch, IMO...

 

I was unsure I made the right choice moving away from SM to run PTE but my first enduro in E3 clinched it... right choice was made!

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