Be absolutely frank with yourself right now: just how much car do you really need to have fun? We all would love to have a crack at driving a Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. That’s probably not in the cards for a lot of you right now, and if you didn’t get one at MSRP, I’ve got a clue for you: the resellers are doing exactly what you expected them to do, which is inflate the value well out of the reach of most. That sucks, but that’s a luxury deal more than it is common performance. Do you need a thousand horsepower? Do you need even five hundred? I doubt you do. I bet you can have more fun in some cheap thrasher than you will in a pretty and polished machine, because you aren’t scared of the consequences. Picture a V8-swapped S-10. Is it fast? Can it be entertaining? Yes to both…even the most smogged-out 305 shoved into an S-10 turns the little truck into the Bob Ross of automobiles…you’ll be leaving happy little tire smoke clouds wherever your heart takes you.
An easy bang-for-the-buck ride are Panther platform cars. Body on frame, rear-drive, and they can easily be swapped to manual transmissions. Ask some of our older BangShifters who know: rowing your own in a five-passenger sled is a great feeling! Dress up the outside however you please. Do a Marauder clone. Do a “bad cop” vibe. Duplicate the Bondurant CobraVic, if you can. Leave it looking like Aunt Beatrice’s gold Grand Marquis. But watch this guy bang off shifts in this Vicky and you tell me that with a few grand worth of used car, a spare transmission and a set of pedals, that you wouldn’t be out having a riot of a time in one. After having a ball flinging a very beaten Crown Victoria around an autocross with an autotragic transmission that didn’t want to play, a five-speed and a swift clutch kick would’ve been just what the doctor ordered!