25 cars that have defined our scene

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Dec 26, 2022 | Buyer's Guide | Posted in Buyer's Guides , Features | From the Dec. 2009 issue | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy Mazda

[Editor's note: This article originally ran in the December 2009 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.]

Our world may be defined by its people and events, but it’s hard to go far without wheels. It’s the cars that add the sights, sounds and smoke to motorsports.

Each automotive subculture seems to favor different machines. Some go for ’32 Fords and straight-axle Gassers, while others make a bee line for Hemi Challengers and big-block Chevelles. Our group tends to side with cars that handle: low, responsive and glued to the road. 

We’ve been at this magazine thing for a quarter century now, and we’ve watched a steady procession of cars move through our scene. Some made their mark in a big, big way, while others kind of fizzled out soon after their introduction.

The ones with the real staying power have possessed the right attributes for our needs: speed, handling, versatility, durability and thrift. The ability to be upgraded and modified hasn’t hurt, either.

After much debate and deliberation, we have come up with the 25 cars that left the biggest impact on our automotive world. We even ranked them in order. In our opinion, these are the cars that should be celebrated. After all, they’re the stars of our scene.

Disagree? That’s cool. A little debate is good for the soul.

1) Mazda Miata: Some Are Born to Run, Some Are Born to Race

The traditional sports car scene was a stark place as the ’80s came to a close. The MGB as well as the Triumph TR7 and TR8 were long gone. Fiat had already left the building, while the Alfa Romeo Spider was on its last legs. The Porsche Boxster, Honda S2000 and Toyota MR2 Spyder didn’t yet exist.

Please give Mazda some applause for seeing a world that could still appreciate a top-down, two-place roadster. Their Miata arrived for the 1990 model year and pretty much rewrote the book. 

A successful sports car didn’t need to posses a zillion horsepower or cost nearly as many dollars. It needed just a few important attributes, including a great suspension, willing engine and a light fighting weight. The fold-down top and rock-solid construction were merely bonuses.

The Miata has now been with us for 20 years and through two redesigns. Despite the march of time, the later cars uphold the original’s mission. And the early ones haven’t been cast away, either. They’re still successful at just about everything, from road racing to autocrossing to allowing enthusiasts to enjoy sunny drives. As our message board regulars often joke, the answer to nearly any question is “Miata.”

2) BMW 3 Series: The Ultimate Driving Machine

Photography credit: David S. Wallens

Few people like a showoff, but in the case of the BMW 3 Series, the motorsports community seems willing to make an exception. This car has excelled in just about every venue possible, from local autocrosses to Nürburgring and Spa.

Stateside, the model run traces its roots to the 1977 BMW 320i. The slightly larger yet much more capable E30-chassis cars showed up for 1984, and that’s when things really got cooking; the model line grew to include sedans, convertibles, coupes and even wagons. 

Then there were the homologation M3 models: more power, bigger brakes and tighter suspensions. It’s like BMW could read our minds. At the other end of the spectrum, even the economy-minded 325e has its fans.

And here’s the final kicker: The 3 Series, no matter what the guise, still makes a great, practical daily driver. It can soak up the highway miles or fend off mind-numbing traffic. It even has a trunk and back seat. If there’s a piece of asphalt out there, the 3 Series can conquer it.

3) Honda Civic, CRX, Acura Integra: Technology You Can Enjoy

Photography credit: Chris Clark

The original Mini showed the world that front-wheel drive could be fun. Honda took that idea and ran toward the end zone—and then then left the stadium and ran a few more touchdowns at another stadium. 

When the Civic first appeared for 1972, it set a new standard for the practical people mover. Enthusiasts didn’t ignore the car, but things really blew up after its 1984 redesign. Adding the two-place CRX to the lineup didn’t hurt. Suddenly the Civic became a pint-sized giant-killer. For a while there, the SCCA had the CRX battling Corvettes and Porsches in the Stock class.

The Civic and CRX were more than capable in stock trim—especially in Si guise—and could be upgraded thanks to a growing aftermarket. The Civic would eventually be the most modified car on the planet, leading the way during the ’90s tuner scene.

All this goodness wasn’t limited to cars wearing a Civic or CRX badge. The upsized Acura Integra—and even the del Sol—showed that the formula worked no matter what the footprint.

4) Ford Mustang: A Horse of a Different Color

Photography credit: photosbyjuha.com

The Ford Mustang wasn't the first pony car to market—technically the Plymouth Barracuda arrived two weeks earlier—but it has remained a constant fixture since its release. While other 2+2 models have come and gone, the Mustang has pretty much remained true to its roots: snappy styling, nearly unlimited options and, for the most part, at least one available V8. 

A huge aftermarket has supported the car since day one, and millions of Mustangs have taken to the track, whether they’re gobbling laps at a track day or making the grid at a pro race. Shelby helped launch that competition record back in the ’60s, and the car continues to do well with NASA, Grand Am and the SCCA. Pick any venue and you’ll find Mustangs involved.

Fuel crises and other distractions have come and gone, but the Mustang has remained part of the automotive landscape. The fact that it hasn’t morphed into something else only strengthens its street cred.

5) Porsche 911: There Is No Substitute

Photography credit: photosbyjuha.com

The Porsche 911 probably doesn’t make a ton of sense on paper, and many people question the company’s unwavering dedication to the rear-engined layout. But this one is more than the sum of its parts, as the driver is rewarded with telepathic steering, fantastic engine choices, and something that’s rarely touted in the reviews: nearly 360 degrees of amazing outward visibility.

Oh, and then there’s that hard-to-beat competition record. Since its release for the 1965 model year, the 911 has won everything, everywhere: Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans, Spa, Monte Carlo, Targa Florio and Nürburgring. Odds are strong that the 911 has also shined at your local autocross lot. 

The names associated with the car are just as impressive: Andretti, Donohue, Redman, Foyt, Elford, Haywood and more. Championship drivers bred from our world include Randy Pobst, Andy Lally and Gary Thomason. True, the 911 may be an acquired taste, but the record books speak for its effectiveness.

6) Chevy Corvette: An American Revolution

Photography credit: David S. Wallens

The Corvette is often on the receiving end of a common backhanded comment: perhaps America’s best sports car. How about calling it what it truly is: one of the world’s best sports cars.

True, some of the interior bits always seem to come from the corporate parts bin. And okay, there were some soft years there in the ’70s and ’80s. For the most part, though, the total package is generally somewhere near brutal. 

The competition record is impressive, too, and the car has been a fixture of our scene for decades. Go to any event held on pavement—track day, club race, autocross, whatever—and it’s more than likely some Corvettes will be taking names, transverse leaf springs and all. And we hate to play favorites, but even though faster models have been unleashed, we’ll always have a soft spot for the C5 Z06. 

7) Chevy Camaro: The Way It Looks Is the Way It Goes

Photography credit: Gordon Jolley

Remember that big guy—complete with letterman jacket and Playskool’s My First Moustache—who used to torment all of the freshmen? That about sums up the Camaro: strong, brutish and often misunderstood. Okay, maybe it’s a little clumsy, too.

The Camaro’s success comes from its strength. It’s as simple as a bag of rocks, and nearly as effective a weapon, too. If you want to go fast, it’s hard to trump a torquey engine matched with a proven rear-drive layout. 

Success in motorsports? Just about everywhere. The Camaro and its near twin, the Pontiac Firebird, have been winners in many venues, whether the sport involves cones, corners or the quarter mile.

8) MINI Cooper: Let’s Motor

Photography credit: Alex Groves

Sometimes good things really do come in small packages. The original Alec Issigonis-designed Mini lasted up through the tail end of the last millennium, and BMW, the latest owner of the brand, couldn’t let the nameplate fade away into the history books.

For the 2001 model year they unleashed a new MINI—now spelled in all caps for whatever reason—for a new generation. While not as small as the original, the new one was fairly tiny by the day’s standards—remember, this was just before the SUV market imploded.

Despite the MINI’s diminutive stature, it could pick on cars more than twice its size. Its chassis dynamics were a work of art, and in boosted Cooper S trim it offered impressive acceleration. While the MINI became popular with commuters and urbanites, racers quickly took to it, too. The car has been a regular front runner in autocross ever since.

9) Factory Five Roadster: Born on the Right Side of the Tracks

Photography credit: Chris Clark

The Factory Five Roadster does a lot of things right, as it takes the attributes that make the Mustang so good—namely its V8 power—and packs them into a lightweight shell matched with a great chassis. The performance can range from breathtaking to downright silly, and it’s hard not to like that body shape. 

The Factory Five has been a staple at track events for years, and NASA even has a spec class for the car. It can be a weekend cruiser or a track brute. It even works well with the stock 5.0 engine.

But the Factory Five has done so much more: It helped legitimize the kit car industry. True, there are still some flakes and crooks out there, but the crew from Wareham, Mass., showed that if true gearheads have their way, a kit car company can be successful while generating legions of fans.

10) Nissan Z-car: Shift Expectations

Photography credit: David S. Wallens

Talk about a blank canvas. Since its 1970 introduction, Nissan’s Z-car has served enthusiasts well. Brock Racing Enterprises gave the model its first SCCA championships, while other teams like Bob Sharp Racing, Stillen and Electromotive kept the string alive in both the pro and amateur ranks.

The Z-car has also tackled autocross, drift, track events, drag racing and even Baja. Street versions have ranged from perfectly restored original cars to wild beasts sporting V8 engines, turbochargers or some combination thereof.

The Z-car left us after the 1996 season, and some figured that it had run its course. Fortunately it was just a hiatus, as the model has been a strong contender since its 2002 return.

11) Volkswagen GTI: Kick a Little Asphalt

Photography credit: Wayne Flynn

Close your eyes and think back to 25-plus years ago. It was a simpler era, a time before Segways, iPhones and Facebook updates. And back then, an 8-second zero-to-60 time was considered to be scorching.

The times were perfect for the VW Rabbit GTI. Already a staple in Europe, the GTI first arrived for our 1983 model year. It added all of the right bits to the already popular Rabbit package: more power, bigger brakes, aluminum wheels, blacked-out trim and stiffer suspension. And then there were those body-grabbing seats and that cool front spoiler.

The Rabbit GTI lasted two years here before it was replaced by the Golf version. The GTI may have picked up some pounds over the years, but subsequent boosts in horsepower have kept it a part of our scene.

12) Mazda RX-7 & RX-8: Passion for the Road

Photography credit: Chris Clark

When the rotary-powered Mazda RX-7 first appeared for 1979, it changed our whole perception of the manufacturer. They went from being a car company to being a sports car company.

The RX-7 did everything it was asked. Sure, most examples spent their entire lives on the streets, but the car also worked well on the track, from the high banks of Daytona to rugged trails. It could autocross, road race and even run at the Salt Flats.

After three generations, the RX-7 left us following the 1995 model year, and we entered a sad, dark period. Fortunately, the release of the RX-8 for 2004 brought the rotary back to our shores.

13) Subaru Impreza: Driven by What’s Inside

Photography credit: Lorne Tresize

Subaru is another one of those companies that operated off the enthusiast radar for a while. Sure, they built some good machines back in the day, but for the most part they were limited to ski lodge parking lots. The Impreza, introduced here for 1993, got the blood moving but still lacked some excitement.

Subaru took another baby step for 1998 with the Impreza 2.5 RS. It wasn’t the fastest thing out there, but it was a nod in the right direction: a little more performance plus the right look.

When the Impreza got a new body for 2002, Subaru finally unleashed the WRX upon us. Now they had a winner. The car we all knew and loved thanks to “Gran Turismo” finally came stateside. The rest, as they say, is history.

14) SCCA Spec Racer: How Spec Is Done

Photography credit: Rupert Berrington

We have all watched spec series come and go, each one claiming to be the next best thing. Some have achieved rock god stardom, while others have fizzled out. Put SCCA’s Spec Racer class among the winners.

Aside from an engine change from Renault to Ford power about 15 years ago, these cars have remained largely unaltered since their 1984 debut. And with stability comes success. More than 850 of these single-seat racers have been delivered so far, with 46 cars competing at this fall’s Runoffs. 

These tough, proven machines are still in production, and SCCA Enterprises will deliver one in kit form for $27,500. Thanks to their nearly unlimited service life, values for preowned examples have remained strong, making the Spec Racer a good motorsports investment as well.

15) Toyota MR2: Setting a New Pace

Photography credit: Rupert Berrington

Two seats, a mid-engined layout and sexy sheet metal. We’re talking about a Porsche, Ferrari or Lotus, right? How about a Toyota? When the Toyota MR2 first appeared for 1985, it was a big deal for a company known to the U.S. masses as a producer of practical, family-oriented cars.

Where the original MR2 proved to be the perfect alternative to Honda’s CRX, the second-generation model was definitely a move upmarket. Slightly chunky proportions were replaced with lines that could have come from Ferrari. And being a Toyota, it drove just as nicely.

The MR2 left us after the 1995 model year, but it got one last gasp before disappearing for good. The 2000-’05 MR2 Spyder was a bit more back-to-basics. Curb weights were down—way down, in fact, to a few clicks above the 1-ton mark—and a fold-down roof was standard. The lack of storage space was the car’s Achilles heel, but those with who didn’t need to carry much found the car to be a very capable autocross weapon.

16) Lotus Elise: Less Is More

Photography credit: courtesy Lotus

The Lotus 7 is probably the quintessential sports car: room for two, a great engine and zero flab. Later models followed the less-is-more blueprint, but as the company entered the supercar wars of the ’70s and ’80s, things became a little less minimalist. We’re not calling the Esprit models fat, but curb weights passed the ton mark. That’s a lot of poundage for a Lotus.

The Elise brought the famed carmaker back to its roots. While it first appeared overseas in 1995, Lotus finally added a federalized version to its roster for the 2005 model year. 

Wow, here was a car that, at a tick below 2000 pounds, made the Miata look bloated. The Toyota-powered Elise reintroduced American enthusiasts to the brand, and just a few years later the car has become a popular autocross and track weapon. Its success has helped its maker expand their lineup to include a nice range of lightweight, hardcore sports cars—just the way we like them.

17) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo: Driven to Thrill

Photography credit: David S. Wallens

For years American gearheads had heard the rumors of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Word was that a somewhat pedestrian four-door body hid a rally superstar. The one problem was that few of us had seen one in the flesh. It was the automotive equivalent of Sasquatch.

After a dozen years of such stories, the super Lancer made its grand entrance into the American market for the 2005 model year in Evo VIII guise. It fulfilled all of the hype. Despite its rally roots, the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive machine became an instant motorsports staple in many venues: autocross, road racing and track events. Yes, it did well in rallies, too.

18) DSM: Performance Spoken Fluently

Photography credit: Rupert Berrington

Chrysler and Mitsubishi have been sharing lunches since 1970, but most of those early ventures were aimed at bringing small, fuel-efficient vehicles stateside. The Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser—commonly known as the Diamond Star triplets—showed that the marriage could produce some sparks, too.

The three models arrived for 1990, and the order form contained some neat options, including a turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive—yes, the two could be ordered together. The DSM models quickly gave the ruling pony cars a run for their money; the turbo cars were fast right out of the box, and some simple tweaks yielded tire-shredding performance.

The original turbo Diamond Stars lasted through the 1999 model year, but by then the Plymouth version and all of Eagle had been phased out. Only the Eclipse nameplate would survive into this millennium. Fortunately plenty were built, making them today’s great low-buck performers.

19) Dodge Neon & Omni: No More Mr. Nice Guy

Photography credit: Mark Langello

After a rough time during the ’70s, the humble Dodge Omni and its fraternal twin, the Plymouth Horizon, helped Chrysler regain its corporate footing. The cars were simple, practical and priced right—and when fitted with an optional turbocharged engine, they could be downright scalding.

The twins first appeared for the 1978 model year, and the non-turbo Omni GLH made its debut for 1984. While it received an improved suspension plus menacing looks, it was just a taste of what was to come. Chrysler added a turbocharger for the following year, and then the fun really began. Here was the definition of cheap speed, and as we regularly see at our Challenge competitions, these cars can easily—and inexpensively—run supercar-beating times at the drag strip. The GLH had one more year of production before leaving with a bang: Shelby built 500 copies of his GLHS for the 1986 model year.

The turbocharged Shadow carried that torch through the late ’80s and early ’90s until the Dodge Neon appeared. Like its forefathers, the Neon was inexpensive and fast. The optional ACR package added improved gearing, a stiffer suspension and a retuned ECU. Koni shocks were even standard on some years. And also like the cars before it, these performance-tuned Neons became wildly successful in the day’s autocross and road racing scenes.

20) Honda S2000: Man, Then Machine

Photography credit: Courtesy Honda

Hondas were fixtures in the enthusiast market through the ’80s and ’90s, but ironically the company hadn’t turned out a proper, traditional sports car since 1970. When the Honda S2000 arrived for 1999, all past sins were immediately forgiven.

The S2000 was a spunky sports car built according to  Honda’s usual plan: lots of redline, minimum bulk and an extra dose of fit and finish. However, one part of the S2000’s history is largely un-Honda: The car saw a decade of production with very few changes. Honda increased engine displacement from 2.0 to 2.2 liters for 2004, but otherwise the year-by-year changes were relatively minimal.

The S2000 has enjoyed a healthy competition record since its debut, but before pulling the plug on the model at the end of 2009. Honda gave enthusiasts an optional track-ready version. This CR model added a stiffer suspension while jettisoning some creature comforts. An aero package helped limit lift. Is it fast? Well, one just took the SCCA’s Touring 3 national title.

21) Porsche Boxster: As Much Fun As You Can Have and Still Run for Office Someday

Photography credit: John Swain

Some people have trouble using “Porsche” and “budget-friendly” in the same sentence, but a look through the company’s history books shows several models that fit the bill, including the 912, 914 and 924. The Boxster has continued that trend since its release for the 1997 season.

This wasn’t a stripped-down model barely worthy of the Porsche crest. The Boxster received a mid-engined layout, convertible top and breathtaking styling. The earliest models may have been a little weak in the engine department, but Porsche soon fixed that.

Was it a success? Well, it hasn’t yet won at Le Mans, but Boxster drivers have captured several SCCA Solo titles. And until the Cayenne came along, the Boxster was Porsche’s best-selling vehicle. Thanks to those healthy production numbers, used ones can be bought today for very fair prices.

22) Toyota Celica & Corolla: Toyota’s Version of the Bullet Train

Photography credit: David S. Wallens

The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling automotive nameplate in the world, and by virtue of the sheer volume sold it has had an effect on our motorsports world. The model making the biggest impact on the scene, however, would have to be the AE86-chassis GT-S version sold here from 1985 through 1987. The specs may not seem too impressive at first glance—2200 pounds, 112 horsepower and a live rear axle—but the car had the right mojo to become a hero among the drift crowd. It could seemingly do anything its driver wished.

And how does the Celica fit into all of this? While the models usually had their own distinct chassis, through the years the Celica and Corolla often shared bits and pieces. Think of the Celica as the sportier sibling.

23) Nissan Sentra SE-R: It Picks on Cars Twice Its Size

Photography credit: David S. Wallens

The Nissan Sentra can trace it roots back to the 1982 model year, but for the most part it was totally ignored by enthusiast drivers. The 1991 Sentra SE-R changed all of that. 

Sure, it was still boxy, but it was the good stuff inside that mattered. Its twin-cam engine produced 140 horsepower—quite a strong number for the time—while Nissan also added alloy wheels, a stiffer suspension and four-wheel-disc brakes. A limited-slip differential was standard. 

The car quickly took to competition and scored some big wins. The original SE-R lasted through the 1994 model year, but the badge has been part of Nissan’s lineup pretty much through today. 

24) Dodge Viper: Grab Life

Photography credit: photosbyjuha.com

Every good superhero needs a foe. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luther. For years, the Corvette operated without a worthy opponent—until the Dodge Viper showed up in 1992.

Where the Vette had a V8, the Viper received a V10. The new car was also bolder and even more extreme. It should have come from the dealer wearing a cape.

Two years after the Viper’s introduction, it already had its own track program, Skip Thomas’s Viper Days. The Viper Racing League soon followed, and today both programs are part of the North American Road Racing Association. The Viper can handle the pro ranks, too, with wins at Daytona and Le Mans back in the day; today, the Viper Competition Coupe can be found on SCCA Speed World Challenge grids.

25) Volvo 2- & 7-series: Fall In Love in 6.8 Seconds Flat

Photography credit: headonphotos.com

Boxy doesn’t have to mean boring, staid or pedestrian. True, the average citizen sees these 200-, 700- and 900-series Volvos as once-common people-movers, but enthusiasts know the whole story. 

First off, there are choices—lots of them: two doors, four doors, wagons and even Bertone-penned couples. Engine options include carburetors, fuel injection, gasoline, diesel, turbo fours and inline sixes. Not enough power? The small-block V8 is a popular swap—Paul Newman loved his. 

Its professional touring car days may be long gone, but we still see these Swedish bricks competing in a range of events, from stage rally to the 24 Hours of Lemons. Properly modded, they can also become the ultimate street sleepers.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Mr_Asa GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/17/20 9:39 a.m.

 This article originally ran in the December 2009 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.

I wonder if there is anything in the past decade that could be considered to add to that.  BRZ/FRS maybe?

TurnerX19 SuperDork
9/17/20 10:05 a.m.

Funny, the subtitle for the VW GTI is "Kick Some Asphalt"....And the photo shows a car kicking dirtcheeky I would drop the DSM and the Sentra and install the BRZ twins and the Datsun 510.

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/17/20 10:18 a.m.
Mr_Asa said:

 This article originally ran in the December 2009 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.

I wonder if there is anything in the past decade that could be considered to add to that.  BRZ/FRS maybe?

twins could take the place of the celica corolla.

350/370z could replace the Sentra SE-R.

DSM could be dropped for the Focus/FiST


alfadriver (Forum Supporter)
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/17/20 10:35 a.m.

Even though the list is over a decade old, it's an incredibly modern list.  The oldest version of any of those cars (excluding the Mustang- but the modern one was implied) was the late 70's between the Omni and RX7.

Ignoring the MG-T series, anything with a small British motor, Alfas, and pre-US Nissan Datsuns.  And also the early hot-rods that were used for other racing.  They made the scene in the first place.

This is more of a continuation that list, but it does span the magazines Auto-X and GRM.  Which then makes it more accurate for the term "our".  

Hard to add or subtract cars- so many choices.

californiamilleghia SuperDork
9/17/20 10:41 a.m.

Seems like lots of cheap Porsche builds , with Boxsters and 911 996 cheap with dead engines  ,  there were always cheap 924-944 and even 928s.

ProDarwin UltimaDork
9/17/20 10:44 a.m.

I have only owned 5 cars on that list :(

ProDarwin UltimaDork
9/17/20 10:45 a.m.
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) said:

350/370z could replace the Sentra SE-R.

The Z is on the list.


spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/17/20 12:30 p.m.
ProDarwin said:
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) said:

350/370z could replace the Sentra SE-R.

The Z is on the list.


indeed it is.. WHOOPS.

another thought... cayman needs to be added to the boxter line...

i think the neon and omni need to be replaced as does the sentra.. maybe the cellica stays and the sentra goes for the twins instead...


Placemotorsports GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/17/20 12:37 p.m.

Owned 9 of them, not too shabby

mr2s2000elise SuperDork
9/17/20 12:59 p.m.

Owned 11 of the 25 on that list. Have most of them still.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
9/17/20 4:15 p.m.

Owned 2 on the list.  There isn't one on here I wouldn't want to own, even just for a little while.  I agree it also needs a bit of a refresh.  Some of these cars are getting thin on the ground..  I'm looking at your Dodge Omni, CRX, SER, NA miata... 

m4ff3w GRM+ Memberand UberDork
9/17/20 4:44 p.m.

Where's the BiTrouble?

einy (Forum Supporter)
einy (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/17/20 6:12 p.m.

Multiple Civic’s, multiple GTI’s, and multiple Miata’s owned here.   I’m good.

Jesse Ransom
Jesse Ransom GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
9/17/20 7:17 p.m.
ProDarwin said:

I have only owned 5 cars on that list :(

Same here, but I was actually surprised I'd had that many. And I learned to drive in a Volvo 145, which I feel almost ticks that box, even if it wasn't a 200 series...

Owning cars, buying cars, selling cars... all a pain in the butt. (EDIT: I know that's an insane thing to say at GRM; I just mean that there's overhead. You don't just get to go through them like candy) And I tend to want some involvement, and not just have had  them (though my Mini and Impreza were stock stock stock). At the same time, there are some things there it just seems like I should do. Never having had a Mustang or Camaro seems like an omission. But maybe lower on the list than a Porsche or something Italian?

This is so much like travel. I keep just wanting to go back to places I've been and liked. Rabbitville, BMWlandria...

ProDarwin UltimaDork
9/17/20 8:43 p.m.

Some of mine are a stretch honestly.  The SE-R section isn't ultra specific but certainly seems to imply B13, I had a B15.   I had an Impreza 2.5 RS, but it was an '02 (WRX body style) which is covered, but I feel like its implying 98-01 2.5RS and 02+ WRX.  

I don't think anything needs to be replaced on the list.  Those cars did define the scene.  If I were to update the list, I would certainly add the FRS and Cayman.  Its amazing how much of that list is still relevant, just in a newer generation (Camaro, Corvette, Miata, Civic Si, GTI, Mustang, BMW, etc)

ChrisLS8 (Forum Supporter)
ChrisLS8 (Forum Supporter) Reader
9/18/20 12:25 a.m.

In reply to spacecadet (Forum Supporter) :

You are crazy if you think the Sentra doesn't belong on that list. It's too high up the list in my opinion

keithedwards Reader
9/18/20 8:55 a.m.
ProDarwin said:

I have only owned 5 cars on that list :(

Is it Turbo to want more out of life?

I've only owned 2 of the 25 listed, but I count about 9 Civics/CRXs/ and a Del Sol VTEC that I used to own. I still own 3 MINIs.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
9/18/20 10:51 a.m.
keithedwards said:
I still own 3 MINIs.



But do any of them run? 

DirtyBird222 UberDork
9/18/20 11:14 a.m.
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) said:
Mr_Asa said:

 This article originally ran in the December 2009 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.

I wonder if there is anything in the past decade that could be considered to add to that.  BRZ/FRS maybe?

twins could take the place of the celica corolla.

350/370z could replace the Sentra SE-R.

DSM could be dropped for the Focus/FiST


Don't the FoST/FiST actually suck at motorsports though? Like cool tuner/DD/street queens but when it comes down to it they just don't cut the mustard on the track? 

ProDarwin UltimaDork
9/18/20 11:58 a.m.

Quite a few FoST trophied at 2019 Nations in GS

Same with FiST in HS (including 1st place)


If counting those, I wonder if the Mazdaspeed3 deserves a place as well.

Jerry UberDork
9/18/20 12:13 p.m.

Wow, even I've owned 5, and just started with the Miata.  I was seriously putting together a plan for an Elise/Exige next year then 2020 decided I needed a new $10k roof and then water heater.  Maybe 2022.

ProDarwin UltimaDork
9/18/20 12:14 p.m.
keithedwards said:
ProDarwin said:

I have only owned 5 cars on that list :(

Is it Turbo to want more out of life?

I've only owned 2 of the 25 listed, but I count about 9 Civics/CRXs/ and a Del Sol VTEC that I used to own. I still own 3 MINIs.

My actual count is only 6.  I need to correct that.

1 NA Miata, 1 NB Miata

1 B15 Sentra SE-R

1 Subaru 2.5 RS

1 300ZX

1 S2000

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
9/18/20 12:43 p.m.

It's sad that only 3 of the manufacturers represented for their small, engaging fwd offerings even offer one anymore, VW, Honda, Mini, (Sorry Nissan the sentra is huge and the versa isn't fun). 

We live in a golden age of excellent engines and yet small, light, engaging fwd cars are nearly non existent and the options seem to become fewer and fewer each year. 

nderwater UltimaDork
9/18/20 2:42 p.m.

In reply to captdownshift (Forum Supporter) :

All bow to the mighty crossover.

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/18/20 3:04 p.m.
ChrisLS8 (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to spacecadet (Forum Supporter) :

You are crazy if you think the Sentra doesn't belong on that list. It's too high up the list in my opinion

As someone who was 3 when the SE-R in question went out of production. I've known of them.. but would not continue to define them as relevant to where we are today... in 2020.

unlike a LOT of the cars on this list.. that have become more relevant.. the Camaro and mustang both shed their stick axles for IRS and have become fixtures in the track scene over the past 6 years. The Camaro in particular has ushered in a new status quo of very fast and affordable cars that can be tracked reliably and keep their warranty.

Miata continues to be a default option, boxter became even more relevant as prices came down, as did it's stablemate the Cayman. 

The sentra may have made sense on the list 11 years ago.. but i don't think it deserves to be there anymore..

EvanB (Forum Supporter)
EvanB (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/18/20 3:10 p.m.

In reply to spacecadet (Forum Supporter) :

Well the article is titled cars that have defined our scene, not cars that are currently defining our scene. 

octavious Dork
9/18/20 9:11 p.m.

How is the GRM scene complete without:


Random tow pig

Obscure race car no one has seen for 30 years



captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
9/19/20 12:44 p.m.

In reply to nderwater :

I'd love to blame manufacturers for the crossover killing the small car. but they made and produce them side by side had them both available in dealership showrooms side by side, with the crossover costing at least six grand more than the non crossover alternative. And it was John Q public that decided to spend more money to get the crossover. Manufacturers didn't kill the good small car, it was people who finance more car then they need to impress their neighbors, go to Chili's for 2 for 20 on Fridays for date night and think that an upright seating position magically makes a vehicle better in the snow. 

Ivar Ridgeway
Ivar Ridgeway
9/20/20 1:32 p.m.

In reply to captdownshift (Forum Supporter) :

And sadly those 3 manufactures you listed, who exemplified good performance potential/technology, good build quality, at a fair price point got outdone in the current times by an unexpected manufacturer, Hyundai with the Veloster N. The Civic Type R is a great car but the price gouging when it came out really soured me on them.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/21/20 8:12 a.m.

Man, I must be doing something wrong. I have only owned 2.5 cars on the list: 1983 Camaro Z28, a pair of WRX's, and I'm counting my 1987 Shelby CSX as a half point.

BradLTL UltraDork
9/29/20 3:48 p.m.

I think you guys took the easy way out here.  Which Miata?  Which Mustang?  Which Camaro?

This conversation gets a lot harder if you have to narrow it down to a specific generation of each model.

That said, I've owned: 5

nderwater UltimaDork
9/29/20 4:32 p.m.

I've owned 8 examples of 4 entries on the list.  I've driven most of the other listed cars, but I guess I stayed pretty focused when it came time to putting my money down.


-Mazda Miata NA, NB
-BMW 3 Series E30, E36
-Honda Civic Gen 1
-Porsche Boxster 987

-Mazda Miata NC, ND
-BMW 3 Series E46, E90, F30
-Honda Civic/CRX Gen 4, 5, 6, Integra/RSX Gen 3, 4
-Ford Mustang Fox, SN-95, S-197, S-550
-Porsche 911 930, 964, 996, 997, 991
-Chevy Corvette C5, C6
-Chevy Camaro Gen 3, Gen 4
-MINI Cooper R50, R56
-Nissan 350Z
-Mazda RX-7 FC
-Subaru Impreza GD
-Lotus Elise Series 2
-Dodge Neon Gen 1
-Honda S2000 AP1
-Porsche Boxster 986, 981, 718
-Toyota Celica T180, T230, Corolla E100, E110
-Volvo 200 Series, 700 Series

jerel77494 New Reader
12/6/21 11:10 a.m.

The Mustang and Porsche 911 almost didn't survive.  The Ford Probe was to replace the Mustang and the 924/944/928 were to usher in a new direction for Porsche.  Only a great outcry by their respective enthusiasts prevented that from happening.

As an aside, the Boxter was Porsche's retro car, built when Plymouth built the PT Cruiser/Viper/Prowler and Chevy built the HHR and a convertible hard top pickup.  The Boxter was patterned after the 356.

Toebra Dork
12/6/21 4:45 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

I remember when that issue came out.  If I remember right, I have owned one car that was not on the list.

jimgood New Reader
1/17/22 1:14 p.m.

I love that you included the Factory Five. No car has ever stirred my soul as my Factory Five did. No car taught me as much about balance as that car did.

SKJSS (formerly Klayfish)
SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) PowerDork
1/17/22 4:02 p.m.

I either have really good tastes or a serious car problem.  I've owned 11 of the 25 cars on the list.

Meporsche New Reader
1/17/22 4:33 p.m.

Sure didn't expect to see a Swedish Brick on the list.

Those Spec Racers used to go around turns like nobody's business.   My very 1st race (a LONG time ago) was me in a 72 911 my co-driver put on the pole at the late, great Bridgehampton.   Well, I was humbled pretty quickly.  I had them on the straights and chutes but they crawled all over me in the corners.  Tons of fun,   right up until I got T-boned by an out of control Fiat of all things.   But that's another story.   Love GRMS

Meporsche New Reader
1/17/22 4:34 p.m.

In reply to SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) :

Not a problem, a disease.   Curable by dying.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/17/22 4:39 p.m.

I think the list could have been 20, there were a few there that were padding. I don't think the Viper ever defined anything, for example. But overall, GRM's been in the scene for a long time and they know what's up.

This, though:

The original Mini showed the world that front-wheel drive could be fun. Honda took that idea and ran toward the end zone

I've got a first-year CRX and an original Mini (the Mini is actually a year newer). This is 100% on the ball, the CRX is the Mini but with Japanese reliability and fewer seats. They both have a very similar approach to performance and are equally fun to drive.

GeddesB GRM+ Memberand New Reader
1/17/22 5:52 p.m.

I've owned 5, planning on buying a sixth, and currently own two. 


Feedyurhed UltraDork
1/17/22 7:27 p.m.

I have owned 8 cars on the list and still own two. I will have to defend the first gen. Sentra SE-R. It was awesome for it's time. I came out of a 1987 Camaro IROC-Z into a 1991 Sentra SE-R, still one of my favorite cars. Not my car pictured below, but mine was just like it.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
1/17/22 8:17 p.m.

I've owned 9 and have wanted quite a few of the others.  All 4 of my current hobby cars are represented on the list.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/17/22 8:18 p.m.

I agree the Sentra completely belongs on the list. It was a significant car.

Noddaz GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/17/22 8:38 p.m.

I have only had two of the above mentioned cars.  frown

Well that is something, right? laugh


sfisher71 New Reader
1/18/22 4:23 p.m.

I've had a pretty awful morning, and what do I see but the link to this article in my email. I click it...

#1 and #2 are in my driveway.

I feel much better now. Bet I'd feel better still if I took one of them for a ride.

Thanks, everyone.

AClockworkGarage Dork
1/18/22 10:13 p.m.

I've owned 5 and currently own 2, though my Corrola isn't that Corrola...

MrFancypants HalfDork
4/22/22 10:48 a.m.
AClockworkGarage said:

I've owned 5 and currently own 2, though my Corrola isn't that Corrola...

It looks like Toyota is playing with the idea of pushing the Corolla back towards its enthusiast roots... and for that I'm super thankful.

I had a modern one as a rental a few years back and it was honestly pretty fun to throw around. With a hot engine, manual gearbox, and tighter suspension it could be a very credible Si/GTI alternative.

4/22/22 3:01 p.m.

I would jut point out that the Miata, as nice as it is, was created as an MGB copy albeit with better reliability.  The entire MG lineage going back to the MGT series of the 50's sowed the original seeds of Grass Roots Motoring. 
PS: Dodge Omni? Really guys?

Dwight New Reader
4/25/22 8:35 a.m.

In reply to hauckr1111 :

Right ON!

BimmerMaven New Reader
12/29/22 12:40 p.m.

In reply to mr2s2000elise :

Why not share pix of them in your profile?

BimmerMaven New Reader
12/29/22 12:50 p.m.

In reply to Fueled by Caffeine :

"Fueled by Caffeine"....love it!

Region_Rat New Reader
12/29/22 12:55 p.m.

2 of my current 3 cars are on the list (Mustang & Elise) and I could argue the Elantra N Line could get honorable mention against some of those earlier fwd offerings that made the list back then.  I am not quite at a year of owning the Elise but I can't imagine anything better for a raw sportscar, planning on keeping that one!

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/29/22 6:36 p.m.
hauckr1111 said:

PS: Dodge Omni? Really guys?

You've clearly never driven a GLH turbo, or the Charger equivalent.  Light enough to handle well, warp speed acceleration that was easily taken to extremes with a little work, and only a little bit of torque steer smiley


Mind you they made 175hp at a time when the top Mustang and Camaro were much heavier and barely topped 200, and the Corvette was not much better.

I nearly bought a Charger turbo and the main selling point was accidentally lighting up the tires from a roll at 35mph in 3rd... and it was a regular non intercooled job.

(seven of my cars were on the list, and I also had a Sentra, which was great fun even though it was not an SE-R)

Toebra Dork
12/29/22 6:59 p.m.

GLH Omni was a freakin' beast, that Carroll Shelby, automotive Michelangelo

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/31/22 4:43 p.m.

9 out of 25

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