By now, you've come to Clunkerture, thinking "That writer was completely wrong about the E60 M5. Let's see what other nonsense he's spewing out!" I'm only too happy to oblige, if what you're looking for is complete and utter nonsense.
Such is the case with this new feature I'm introducing, called LeMons Possibilities, where I a) pick a car that can be had for under $500, b) wonder at the possibilities of turning it into a race car even though I can't even change the fluid in my transmission, and c) put up some Craigslist links of some potential versions of the car worth considering and come up with reasons to shoot them down.
So today, I'm looking at the E36 BMW 3-Series, because there are so many of them on Craigslist for under $2,000. Such is the case when cars, especially German cars, start to turn 15 years old. And they all have parts which can be sold off to pay for the roll cage and show the supremely-powerful LeMons judges that you paid less than $500 to avoid those costly penalty laps.
Now you might be thinking, "Why on earth is he not considering the E30?" Well, I love the E30 and consider the E30 325i one of the best cars I've ever driven. But LeMons has been using them extensively now and parts are increasingly more difficult to find, especially ECU replacements, since LeMons teams constantly go through them.
As a result, I've been looking through E36s in my area. There are also some common themes I've been coming across in the search. Almost all of them have cylinder head issues, and the manual ones I come across are being sold only because they need a new clutch. A lot of them also have aftermarket wheels which might get some money on Craigslist if I could source the stock wheels.
Now let's see some of those Craigslist possibilities:
Having a salvage title is unfortunately the only way you can get a 328is at that price. But it's not as if I was going to drive it on the open road anyway. The parts on it will almost certainly be worth something since it'll be turned into a race car. I have no idea if the clutch will still work though. And really, it's probably the best thing in the price range at the moment short of finding a salvage-titled E36 M3.
I'm entertaining the thought of a convertible because the roll cage will be easy to install. And this one is only $1,100 meaning I could sell a few parts and come out without any penalty laps. However, it is heavier and it'll be interesting to feel all the cowl shake in the corners. On the bright side though, the 2.5-liter inline-six in it was at the end of its life cycle so it can't have too many problems.
Option C: A somewhat operable 318ti.
No one wants a 318ti. The engine is weak, no one likes the styling, and it's a bit small inside. Installing the rollcage in it may also present a major issue due to its odd proportions. However, on race day, it'll get much better fuel mileage than any other car there, which'll help you win and even allow you to finish the race. And the LeMons Supreme Court might not even you any penalty laps because you're driving the "embarrassing" E36.
Feel free to inform me in the comments why all of these are a bad idea.