Hooniverse Asks: What Subcompact Would Be The Best Racer Today?

Back in the ’70s, Car and Driver magazine dropped the gauntlet on its readers—race us in a series of SCCA sanctioned, showroom stock races and see who is the best, reader or writer.  The result was the Car and Driver SS/Sedan Challenge, which was held annually at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Back then CandD would track test all the contenders prior to picking their ride, and at the time that meant pretty much meant every small sedan—domestic and import—sold in America.
The first of the series, in 1972, was won by a reader driving a Dodge Colt. The following year’s race was taken by Car and Driver executive writer Pat Bedard in an Opel 1900, which tied the series at one each. The following year Car and Driver and Bedard picked a year-old Chevy Vega as their mount of choice and ran away from the competition. The magazine obviously chose wisely from the bevy cars they gathered for their mondo comparo. It’s hard to imagine that a VW Beetle or Renault 12TL could have mustered such an effort.
This history got me thinking about the options to replicate such a race today. Not a LeMons crapfest mind you, but a real SCCA-sanctioned small seean showroom stock race, with the only rule being run whatcha brung, and not modified. If we were to attempt such an event, what would be your weapon of choice?
Image: Car and Driver

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44 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What Subcompact Would Be The Best Racer Today?”

  1. Alff Avatar

    Without doing the homework, I’d pick a Fiesta ST.

    1. JayP Avatar

      The ecoboost engines start to get hot and shut the boost off after about 5 laps on a moderate day.

      1. wunno sev Avatar
        wunno sev

        I’ve only taken my Fiesta ST to k e track day, but it did an hour of lapping spread over three sessions without a hitch and has under no circumstances shown a temperature higher than rock-climbing center. this is just one man’s limited experience, I guess, but cooling has not been a problem for me.

        1. wunno sev Avatar
          wunno sev

          wow, autocorrect. note to self – don’t write comments on phone while waiting for game to load.
          *one track day, not sure what i was trying to write when i got into “rock climbing”. i guess what i’m getting at is that the 1.6 ecoboost in the FiST doesn’t seem to have anything inherent that would cause it to overheat. can’t speak for any of the other models, and can’t speak for any examples of the FiST besides my own.

        2. JayP Avatar

          Is your ecoboost a later model?
          I’ll adjust my statement saying that every pre-2015 model has had an issue, Focus and Fiesta. I did instruct a later model Focus and he didn’t have all the issues I’d expected.
          It still got hot but never lowered the boost.
          I keep an eye on the gauges… the students have too much to do.

          1. wunno sev Avatar
            wunno sev

            i’d totally believe that there’s just a bunch of variation from one car to the next and mine happens to have a decent cooling system. it’s been at the dealer under warranty a couple times. minor things mostly, but build quality hasn’t been up to par with the only other semi-recent new car i’m familiar with, my mom’s ’11-ish Sentra. worth it, by the dubs, the car is a riot to drive.
            i should also mention that there is a boost cutout after 20 seconds of WOT boosting, but it’s hard to imagine any situation besides a top-speed run where that would come into play.

    1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      BTW, according to Ford’s website, the passenger volume of 90.7 cu.ft. and cargo volume of 24 cu.ft. makes it a mid size car according to the EPA.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Sipping too much gallons per mile on the way to work does that even to public employees.

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        The hatch doesn’t have 24 cu ft of cargo space though.
        Mind you all systems throw up some strange results, eg here in Australia the Camry is medium but its V6 Aurion brother that shares the same bodyshell goes in the large car class.

    2. JayP Avatar

      Still, the ecoboost gets hot… Vorshlag tore into one and pretty much bitch-slapped it.

  2. Maymar Avatar

    For the sake of Run What You Brung, I’ve already got a subcompact I’ve Brung and subsequently Run. It has a presence in SCCA B-Stock too. If we’re restricting our choices to new subcompacts, I guess Toyota Yaris sedan/iM/whatever is my answer. At least as long as I can swap out for better tires.
    Although, Nissan already has Spec Micra, so I will keep pushing for a 1.6t Micra as long as I can.

    1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      The Toyota Yaris iA is the rebadged Mazda 2 you are thinking of.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        Right, yes, that – we get it as the Yaris sedan in Canada, but I should still know iM=Corolla wagon.

    2. Guest Avatar

      Micra was my first thought as well, because of Spec Micra.

      It would probably be a hard car to beat, price wise, and it should have a certain “WTF” factor for American competition, a factor that I would very much enjoy.

      1. Victor Avatar

        Drove one for while,not your Grandmothers Vega.

      2. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        The Opel Manta shared pretty much nothing with the Vega?

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          It doesn’t? They ended up looking so much alike, I thought they were brothers?

          1. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            Zero parts in common. Even the wheels are different, Opel has 4×100 pcd, Chev has 4×4″ pcd. But those wheels were shared with the top version of GM Vauxhall’s Viva range, the Firenza.
            Yes, GM made three entirely different cars in Europe, GB and the USA, around the same size.
            The next T-car platform brought them together( Chevettes- Vauxhall & Chevrolet, Opel Kadett and Isuzu/Holden Gemini)
            HC Firenza Droopsnoot (also with completely different 2300cc OHC I4)
            HC Viva two door1970-79
            HC Viva four door
            HC Magnum Estate
            HC ‘Droopsnoot’ 2.3 Estate
            Earlier HB Viva Estate(‘Coke bottle’ styling)
            HB Viva two door
            As sold by Canadian Pontiac dealers
            South African HC V8 Chevrolet Firenza The Vega never got a factory V8, the Viva did
            Later S.A.HC Chev Firenza four cylinder
            Later Vauxhall Cavalier four door, all Cavaliers had the Manta frontal styling, all Opel underneath.
            Cavalier Sporthatch ALL Opel Manta
            Cavalier two door, ALL Manta
            Australian HB based LC Holden Torana with longer bonnet/hood & wheelbase to fit Holden Six
            Base HB Torana with short front on 4 cyl versions
            LC Torana GTR XU1 with triple weber 3300 Holden Six.This model beat the Ford V8s to win Bathurst

        2. dukeisduke Avatar

          But they do use similar suspension designs. And, IIRC, the first four-speed used in the Vega was an Opel design. When I was shopping for my first car, the Manta was on my short list, and I ended up buying a Vega hatchback. Both are great handling cars.

          1. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            Yes, similar, but with no shared parts. GM’s overseas divisions were run like separate companies for quite a while-as indeed their US divisions were.

    1. Victor Avatar

      Had one for a while, had a 5 -speed w/overdrive.

      1. Victor Avatar

        Did I mention it was cheap and surprised Camaros ?

    1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      I definitely misread that number plate.

      1. Jofes2 Avatar

        Yeah the stupid badge design isn’t helping

      2. Lokki Avatar

        Yeah, it’s hard to read those letters looks like someone has rubbed a couple off…

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Without any performance specs on which to base my decision (beyond “more than 210hp”), I’m going to vote for the forthcoming Yaris Gazoo.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Yaris Gazebo? 😉

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        That’s the black bit on the back

    1. bv911 Avatar

      “wrong wheel drive” != “totally hopeless from a performance standpoint”
      Case in point:

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        I just realised it has been ages since I’ve been to Motoiq. Then scrolling (a little way) down to see “page 1 of 10” I was reminded of one of the reasons why. Very irritating.

        1. bv911 Avatar

          Yes, I hear ya; using “Ghostery” or some other blocker helps with the page loads, at least…

  4. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    My 8 year old self is proud to say I was there and actually talked to Patrick Bedard in 1973. I’ll have to find my B&W pictures, also as I recall it was raining.
    My first impulse for a small sedan was a Mazda2 but I guess a Fiesta would also work.

  5. JBsC6 Avatar

    Showroom stock racing was awesome. It was in fact among my favorite…I’m les impressed with racing of highly modified cars but showroom stock was and would be something I’d follow.

  6. JBsC6 Avatar

    Bow..any way you could fill us in on how to read that old articles. I haven’t read it in decades but I re,e,ber reading it back when it was published
    Thank s In advance

  7. JBsC6 Avatar

    I have a huge smile on my face to see the price of sixty cents for the magazine as opposed to 5 dollar sale these days…