Car buyers' guide: Much-modified performance cars

By Jack Biddle

Toyota MR-S
Toyota MR-S

Much-modified performance cars should be treated with suspicion.

The dilemma

On impulse, Eddie bought a 2002 Audi S3. Now the costs are mounting and the use of the car is decreasing.

"I used to have a BMW M3, but the cost of repairs proved too much," he says. "I love the Audi but now that I'm using a company car most week days so I'm selling it."

But he doesn't want to give up sports cars.

Eddie, be very careful you don't jump from the frying pan into the fire. Sports/performance vehicles in your price bracket may have had a thrashing and are being sold because of impending high repair costs.

Some sellers also often speak a language all their own on the modifications that have been carried out that only real enthusiasts understand. The more add-ons the more you should worry about a hard past life. Be wary also of any vehicle that has had extensive modifications to the engine air induction and exhaust system and of the suspension and wheels.

There are sports cars out there that have been cuddled rather than abused and it's just a matter of taking the time to find them. Often you will get a heads-up on the way these cars have been treated by talking to the people selling them in a private sale. Don't buy sight unseen or without a full, invasive pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic who lives and breathes a particular make and model.

The budget: $9000

The shortlist

Subaru Impreza WRX

Probably the highest risk of all and so many are for sale it could be a frustrating exercise finding a genuine, well-maintained example. If you do find one, over time it may well hold its value really well.

Honda Integra Type R

These vehicles were produced when Honda as a brand was very appealing to the younger generation seeking sporty looks, performance and reliability.

Like the Subaru, many of these cars have been heavily modified and are very tired. If you find a genuine example it would still be a head-turner and an enjoyable drive.

Toyota MR-S

The mid-mounted engine may produce a little more cabin noise and mean less luggage space than you're used to but isn't that what a weekend sports car is all about?

A step away from the bland models Toyota produced at the time but you can still guarantee the high build quality and engineering standards the brand is renowned for.

- NZ Herald

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