When it comes to shopping for a performance vehicle, the possibilities can be endless. Many factors come into play: will this be a daily driver or a weekend car, a two-seater versus four-seater, have an automatic/dual clutch or manual transmission, will the wife/girlfriend approve, etc.
If you know you will be half-mile racing, that is one way to start narrowing vehicles down. After the price point is determined – ($50k in this case) – the next question becomes whether it is better to buy something new or used.
There is always something to be said about buying a new car. Mmmm, that new car smell. Nobody has rubbed their hands or butts all over the car yet. No slight odor of cigarettes or BO. This is YOUR car. To some, these feelings are worth the extra cost over buying something used.
Arguably, the best thing about a new car that you plan to take half-mile racing is one word: warranty. A powertrain warranty will allow you to go beat the hell out of your car without worry 1) breaking something and 2) the cost associated with it. Of course, if you start modifying the vehicle, often times the warranty goes out the window as well, so just something to keep in mind. Now, onto three picks that come in under $50k MSRP.
Dodge Challenger Scat Pack
If you’re looking for the most horsepower your money can buy, look no further than the Dodge Challenger Scat Pack. Its 6.4L Hemi engine produces 485hp and 475lb-ft, offering a 6-speed manual as standard, or for an optional extra Dodge’s own 8-speed automatic.
Base prices for the Scat Packs start at just over $40,000, with a few options or even upgrading to the wide body still keeping it under budget. Of course, you may even be able to find a heavily discounted Hellcat for similar pricing as well, but the MSRP will be over our $50k budget.
Ford Mustang GT
Crowds beware. Of course, the Mustang is always a classic. Generations of Mustangs have only gotten faster over the years. Fast forward to 2019, under the hood lies a 5.0L V8, producing 460hp, and 420lb-ft of torque.
It now comes with a 10-speed automatic transmission, co-developed with Chevrolet, but tuned specifically by Ford for use in the Mustang. A manual is also available. Prices for the GTs start in the mid-$30,000 range, with options like a Premium trim or performance packages escalating the price closer to the $50k mark.
The Performance Package Level 2 option, at $6500, brings with it magnetorheological dampers, additional bracing and stiffer suspension components, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and a few other doo-dads bringing the total to just under $50k, and is only available in a manual transmission.
Chevrolet Camaro SS (1LE)
If a Challenger or Mustang isn’t your thing, the Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE packs plenty of punch from its 6.2L V8, producing 455hp and 455lb-ft of torque. A manual transmission is only available in the 1LE (#murica), but the regular SS offers the 10-speed auto as well.
A Camaro in SS trim starts just below $38,000 for a base model, and the 1LE package will bring it to $49,995. For $7k, the 1LE package includes 20-inch wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3 tires, magnetic ride control dampers, larger brakes, Recaro front seats, a dual-mode exhaust, and an electronically controlled LSD.
It also allows for a performance-data and video recorder as well. In full 1LE trim, the Camaro will do 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.
Are we biased with American cars? Maybe. However, for the price point of under $50k brand new and well-optioned off the showroom floor, these powerhouses are hard to beat.
Each car offers performance and style in their own way, while being very closely matched on the stat sheets. All three offer naturally aspirated V8s, are capable of triple digit speeds in ten seconds or less, and run through a quarter mile in the twelve second range.
The debate becomes interesting with the Challenger being the only contender over 4,000 pounds, but offering more power than the Mustang or Camaro. Does the weight advantage and quickness off the line favor the Ford or Chevy in a half mile? Or does Dodge’s bigger engine and slight power advantage keep up before the finish line?
Either way, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these warrantied, American muscle badasses to tear up the tarmac.