The Trackday Transporter…

audi s8Last night I watched one of Jason Statham’s movies from the Transporter series. You know the one’s, where he’s hired as a specialist “driver”, and usually has to evade the entire police force of a small french town armed with an Audi S8.

Very entertaining, but I wonder how much older, used ones are, as the “great” thing about top spec models like this, is how they depreciate.

Regarding expensive cars, it is said , if you can’t afford to buy it new, then you probably can’t afford to run it. Very true if you want to use it day to day, but what about as a trackday slag? Probably not so much 🙂

So I had a look on autotrader, as you do, and was pleasantly surprised. 10 year old S8’s with stellar mileage can be had for under £3,000, and I found 2 ordinary A8’s for under £1,000, one with a full audi service history! Not bad for 300-340 bhp and all the toys. New ones start from £60k, so quite a saving.

Have I gone mad? Surely, a big, old barge like that is not going to make a great trackday car is it?

That depends. Big cars often have big power, long wheelbases and wide tracks (good for roadholding), which are all great qualities for a trackday car. A car with “all the toys” will weigh quite a bit too, but this also offers a significant opportunity. As the late, great Colin Chapman said, the best way to improve a car’s performance is to add lightness.

Now in the Audi A8’s case, they aren’t as heavy as you think, as they use a lot of aluminium* in their construction. Apparently, they weigh around 1,750 kgs, but this also includes, leather, heated, electrically adjustable seats, electric windows, electric blinds(!), electric mirrors, sat nav, dual climate control, double glazing (yes really), wood effect trim, front & rear headrests, big hifi with CD multi changer, plush carpets and probably a large amount of sound proofing.

All of that has got to weigh a significant amount. Stripping it all out and replacing the glass with plastic would generate a huge weight saving, and saving weight improves all aspects of a car’s performance. It means the engine has less weight to haul around, so the car’s power to weight ratio rises, and the car will accelerate faster without having to tune the engine which can also compromise it’s reliability, something to bear in mind if it’s already done 170,000 miles.

Mind you, big engined cars do tend to be more reliable than small engined cars at high mileage. Why? A couple of reasons. Big engines, are normally more powerful because of their bigger capacity so, often they are higher geared, meaning they will not be spinning as fast as a smaller engine for any given road speed. Over the course of their life then, a bigger engine will have done fewer revs over the same mileage. Also, you don’t need to rev them as hard to get up to speed, so again, bigger engines often have an easier life.

Back to the lightness thing though. A lighter car (all things being equal), can also corner more quickly, because it generates less G force allowing the tyres to hang on at higher speeds, and can also stop quicker as the brakes have less work to do. Not to mention fuel economy too.

So taking a lot of weight out of a car has the same effect as tuning the engine for more power, fitting a big brake conversion, and uprating the suspension, all for the cost of a little time and spanner work, although you might have to lower the car again if you take out that much weight as it’s ride height may increase.

To add to this, you could also flog the seats and gadgetry on ebay. Who knows, you might even recoup most of your initial outlay. Pretty much a win/win then. 🙂

Would you buy an old A8? Or would you go for a different luxo-barge?

*Note to american readers. It’s ALUMINIUM pronounced “al you min ee um” not ALUMINUM. In the same way, many of the elements on the periodic table end “ium”. For example, Sodium, Strontium, Magnesium to name but a few.

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