Just to add to this, I checked out the membership form and it shows that there is an age 16+ bandoleros class. Even if there wasn't, there's no restriction on buying one and just racing it in a track day or autocross (not having a class to race in does get rid of the initial purpose for getting one, though). I'm a little worried about clearance, though. The thing is only (edit: 36)" high! Just consider it a "GT40 minus 4" (or, as I like to think, a mini IMSA fiero
Those who have read this post, even if you don't have experience with the cars in question, what do you think about the "buy a purpose-built race car" vs "buy a cheap beater and prep it"?
race-ready legends car: $13k new, $7-11k used
race-ready bandoleros car: $7k new, $3-5k used
race-ready thunder roadster car: $15k new, $? used
cheap beater: $500-$1k used (plus parts and time to get it to racing spec)
The pros I see for the race-ready cars is you have a known quantity of racing parts designed specifically for the vehicles. They are easy to work on, you don't have to fabricate things or try to work around all the stock components. They are ready to race out of the box. Many of the used ones come with spare parts (tires, engines, etc). They have their own sanctioning body and you could race at any of the tracks around the country with an INEX membership. Cons: more expensive up front, not road legal (you need to consider buying equipment to trailer to events).
Pros for the cheap beater: street legal (to a point, more on this in a moment), cheaper up front. Cons: harder to work on, must find parts designed for it or fabricate your own, aftermarket support (usually) shrinks every year (unless you use a popular cheap car, in which case it might not be as cheap).
About the street legal thing. For some that may be the major point of choosing the beater over the race car. With racing, you always end up pushing that boundary in order to be more competitive. Street legal requirements add weight and inefficiency to a car. Yes, there are stock classes in some sanctioning bodies (autocross for example). At the same time though, one stock car will end up being more competitive than another stock car, just the way grouping goes. So you start making changes, then get bumped out of that class anyway. If you continue to modify, you'll end up having to trailer your car at some point, and by then how much money do you have in it? Would you be better off just getting a purpose-built race car in the first place? I guess the answer ends up being what your ultimate goal is.
[This message has been edited by kwagner (edited 10-23-2006).]