Despite owning three cars, I find myself making the illogical choice of driving my Volvo C30 almost daily. It is stripped out, clapped out, raw, and uncomfortable. Why do I choose this for daily duty?
Years ago, this little Volvo used to be my only car. It was comfortable enough as a weekday commuter but with a track-ready setup for the weekends. Presently, I would define it as a track/rally car and nothing more.
Because there is no interior, it is great for trips to the hardware store to buy lumber, mulch, or anything that I would not want dirtying the interior of my nice cars. Who needs a pickup truck when you have a gutted hatchback?
It is also high mileage. With over 210,000 miles on the clock, it has reached rock bottom in value. A few more miles will not hurt anything. Despite the performance parts, it is actually my cheapest and easiest car to maintain.
But the main reason I choose to daily my Volvo is because it is fun.
Living in the Appalachian mountains means my commute is nothing but twisty back roads where even the 55mph speed limits feel fast around the tight turns. Having a car that is setup for these roads makes my drive to work very enjoyable.
Overall, I’m content with my decision. But here are a dozen reasons for why it can be uncomfortable and inconvenient; reasons why I would discourage anyone from modifying their only car into a race car.
1. The unwanted attention. Even without the livery and sponsors, this car would still be flashy due to the wide arches, aero parts, and general sporty appearance. This car looks perfectly at home at events, but stands out like a sore thumb on public roads.
I have to be on my best behavior at all times. Cops are quick to assume that a car like this is up to no good. Meanwhile, other car enthusiasts are regularly trying to initiate a race.
While I consider myself to be a respectable and law-abiding driver, accidentally cutting someone off is not so easily forgotten in a car this recognizable. Especially in a town as small as mine.
2. People will preach that 5 point harnesses are not safe on the road without a Hans device. While this is true, a 5 point harness is safer than a 3 point belt in a bucket seat and without airbags. 3 point belts are designed to work in unison with the other safety equipment in a car.
The real annoyance is just the hassle of buckling up a 5 point harness. There is no such thing as jumping in the car and quickly taking off. Preparing for a drive takes at least a full minute.
3. I’m that crazy person who has put aftermarket bucket seats in half of the cars I have owned. Even the factory Porsche sport seats did not provide the side bolstering or support that I crave in a sports car. I firmly believe that a good seat can account for seconds in lap times, purely by connecting you with the car, allowing you to feel how the vehicle is reacting, and allowing you to focus on delicate inputs of the pedals and steering wheel without the need to brace yourself through a corner.
I also find high end bucket seats to be far more comfortable than the stock seats in some cars.
The action of climbing in and out of a bucket seat is an annoying motion to go through daily. Especially when trying to avoid wrinkling work clothes.
4. No radio, no problem. I just want to hear the sweet sound of my exhaust.
But when sitting in traffic, some music would be nice. Sometimes I resort to putting a portable bluetooth speaker in the passenger seat.
5. My car still has air conditioning and heat. But with no dash board, my home built air vent is set up to only defrost the windshield. Great for safety and driving in the rain, but summers are hot and winters are cold.
6. While the climate control will eventually get the cabin to the point of comfort, the lack of insulation means it takes a long time. Leave the car in the sun and this metal box becomes an oven. Leave it outside in the cold and the interior will be no warmer than the exterior.
7. The lack of insulation and carpeting also increases the noise level within the car.
You can hear the engine sitting behind the firewall. The intake sounds like it’s sucking from inside the cabin. The race exhaust drones and pops. Every pebble that I run over can be heard bouncing under the floor.
While I must admit, the car is quieter than I would expect a stripped out car to be, it’s still loud.
8. Hatchbacks are practical cars. Putting a chassis mounted wing over that hatch kills the practicality. Even when I do pull the quick release pins for trunk access, there is still a full size spare and roll bar scaffolding in the way.
9. Because I live on fun mountain roads, I choose to run 200 tread wear tires at all times. I’m lucky to get 5,000 miles on a set of tires, which quickly adds up. The sticky compound also sacrifices my fuel economy. But these are prices that I’m willing to pay in exchange for always having grip available.
10. For the same reason why I keep sticky tires on the car, I also keep performance brake pads on the car. They are not the most aggressive compound, so they get up to temperature fairly quickly and grip just as well as street pads. The real annoyance is the brake squeal.
Call me weird, but I like the brake noise. Squealing race pads sound different than squeaking worn brakes and real automotive enthusiasts know that this sound means a serious car. But most people think squealing brakes means your car is falling apart and it can be a bit embarrassing when stopping at a light.
11. The aero helps at high speeds. I think the aero looks cool even when the car is standing still. But the aero takes away from fuel economy and is undoubtedly unnecessary on a commute.
12. For anyone who has stripped out a car, you can probably relate: Even when you never touch the exterior seals, water will find its way into the cabin. Every time it rains, there is water on my floor.
There is no logical sense in my choice to daily drive this car. But I sure do love it.