These Are The Top Ten Classic Cars for the Teen Enthusiast
Some sixteen year-olds, bless their hearts, just aren’t content to drive a late-model econobox, understanding even in their youth that life is too short to drive a boring car. With these kids in mind, we recently invited you to suggest the best vintage car for the teenage enthusiast. Most sane, frugal parents are not going to hand their freshly-licensed teen the keys to Dad’s ’67 Stingray but that doesn’t mean that a stylish vintage ride is out of the question. Young drivers can have a lot of fun for under $10,000 and to prove it, we’ve compiled our list of the ten best classic (pre-’90) cars for the teenage enthusiast. We’re confident in our rankings but also certain that you’ll use the comments section below to let us know where we’ve erred.
#10 Jaguar XJ-S–Produced from 1975 to 1996 and available with either an inline-six or a V12 engine, this car will give you your first taste of stylish grand touring. Granted, efficiency and reliability were words seldom associated with the XJ-S–rest assured that even if you don’t buy one, you can always visit your friend’s Jag at the local mechanic’s shop–but if you’re looking put on airs in the high school parking lot, this is the car for you.
#9 Chrysler Conquest/Mitsubishi Starion–Make reference to Mr. Jackie Chan’s black Starion Turbo in the 1984 film “Cannonball Run II” and you’re likely to get nothing but blank looks from today’s sixteen-year-olds. And yet, with engines that offered anywhere between 150-197 horsepower–and with a body that epitomizes 1980s styling–the Starion/Conquest siblings offer a fun driving experience that’s unlikely to get a young driver into too much trouble. The challenge, as with many of the cars on this list, is finding one in acceptable condition.
#8 1980s Volkswagen Scirocco or GTI–Quick, light, and nimble, these 1.8 liter, 16-valve stable-mates were fun in the ’80s and they still offer smiles aplenty today. Go ahead and scoff at the 123 horsepower, but the Scirocco held its own against the much pricier BMW 325s and Porsche 944s of the day and the GTI remains a stalwart of the hot hatch class. Volkswagens and Audis of this period were known to be, shall we say, mechanically finicky but if you can live with their flaws, you’ll have a lot of enjoyment in store.
#7 Saab 900 Turbo–Where most carmakers are content to ensure that their cars can withstand a collision with a deer, the Swedes have long prepared for a bigger possibility: moose. The so-called “Moose Test” puts Saabs and Volvos through a two-step process that first tests the car’s agility in avoiding a collision with a moose, while the second phase tests the strength of the A-pillar in the event of a collision. A turbocharged car that can do battle with a 1,000-pound bull moose–need we say more? For further persuasion, check out our video on the Saab 900 Turbo.
#6 BMW E30 3-Series–You can break the news to your kid right now: there’s no way she’ll be getting an E30 M3 with the money she can scrape together, so she might as well adjust her expectations accordingly (although she can still dream by watching our video on the E30 M3). Fortunately, BMW made an entire line of great-looking E30s like the 325i that remain attainable for working teens and offer great handling, classic BMW lines, and might even ride the wave of the M3’s recent appreciation.
#5 1980s Honda Civic Si/CRX Si –Go ahead and snicker at their 91-horsepower engines, but short wheelbases and sub-2,000-pound curb weights make these cars the best combination of fun, reliability, and efficiency that money can buy. Introduced to the United States as the CRX Si in 1985 and as the Civic Si in 1986, these cars have become fixtures of street racing in both the United States and in Japan (fine, we won’t mention that to your parents), which makes unmolested models a bit hard to find. To increase your odds of finding a 1980s Honda, you might also include a Prelude in your search. And while you’re searching, take a look at our video on the 1987 CRX Si.
#4 Mercedes-Benz 190D–If you’re looking for a tough, reliable engine that comes wrapped in a dollop of luxury, then the Mercedes-Benz 190D is your car. It won’t be the fastest car on the street but it will keep going right on past your friends who are broken down on the side of the road. Besides, who wouldn’t want to say that their first car was a Benz?
#3 Toyota Celica Supra–Mention 1980s Toyota sports cars and most folks will immediately recall the MR2, and with good reason. Don’t forget, though, that Toyota once had an entire line of fun, reliable sports (or, at least, sporty) cars that can now be had for a modest sum, including the Mark II Supra. Produced from 1981-1986, this Supra has great 1980s lines, an inline-six putting out 150 horsepower, and all the reliability you’d expect from a Toyota of that era. While the “Performance-Type” (P-Type) and “Luxury Type” (L-Type) models are mechanical twins, the P-Type’s trim, wheels, and tires give it the superior aesthetics. In your search, don’t neglect the Supra’s four-cylinder Celica sibling.
#2 Volvo 240/242–Whether a wagon, sedan, or coupe, “The Brick” is an obvious choice for your first car. It’s safe, dependable, and, if lowered and paired with the right wheel-tire combination, stands to be the best-looking car in the high school parking lot. You’ll get extra points if, in your search, you manage to find a 242 Turbo coupe or a 262 Bertone.
And finally, #1… Ford Mustang–The Fox-body Mustang, manufactured from 1979-1993, returned the pony car to its rightful place after four years of Mr. Lee Iaccoca’s Mustang II abomination. If you’re looking for a car with power aplenty–and with the potential to offer power beyond reason–then you’d best start looking at the Mustang 5.0, although you should probably also be thinking about how to persuade your parents that a Mustang is, in fact, a perfectly sensible first car. The Fox-bodies came in a variety of trims, but our preference runs toward the LX package for its understated lines.