Journal: What Are The Best Classic Cars For Students?

What Are The Best Classic Cars For Students?

By Michael Banovsky
August 12, 2016

I was pretty fortunate growing up. Obviously, my parents recognized my interest in cars from a young age, and after having roughly 16 years to think about it, decided that the first few months of driving should be on a, “May I have the van?” basis, before presenting a choice I could afford on my after-school wage: lease a then-new Mazda Protege5 or buy a 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo. Uh…

The brick is still with me, albeit in storage, but it was a great car for high school: enough room for friends, comfortable for long trips, robust on any road, cheap to fix (know anyone else who’s blown up a ‘red block’?), and very easy to find in a parking lot. Minus points include a driving experience (and seat position) fit for couch potatoes, lift-off oversteer, poor fuel consumption, and styling that repelled high school-aged girls. I can blame its boxy looks and not mine, right?

A Volvo P1800 ES would have been my ‘dream’ car in high school, but in hindsight, I’m glad I was driving a car tough enough to (mostly) survive the first years in my care. An ES, well, I’m not so sure it’d have emerged unscathed.

So whether you’re going off to college or know a 16-year-old with some cash to burn, what’s the best classic car for a student?

Join the Conversation
0 0 votes
Article Rating
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Gary Stokley
Gary Stokley(@gary_stokley)
1 month ago

Looks very cool, but I can’t afford it yet. While I’m concerned about other waste and student concerns. Now the main thing for me is to finish all the difficult tasks and the article summary maker helps me with this. Summarizing turned out more difficult for me than just writing, so I cannot cope without help.

1 year ago

I had a 1988 Jaguar XJ-S V12 and I got it from my uncle when I was a freshman. I commuted to college, but later had to sell it. It was obviously taking too much time and money. I had to save up for my Canadian postdoc internship and when I moved to Ontario, I just realized how I missed my Jaguar.

4 years ago

Bought my 85 GTV 2.0 in ’99 when I finished high school… she just had the ex group A 2.5 engine that I installed removed and is getting ready for a 3.2 GTA and ITB transplant.
its a never ending love affair!

Christopher Cook
Christopher Cook
4 years ago

1957 Fiat 1100 103e great little car

Neville Britto
Neville Britto
4 years ago

Solid article! I still have and regularly drive my 1985 Volvo 740 Turbo sedan and close to 10 years after graduation it’s still a riot to drive. Man what a blast it used to be blowing the doors off mid-90s Civics that most teenage boys and girls fawned over (it dropped many jaws in the process). Those old 240/740/940s has the styling of a brick but find me something stronger than those 2.1L 4-cyl. B21FTs and 2.3L 4-cyl. B230FTs (other than maybe a cement block) redblocks! What a great car it’s been, despite it not having airbags it’s still stronger than most things on the road today (thankfully I didn’t so much as put a dent on her in that period).

4 years ago

Classic Mini Cooper! Preferably a carbureted one so them young teens(including me) can learn on how to take care of cars! Here is mine:

4 years ago

Nice Gtv6! I recognize it well. I own it;)

Craig Wright
Craig Wright(@madewright)
5 years ago

I agree with Mark Morley, unless by the time your child reaches 16 AND has developed an appreciation for a classic. I’ve had my ’82 Fiat Spider for 30 years, but by the time our last child became of driving age, she received the three pedal ’95 Mazda Protégé. She did not want to drive the Fiat, because it did not have power steering. The Mazda was the perfect car for her, and having 3 pedals lessened the ability to text and drive.

Mark Morley
Mark Morley(@mytang66)
5 years ago

As a father, insurance claims mgr and classic car guy I would never put my kids in a classic car for daily use. Kids will do stupid things when driving and the crash results of late model to classic are literally life and death differences. In the States I would recommend a mid 90’s Mustang or equivalent than can be modified for some fun but holds together well in a collision

Russ Hibbard
Russ Hibbard(@bullethead)
5 years ago

The cover photo brought back memories… my first car was a ’65 Mustang K/GT Fastback prepped for SCCA duty by Holman & Moody. In 1971, just $1500 bucks. Got me in trouble a few times but I loved that car. Replaced it two years later with a nearly perfect ’67 Austin Healey BJ8, which was far more appealing to romantic interests. Now past 60, I drive death traps every day: a ’62 356S, ’64 VW Bus, and ’67 911S are my principal transportation. I’m not a parent but imagine that most want modern safety.

Reasonably priced ’60s classics are getting hard to find and probably aren’t on most GenZ kids minds, but modern options should appeal to them. Mr. Frawley suggests great examples, to which I’d add any ’90s Honda Prelude Si or CRX, Nissan 240SX, Toyota MR2 or Subaru Impreza. Note that Japanese theme. All are sporty and dependable with low service costs, and far safer than what my generation drove. BMWs, Mercedes, Saabs or Volvos from that period can be had cheaply too, but are much more expensive to maintain.

Patrick Frawley
Patrick Frawley(@fastpatrick)
5 years ago

Lots of hairs to split here – old and worn vs. recent and difficult to fix, fun vs. safe (we’re talking new drivers here, remember), too many contradictory ideas about image and attractiveness.

Leaning towards either a first-generation RX-7 or any Scirocco. A YJ or later Jeep would be cool. A Fiat Spider?

David Ardley
David Ardley(@wile7)
5 years ago

I love the old Mustangs…I wrote about my desire on my blog about ‘hankering’ after one.

I went to Uni in the UK in 1982 and my first car was a 1972 Ford of Europe Ford Escort 1100cc (the body shell type recently made infamous in the Fast and Furious film). It was a great first car. Quick, easy to maintain and handled very well – and quite cheap to insure! Fat wheels, CB and lettered windscreen followed….class! Thereafter a mini pick up, Ford Cortina then an RS 2000 AVO….heady car for a student at the time but I worked hard in bars etc to pay for it. Wish I’d never so,d it….

Today, looking for a first car for my eldest daughter (19) I’m going Japanese; Honda Jazz, Subaru Justy, Suzuki Swift……something safe, reliable and funky that’s cheap to insure and I can still maintain it for her as not too complicated.

I’d love to get her an old school mini or something but prices have gone mad. Sadly (and wife wants her to have airbags…..groan).

Rik Jongen
Rik Jongen(@rik_jongen)
5 years ago

I started as a 18yr old (that was in 2002) with a Alfa Spider 2.0, a series 3 from 1985. The car was from my uncle and he asked me to “look after it” because he allmost never needed it and wanted it to be used. It wasn’t in the best shape, had a lots of miles on it (California import), but that car ignited my love for classics. My dad bought a spanking new Peugeot 306 XSI in those days, my friends loved that car, but I just liked driving in that old, loud, rattling Spider without power steering or proper isolation so much more!

When I was 20 I started my interns and needed a car to drive 2 hours a day. The Spider wasn’t really suited for this because of some reliability issues. I saved some money to buy a small car to get there and was looking for something like a Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Fiat Punto etc, so I bought a 1975 Alfa Giulia Nuova 1300 for €2200… I only had €2250 on my account so I could pick the car up, fill up the tank and drive home. When I came home I had an empty tank and an empty bank account!

My parents were furious, to says the least, haha! They said I couldn’t drive “that thing” every day for 160km, it was not safe and reliable enough for the the job. They wanted me to sell the car and get a proper one.
So my grandmother heard what happened and called my parents. She said that they had to be glad I didn’t waiste my money on alcohol and drugs, therefor I could use her car (a Peugeot 206 automatic) to get to my interns and didn’t have to sell the Giulia.

After graduation I sold the Giulia for good money and bought….another Giulia! But now a 1st series ’65 1600 Super. That was my dream car and is still sitting in my garage now for allmost 10 years.
And that Spider? It’s still somewhere in our family waiting for better times and a technical restoration.

5 years ago

In my case it was a Citroen Traction Avant. But that was back in the 80s, before the idea that some cars were safer than others had penetrated the public consciousness. Nowadays you’d want to know your kid pretty well before deciding to put them into something without airbags and rumple zones. So late 90s Alfa or Jag, perhaps? Cheap, enjoyable, different, modern enough to be safe, and not as unreliable as their reputations would suggest.

Tom Hale
Tom Hale(@lyonsvee)
5 years ago

I had a 1988 Jaguar XJ-S V12 coupe as my first car in high school. Once I got the mechanicals sorted it was a very reliable car and I still have it 80k miles of ownership later. It’s like a sibling!

Linda N Brian Schick
Linda N Brian Schick(@sparkey60)
5 years ago

1962 Renault Gordini followed by my first new car; 1968 GTO which I babied and kept for 5 years until I bought a new Corvette.

Ian Cave Johnson Flanagan
Ian Cave Johnson Flanagan(@bfastofchampions)
5 years ago

I had a 1985 Mini Cooper I threw a 1330cc into. Discs up front and drums in the back. I love that car so much that I still have it!

Pierre Lapointe
Pierre Lapointe(@pierrevinty)
5 years ago

I had a Peugeot 205 when I was a student but it was not a classic yet, just old 🙂

Jorge Toribio
Jorge Toribio(@fb_868228999940812)
5 years ago

Althoug my pride and joy came in my second year of school when I managed to buy an e36 m3 euro spec in dakar yellow… Sadly the engine nearly exploded and ended up building my monster and started a great project car swapping the old motor with an s54b32 engine (e46 m3)

Jorge Toribio
Jorge Toribio(@fb_868228999940812)
5 years ago
Reply to  Jorge Toribio

Here are some pics!

Jorge Toribio
Jorge Toribio(@fb_868228999940812)
5 years ago

325i e30 is a great choice imo

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson(@pdxbryan)
5 years ago

Personally I think you nailed it with the Volvo. Don’t know what you could’ve done about the mileage but the other issues could have been cured with a little enginuity. Better driving seats (salvaged), a decent aftermarket steering wheel, and a few suspension parts from the IPD catalogue, you’d be good to go. And the looks? #1-Did you really want to hang with girls than didn’t dig Volvos? #2-If you did, then consider, in hind sight, you killed two birds with one stone. Transportation and birth control!

5 years ago

Went the slow, strong and reinforced route for my daughter, 04 Land Rover DII with an ARB front bumper. When I was 16 I wanted a chrome bumper MGB, then only mildly used and cheap. Ended up with a Renault R5 (LeCar) that was a barrel full of monkeys fun to drive for only $800

David M. Goodson
David M. Goodson(@davidm-goodson)
5 years ago

I would not in good conscience let my kids drive anything that lacked modern safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes.

Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant(@mgcam)
5 years ago

So I guess everyone who allowed their kids to drive before the advent of such nanny features were irresponsible?

Gimme a break…

Jorris van den Berg
Jorris van den Berg(@jo-vdberg)
5 years ago

Porsche 924 like mine

5 years ago

The 924 is actually my frst car. What a good choice !

Sam Lazarakos
Sam Lazarakos(@samlaz7)
5 years ago

84 Buick Electra
-gas guzzler so I couldn’t get in any trouble
– slow
-built like a tank

Tom DesRochers
Tom DesRochers(@brown76)
5 years ago
Reply to  Sam Lazarakos

Sam, I agree. but I would expand that to anything American made from the Malaise Era.

Tim Coorevits
Tim Coorevits(@coorevits-tim)
5 years ago

Mercedes w115 220d
and safely slow

Witawas Srisaan
Witawas Srisaan(@sriswit)
5 years ago

Alfa Milano

5 years ago

Saab 900 classic turbo