Journal: What’s the Best Vintage Car for the Teenage Enthusiast?

What’s the Best Vintage Car for the Teenage Enthusiast?

Avatar By Aaron McKenzie
July 21, 2014
94 comments

Your vintage car enthusiast teenager is just about ready to get their first driver’s license. Soon thereafter, no doubt, they’ll be wanting a car of their own, too, as there’s no way you’ll be letting them anywhere near your beloved 911. This is, after all, a sixteen-year-old kid–no sense in them skidding off the learning curve in anything too pricey.

As a parent (or, for today’s purposes, as a pretend-parent), therefore, what vintage car–say, anything more than twenty-five years old–do you choose for your kid? It needs to be reasonably reliable, cost less than $10,000, and, if only to assuage Mom’s fears, offer the appearance of being passably safe.

Do you track down a clean mid-1980s Japanese car, such as an early Civic Si, or perhaps an A60 Supra? Do you feel more comfortable with a Volvo 240? Or do you dig deep into the automotive archives and opt for some American iron from the 1950s or early 1960s? Who knows, it may even help him or her get into college.

Leave your thoughts below: What’s the best vintage car for the teenage enthusiast?

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1997gtr33Jonathan De LucaGreg Desforgekhdtcb62Jim Levitt Recent comment authors
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1997gtr33
1997gtr33

My first car was a 1991 Honda Prelude Si. Didn’t have any airbags after I put a removable steering wheel on it but I got into my first accident with it and it kept me safe and still drove after. I taught myself how to drive standard in that car and also how to race. That car got me into a lot of trouble but definitely was a good first coupé. Great gas mileage and pretty easy to work on so I would suggest that as my child’s first car.

Jonathan De Luca
Jonathan De Luca

Currently 21… 5 years ago i first bought a 2001 Volkswagen Golf with a slow 8v. Six months after owning it I swapped a VR6 24V in it and kept for almost 2 years. After i changed for a 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit (MK1). Swapped out the heart for a 1.8T from an mk4 and full bolt-ons. Kept it for 2 years and now looking for something else. I’m a bit of a car wh*re but i love experiencing owning as many cars as i can, while i still can haha

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Greg Desforge
Greg Desforge

This is a discussion close to my heart. I have certified car sickness that I passed to my son. When it came to a first car for him, I went impractical and affordable. I went with a ride I was familiar with from my youth. He pitched in all he saved to buy the car and I helped him with refurbishment. We went Triumph Spitfire. He went from there to an 80’s 300zx, to age 19 and a Porsche 944. He is now in college at one of the only Colleges in the country offering a Vintage Restoration program where… Read more »

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khdtcb62
khdtcb62

2004 V70R M6

Purchased 4 years ago when he was 16 for $5,900 and came with a perfect set of OEM alloy rims and snows.

He paid half from his job/xmas/birthday savings. A little heavy on the upkeep expenses, but we shared the car between us. He learned how to drive a stick in it, and how to respect the horsepower/torque gods. All wheel drive, Volvo safety, way fun to drive.

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt

Problem with this is that there is a very high percentage of teenagers in the US that don’t even drive, are not planning to do so in the near future and the ones that do drive consider the automobile an appliance, nothing more!
They just don’t grow up with that large poster of that (insert your favorite car here) which we used to dream of owning one day… their heads are buried into their iPhone chatting or doing who knows what!

Mihai Hornea

I have my eye on an E30 Estate with an engine swap for better fuel efficiency

Richard Deschambault
Richard Deschambault

This is my ’84 GTI, I am giving it to my son when he turns 18. I already have an ’84 Volvo 240 wagon waiting for him to learn how to drive in.
I hope he appreciates my little bunny.

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Ryan Wild
Ryan Wild

My parents bought a volvo 740 wagon brand new in 1992. It was given to me at 16 and despite my best tries to do really dumb things like jump an intersection , reverse 180’s and a verified top speed of 103 I still have it 14 years later. It was too slow and settled into mild understeer when pushed too hard which definitely kept me from crashing it as an over-enthusiastic teen boy. Aside from premature tire wear it still looks pristine and ferries our baby daughter as the family car. But the e30 I helped my girlfriend (now… Read more »

Kim Shugart

I have to say the 80s’ Volvo 240 DL Wagon. I had one of those, got it at 175k miles for $2500 and it lasted like a champ with no big repairs for another 85k miles until I saved up enough money for a downpayment on a pickup truck. It is safe, reliable, and retro-sexy.

Christopher Calvert
Christopher Calvert

I would suggest an Audi Coupe GT from 1981-1987. These were pretty rare from the beginning, but reasonable to buy when you can find one. They share the same unique looks as it’s big brother – the Quattro Coupe, but at a fraction of the cost.

Scott Hitchcock
Scott Hitchcock

How about a 2000 SLK230? Great reliability and really safe? How about a Mazda Miata? Both great.

Doug Miller
Doug Miller

How about a (non-turbo, non-S2 944)? You can get them for a few thousand $, they are pretty reliable & they are great sports cars.

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt

Reliable? I guess you never owned one. Used, with high miles now, they’re just another POS with HUGE (and constant) repair bills!

Jim Rzegocki
Jim Rzegocki

When she was 17 we bought my enthusiast daughter a 1971 BMW 2002. Eleven years later she is still driving that car. It has been fairly reliable, handles well, has good visibility (both for the driver, and because of the Colorado orange color for other drivers). She loves The Pumpkin. The next two cars on her favorites list are a Fiat 500 and a classic Mini.

JMFdeM
JMFdeM

1974 Volvo 245 DL, space for everything.

Wallis
Wallis

Are you all mad? An e 30 as a first car! The insurance on most of the cars mentioned already puts most people out of the running in the uk, 1 litre and its 2000 pounds insurance easily, but as a first car i would say one of the small early volvos, small enough engine to insure and rwd to learn how to control a proper car

Ian Miles
Ian Miles

MKI Golf GTi convertible – still cool even now.
Jaguar XK. Very cheap, quite well made and ready for a revival.
Audi RS4 B5 silly fast, well made cheap and so much potential
Saab 900 Turbo, just because
Lancia Delta integrale MK 1 – not fast enough to be dangerous, needing the best attention.

Tom Middleton
Tom Middleton

(UK) I got a 1991 Golf GTI 16v when I was 20, it was technically my 2nd car, but we’ll skim over that because I only owned my 1st car for a few months. Had the golf since then, now 22, and it’s great. It’s my daily driver, can haul four/five people around in reasonable comfort, insurance isn’t too scary, gets 30mpg+, it’s great on twisty roads and it’s easy to work on yourself. For these reasons I’d say it fits the bill pretty well. Prices are starting rise for cars of this age but I’d say other than the… Read more »

Jono51
Jono51

The cheapest soft top you can find that actually goes and isn’t a complete death trap.

Tim Scott
Tim Scott

Peugeot 205 GTi – very light, and will teach all the basics of car control (especially lift off oversteer). Closest thing to a road legal go kart.

W Grochowski
W Grochowski

As a teen I got my parents hand me down Volvo 242DL with over 200,000 miles on it. Despite my best attempts I could not kill it, that thing came back like Borris the bullet catcher. I totaled a 74 Buick Electra with it and all I needed to fix it was a set of pliers to unbend the crease in the hood. Learned how to drive in the snow with bald tires, pop start it because the battery has been dead for over a week, and shift gears without a klutch (maintenance was my financial responsibility…which means it did… Read more »

Francisco Neira Corvalán
Francisco Neira Corvalán

BMW E30

Antony Ingram
Antony Ingram

I suppose it depends how you define “vintage”. Here in the UK, a lot of cars that would originally have been perfect for learners – first-generation Ford Fiestas, old Vauxhall Novas, Renault 5s, Peugeot 205s and the like – are now both at the age and price range that once again makes them perfect for younger drivers. Likewise MkII Volkswagen Golfs – the MkI would be too, but prices have been pushed up as it’s considered a bona-fide classic. I like the suggestion of the classic Mini from one of the other commenters, and I’d say that other “peoples cars”… Read more »

Hunter
Hunter

I’m 19 and I drive a Diamond Blue 1989 Mercedes 560SL with 50K original miles. Granted this wasn’t my very first car, and 2 seats might not necessarily be practical for everyone my age but I would recommend an old Mercedes to any teenager. Maybe a 300D or 300TD? They’re finally starting to become collectable…

Max
Max

Mine was a Saab 9000 2.3t. Went like a train, didn’t like corners so much 😀 My fav suggestions so far: -MGB -924 -900 (turbo) -e30 -In europe you could add any hot Pug 306gti etc But the winner is the 900 turbo really: -Fast -Safe (!) -Classic design -Can haul pretty much anything -relatively cheap -Whaltetail spoiler and three spoke alloys and still classy as fuck -Leatherseats probably the best seats EVER That being said I am 22 and picking up a 1971 Alfa Spider 1750 tomorrow. If my dad would not have given me the Saab I could… Read more »

André Borges
André Borges

Not a vintage per sé, but a mechanically vintage masterpiece: Volvo C70 1st generation. What a stunning beauty, delightful to drive and, whilst not really easy, not too hard to figure out either.

Andrzej Bartas
Andrzej Bartas

A classic Saab 900! Classic timeless looks, great handling and easy to drive, not to mention one of the safest cars of its era! Parts are a bit on the pricier side, but a great classic nonetheless!

racer129
racer129

Anything but a Porsche 931 or 951. Expensive to own and too many have been lost to delayed maintenance.

Mark Campbell
Mark Campbell

A classic Mini Cooper is the way to go – I love mine. Spares are extremely cheap and readily available and there is a massive enthusiast community on internet forums and plenty of local mini owners clubs (the latter more so in Britain) so there’s plenty of help around if you fancy getting handy with the spanners. The later models made by Rover are still very affordable at around [b]£5000[/b] for a [i]very good[/i] rust free example and the last models had a drivers airbag, front disc brakes upfront and side impact protection. There’s a 5 speed manual box option… Read more »

Coenraad Erasmus
Coenraad Erasmus

Citroen DS? Thanks to the last couple of articles that is my dream first car, I’m 21. Luckily they aren’t too rare in South Africa but alternatively a 70’s GTV or Saab 900

Alex
Alex

Saab 900 is perfect. They’re incredibly cheap, and parts are easy to come by since there are enough examples sitting in pick n pull yards. Huge knowledge base for maintaining them, too.

Enzo
Enzo

Not too many people think about it but a fun choice would be an Alfa Romeo Spider or a Fiat 124 Spider. They’re both Italian cars, if you get a pre 80’s one it’s actually made in Italy (at least the Fiats), parts aren’t too expensive, decent gas mileage. Had a 1975 Fiat 124 Spider while going to college in California. Everybody loved my little red convertible! Oh, and obviously a stick shift!

Frederik
Frederik

I went for a 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S for my first vintage car last year when I was still 25. (But I also have been driving for 6 years with a Renault Modus :p) Those with low milage and in good condition go somewhat over the stated price range above, but I suppose you can find decent enough 944 turbo’s (1988+) under 10k. And the only thing I can say is: this car is just loads of fun, you will be hooked once you have driven it! But maybe it isn’t the best car for a first time driver,… Read more »

Koen
Koen

I agree! I’m 21 and bought an ’86 944 2.5l N/A just one month ago. I’ve driven almost 3000 km in it, and I’m addicted driving it 🙂 It has good power, and when it loses grip, it goes very gradually. It was quite a lot of money for me, but it retains its value.

Mitko Bojilov
Mitko Bojilov

Renault 5 GT Turbo should get the job done. That was my first car and i still have it. And love it.

Mosca Valerio
Mosca Valerio

I’m 20 and i’ve got a Fiat 128 coupé SL 1300, it is so fun to drive! I think that i’ll never sell it!
My dream is an Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV that i found but it costa too much, i need to work to get 7000€ 🙁

JJ
JJ

I’m 25 now, but bought a 924 a couple of years ago. First car i bought myself (had a fiat punto diesel to go to school) and except for the engine it’s a great car to drive. it’s accessible fun and parts are cheap. I’ve been thinking about selling it, but i just can’t.

Adam
Adam

’50s-’60s American iron maybe isn’t the best choice for a teenager. There are many beautiful US cars from that era, but safety isn’t their strong point. Drum brakes, boat-like handling, no airbags, no ABS – I think a young kid with a fresh license should begin with a more safe approach.
A nice and original Japanese or European classic from the ’80 to early ’90s would be a better option. Supra, Volvo 240 or 760, 300ZX, Mercedes W124, BMW E30,E34, wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Olposoch
Olposoch

& Volvo 480, forgotten car you can find for nothing…

Evan
Evan

A 1983-1987 Toyota Corolla AE86. It is a fordable and the community is awesome and very helpful. They are very cheap on gas and a blast to drive.

Brent Sangiuliano
Brent Sangiuliano

The answer to this question is the same to answer to any automotive question that inquires as to what car is the best suited base/place to start, ect.

BMW e30, period.

Arno
Arno

wrong, the answer to any automotive related question is MIATA :p

Zach Hellman
Zach Hellman

I’m 19 now, and I’ve been driving an E30 for 3 years. It practically introduced me to the world of the automobile. Every time I drive it I can’t believe I’m this lucky! Not only is it fun, it’s got a great story behind it – not something one usually gets with the usual teenage ride!

Greg
Greg

I would say a good classic for a teenager would be the following. A late MGB, or a 924 or 944 Porsche.

Tarek
Tarek

At 18 i bought my 1989 Mercedes 420 sel, loved it more than anything and everyone thought it was so cool. Ended up giving it to my brother and got a fiat 500.

Derelict
Derelict

How is this even a question? MGB. They can be had for cheap. They are fun to drive with great steering feel and bolt action shift. Parts are cheap, available used or new, and importantly, everywhere. Enough power to comfortably cruise at 80, if you wanted too, but not enough to get into real trouble. The handling is neutral enough that it will not want to swap ends and kill you (like an E30). My first classic was my ’72 BGT at the age you asked about.

76ohtwo
76ohtwo

I’m 16. I purchased my BMW 2002 a few months ago. Love it more than anything. 🙂

rsdeo
rsdeo

MA6x Supra is perfect. This link is all you need.
http://www.celicasupra.com

Matthew Haber
Matthew Haber

Im looking for something now and it has been a real drag, I live in upstate NY so trying to find something good in snow, and that wont kill me on price or gas has been a real challenge. Any suggestions?

my price is up to about 8 or 9k

Jacob
Jacob

As long as the road’s plowed, my E30 has had no trouble doing our local Cascade mountain passes in the snow using snow tires. Only excitement has been mild unintentional drifting leaving a stop sign in Ellensburg, WA because it turned out a shock mount was busted.

So, rear or front drive, the only limitations will likely be ground clearance and your throttle control.

Jesse D
Jesse D

My first car, and one I plan to keep my entire life, was a 1987 Alfa Romeo Spider Quadrifoglio. Quick enough in the twisties to have some fun, but nowhere near enough power to get into trouble. I’m now more confident driving that car than I am any other vehicle, because I understand its limits and breaking points. Its taught me to be a better driver, with no power steering, no abs, and no traction control. Surprisingly reliable considering the manufacturer too! And there’s no better feeling than putting a smile on the faces of everyone you drive by…

Jeff Knoespel
Jeff Knoespel

Porsche 914, 924, 944. Fun, simple, cool, well balanced but not too fast. Plus, they’re all Porsches. Awesome!

Michelle F
Michelle F

I got my ’81 Toyota Celica Supra when I was 16, got my ’85 (which I still have) when I was 17. My dad was OK with selling and pointing out for-sale Supras to our teenage friends, too.

Justin
Justin

Mk1 MR2!

Wakaba
Wakaba

I’m 18 and always wanted to drive a vintage car. At first I had the 944 in my focus but now I have laid my eyes upon the E30, a car I always admired for its simple beauty. So if I find a nice one to buy I’m going for the E30.

Colin

I bought my first car when right when I turned 18- a 1988 Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R. When I bought it I did all the basics- radiator, brakes, bearings, bushings and tires. Since then the only thing I’ve had to replace was plugs and wires (simply because they were old and rotten) and recently the TPS, which was $25. They have a reputation for being unreliable, but
I don’t see it. Already have almost 15,000 miles on mine with very minor and simple issues. Pretty quick cars and inexpensive as well.