Question of the Week: What car would you recommend for a young enthusiast?

Classic cars are intimidating for first-time buyers. Younger enthusiasts are often struggling to repay college loans or trying to pay rent, or maybe they’re just starting a family. Yet some are passionate enough about vintage cars that they manage to save for an enthusiast vehicle—and those budding gearheads can often use some guidance about where to best invest their hard-earned money.

Of course, there is the “just do it” recommendation. Just buy a car. Any car. Whatever excites you is a great place to start. However, sometimes it’s doing someone a favor to say that a clapped-out Jaguar from the ’80s isn’t the best car to cut your teeth on—especially if a tight budget is involved. After all, those with a bit of experience in the vintage car world have seen which cars have great parts and club support and observed which models boast steady values, which would protect a new buyer from a massive money loss—though that is often par for the course.

So what would be the car you’d recommend to a young enthusiast looking to buy their first vintage ride? Sound off below and maybe give us a few reasons why. We’ll compile a list of the most suggested rides next week, so check back in to see if your suggestion was a popular one.

I would suggest a first generation Cougar (67-70). While they aren’t exactly as plentiful as their sister, the mustang, they are unique. Most parts will interchange. Even the base model comes standard with a v8. And they are relatively inexpensive to buy depending on what part of the country you are buying the car from.

My '68 was bought for $4500. After a trans. rebuild, new radiator, and paint, disc brake swap the entire project was less than $10000. To beat all of it, the interior is factory and perfect. And it still has all of its original driveline.

Also, the 65-69 Ford Galaxies can be had very reasonably. In the following photo you will see my 65 500xl 2dr. It also has it’s original driveline (289, c4. 9"rear) and had only 45000 miles at the time of purchase. This car has near perfect interior (only the dash pad needs replaced) buckets, consoles loo e, reclining passenger seat. It was $6,000 because the guy it was bought from wanted a big block car.


How about a VW Beetle. I happened to have started with one in my youth and have many fond memories. They’re still reasonably plentiful and well priced for the most part. Parts are reasonably inexpensive, and anyone with the faintest bit of mechanical inclination can work on one.

So if beetles turn your crank, then they’re awesome little classic cars with a ton of history.

(My 1973 Sports Bug nearing completion)

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It’s cliche, but a first generation mustang (specifically when they switched over to the alternator from the generator) is really a good start due to production amount. I personally bought an inline 6 for $1,500 back in ‘08 and have loved every second of it (attached a picture of it). The C4 auto transmission is surprisingly easy to service. The electrical system, suspension, motor work, etc is all very straight forward and easy to learn.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why people out there talk down about inline 6 mustangs. A well built inline 6 will perform on par with a V8 and it will surprise people when you pop the hood. They’ll pull upper teens to low 20s on gas mileage, and the 2.8 gear ratio actually works very well for cruising speeds of 55-70.

Edit: I would like to add that this car or the Falcon, since they are basically the same car, would be good. And the sooner you get it, the more memories you can make.

I bought mine when I was 19. Started driving it daily a year later. My wife and I started dating in it 7 years ago. We drove to and from the hospital for the birth of our son in it (he’s 4 now). And we drove it cross country when we moved from So Cal to South Florida. I wouldn’t trade this car for any amount of money.


How about a nice clean early Ford Falcon. My first street car was a 1966 but I have about a half dozen of the 1963 cars. Cheap parts, virtually indestructible.

Teach him/her how to drive a 3 speed on the tree and they would be the only kid in school that could do that.


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BMW Z3, especially the up-engined later models, and with the 5-speed stick. A simple but elementary car, good to learn a lot of automotive basics on as well as just fun to drive!

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I would absolutely agree with you on inline 6 cylinder engines being great performers. There is a whole slew of aftermarket performance parts for inline 6s. It is, in most cases, cheaper to build a performance v8. I am a v8 guy, but love the originality of seeing performance 6 cylinder engines.

BTW, the 300 I6 is probably my favorite truck engine. Have one in my '95 f150 and wouldn’t trade it for a v8 of any kin in that truck. GREAT engine.


Pre 74 (chrome not rubber bumper) MGB or MG Midget/Sprite. Absolutely the best bang for the buck sports cars ever made. Either is great fun to drive or vintage race. The A engine series Midgets are still kicking tail in SCCA, the MGB is near perfectly front to rear weight ratio (51% 49% rear) offered. Parts are on a par with any small block chebby in cost. Truth be told 1968 is my preferred cut off date with zero emissions (read that no vacuum leaks issues).

But, I’m 70 years old with a 16 year old’s yen!

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I’d recommend the Mazda Miata, later MX-5. I came into possession of my 2006 MX-5 a year ago after succumbing to my wife’s pleas to get off my motorcycle after 54 years of riding. It turned out to be wonderful trade and provides the reason for my recommendation-the joy of driving ! Their popularity with us older folks who can afford to garage them for northern winters provides thousands of them for the marketplace that are relatively rust-free and have had better-than-average care taken of them over their lifetime. You can’t beat the sun and wind in your hair (even once it’s thinning) , and parts and maintenance are relatively inexpensive.


I told our daughter and would tell any other young person the same: NO CARBS!
Late 80’s or newer, or aftermarket F. I.
I’d recommend a 4th Gen Camaro/Firebird. They are a steal right now, as Hagerty has said they have bottomed and an uptick suggests their value will only increase. They are lots of bang for little buck.image|550x500


The Nissan 240SX is great car for the young enthusiast. Plenty of torque, and power - mated with 5spd stick, is a treat to drive.

Light weight, rear wheel drive - really fun to throw it into a corner is especially fun when the rear end steps out a bit and goes into a slide.

My 1996 has over 287,000 km’s, and works great.

A '60s Mustang convertible.

For a young, beginning or budget-minded vintage car enthusiast, you would be hard pressed to find a better collector car than a 65-70 Ford Mustang—especially a hardtop which are plentiful and usually inexpensive. A nice driver can be had for around $10K. Plus, parts are cheap, information is plentiful and they are easy to work on.

But you’ll have to be prepared to be approached at the gas pumps every time you fill up. It seems everyone wants to talk to you about your old Mustang.

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GM body on frame with Fuel injection and electronic ignition.
Or 6cyl w/ powerglide on 70’s and older if they’re into classics.But most are leaning to the imports and I will agree that Miata and Z3’ from first owners can be good deal. I opted to buy my son a mercedes E320 thats built like a tank and parts cars are usually in the wrecking yards.

For a young kid on a budget and wants to look cool, any Corvette mid-seventies thru the C-4 run. Most are inexpensive and some have decent horsepower. All have the look and handling and they would be great cars to upgrade.

I would suggest a 1994-2004 Ford Mustang GT or Cobra. Low entry price, lots of performance upgrades, easy availabilty of parts and service and an enthusiastic community. A car that’s fun to drive and near the bottom of it’s value curve.

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Lexus IS300 for the youngsters.

Ford 300 straight six in a 2wd ford pickup with a manual transmission. My personal favorites are the ‘93-‘96 efi models with a hydraulic clutch. Easy to work on and learn, modern A/C, super reliable but introduce electronically controlled components, and have some of the most robust aftermarket support in existence. Basic parts for it are stupid cheap too.

KISS. E21 or E30 BMW. They are compact, reliable, easy to work on, plenty of parts available to keep them sotck or to modify, and a great support base out there from independent forums the the BMW CCA.