By definition, young means the 60s and 70s cars we are familiar with are older than they would be and therefore not as intuitive to them. I would recommend starting with a car from their early days and close to their comfort zone, whether it be domestic or foreign, fuel injection or carburetor.
Lots of answers based on one’s preferences etc but not taking in consideration the financial status, driving needs or esthetic preferences young people have. For those folks who enjoy classic cars( and have kids), the path may be more direct for those young classic car future owners ( unless they just dislike their parents’ cars). For others, affordability comes first, followed by esthetics ( theirs). Daily drivers may never be some of classics folks are proposing and somewhat modern ( Miatas, Hondas , Toyotas, later Chevys Fords and the likes) make more sense mostly due to driving needs and economics,let alone parts availability and time/ ability to work on them
as i remember - the Probe had the highest US insurance due to drivers going way beyond their limits. it would be a pretty funny Hagerty insurance suggestion to recommend a car prone to crashes - but absolutely a comfortable car. the whole question of what to recommend is a funny one since you end up buying what is available and gets you excited. i am about to insure my 1973 Volvo 1800ES: no Carbs, Swedish safe, and appreciating (finally) in value. if a youngster would purchase a 4 speed (overdrive) version they could even keep up with modern traffic… Roger
I’d want a fun car with AirBags, Fuel injection. A Older Subaru WRX would be a lot of grins, no issues!
Miata MX 5 keep away from very early ones 1994 is a good year however a word against insurance companies
There are many totaled Miatas and salvage titles about not because they are ruined but because they are low cost the smallest accident the insurance writes them off. Due to this reason clean title Miatas are becoming rare specially NA series
twin overhead camshaft injected engine five speed gearbox ABS braking, cruise control, convertible and hardtop air conditioning, prices on the rise and currently can be bought for as little as peanuts ($3k) parts are plenty and cheap and easy to repair a lot of aftermarket modifications are available
Disadvantages they are small and difficult to spot in traffic only a 2 seater
My advice to a novice getting into the car scene is make sure you dont get in over your head right from the get go. Know what your skill level is and what it’s going to cost you to get the ride you want. Buying a rusted out ,seized motor basket case is not what you want. Get together with your local car guy`s . Join a club. As the saying goes " Birds of a feather flock together ". These guys will help steer you in the right direction .
No one has mentioned an Alfa Romeo Spider for summer months and completely the opposite end of the spectrum I do like the 240 series Volvo with a stick. Had many Alfas and a couple Volvos as a kid and kind of gave the Volvos the “AMG” treatment with turbo wheels, Ansa exhaust, etc. great reliable and safe winter car for your kid.
A Miata. And then a second Miata. Preferably first generation.
Keep in mind that people are interested in cars that push some buttons for them. Some of the cars people mentioned are not cheap to buy or maintain. I would suggest a Miata or a older Honda civic if they are more interested in a fun to drive car with great aftermarket parts support, or a pre-1970 Chevy with either a straight six or small block if they are looking for a older car. I say that because most are not that pricey and parts are cheap and easy to find. If they want to be different than the crowd, then a air-cooled VW is a great car to learn on. I would even say a Chevy Corvair isn’t a bad choice for those who like something different. They’re cheap to buy, they have an interesting history, and surprisingly they have parts support.
1977-1979 Coupe Deville, Bullet-proof 425 V*, big and with chrome bumpers.
Beetle, Yes. Obtain a copy of “How to keep your VW alive for the complete idiot” a set of cheap tools and a floor jack and you will have all you need to keep the young enthusiast busy for years. Safety is my only concern, so my second pick would be a NA Miata. At least those has an airbag.
Two of my sons have hot VW GTIs with one of them being an all wheel drive VR6. My other son had an early 90s Civic, but now views cars as just transportation. His daughter, my granddaughter, loves my Austin-Healey, so maybe it skipped a generation! Having owned a variety of 60s Brits myself, they were/are a reflection of my times, so something more contemporary would likely be more suitable, but again it all depends on the individual’s age. I have also owned a couple of NB Miatas; were very reliable and never had any problems with either one, and they get good gas mileage. Hot hatches would probably be more usable and practical. My biases would be either Honda, Mazda or Suburu. Never again a Nissan, and Toyotas to me seem boring.
How about rescuing an old AMC (American Motors) or Rambler. . . . . .by and large, they’re cheap, easy to work on, and parts are actually plentiful and easy to find. However, resale value is limited. . . . .if it’s not a rare or attractive model (i.e. convertible or station wagon or muscle car) than don’t count on reselling the car for more than you’ve invested. Also (despite Rambler’s image as the “economy car” of the 1960’s / 1970’s. . . . . .Classic and American models), they also produced glamorous “cruisers” (Javelins & Marlins), luxury cars (Ambassadors), and muscle cars (AMX’s), so there’s a wide variety of different models to suit everyone’s taste. Of course, I’m biased (as president of Pacific Gold Rush Ramblers, the Nor. California chapter of the national club, AMC/RC). That’s another “plus” (for collecting and restoring old Ramblers); there are Rambler club chapters all over the country and old geezers like me ready to help out a younger collector with restoration activities and parts.
Key here is to build enthusiasm, not a car. I’d echo the sentiment of KISS. Inline 6 with a 5/6 speed and convertible if possible, otherwise sedan or coupe is fine. BMW ticks the boxes - Z3/Z4 3.0, E46 330i, E36/E46 M3 or E34 M5 for the original sports sedan and has strong network of forums for purchase, maintenance, upgrades along with BMW Car Club of America. Can purchase good to excellent drivers for less than the cheapest of new cars out there. VW R32 is interesting too but expensive vs E36 M3 or E34 M5
You would have to first ask the “enthusiast” to define his/her budget, likes/needs (sports car, sedan., etc.) and how they would define what age range they consider “vintage”. With those 3 answers it wouldn’t be hard to make a sensible recommendation and many of them will be the same. Without them we are each making recommendations for own unique hypothetical “young enthusiast”. The results will vary widely and will basically be meaningless.
Budget is a big deal, as is supply. I live deep in snow belt territory and you aren’t getting a good Mustang cheap beyond the fox bodies without likely getting a basket-case.
Most 1st timers should not take on a a basket case. 1st timer should get a car that they can drive and then do things to.
Half ton pickup trucks 70s to 90s vary in cheapness (squarebodies are moving out of entry level for sure). A new hobbyist is probably much farther ahead getting a cherry 1992 Chev shortbox than a beat 75 that needs everything.
I love oddball makes… but even things like Buicks (before corporate conformity at GM took over) can be a hassle to get parts for. High production Chevrolets and VW are probably the best bet if going pre-70s.
If you like 70s era styling that is a sweet price point to buy now as collector interest is still small for most of that era (76 Cutlasses were a great car for example).
Odds are though… that a new enthusiast under 30 is probably going to be into 1990s and up things. MX5 Miata has been said a lot in this thread and is absolutely one of the right answers if one wants 2 seater.
There is great community and aftermarket for Civics, Golfs, Jettas etc. --and these are the cars Hagerty will be insuring piles of in the next decades. [What did the person drive in high school and later want to “do right” as a keeper car? Same reason other cars from other decades peak with different generations of people].
You can’t beat an early Mustang for a first project, or project period. Readily available parts, easy to service drivelines,etc. I only wish that someday the parts that are specific for first generation Cougars (like door panels) will become available.
I DO think that youngsters these days should have to learn to set points, dwell time, recurve distributors, and adjust/tune carbs. Why? So they can appreciate what FI does for them every millisecond.