View Full Version : Starter Classics

04-15-2004, 08:43 AM
My eldest was talking about buying a classic VW Beetle the other day (which is a great idea) and that got me thinking about what would be a good vehicle to get a youngster into the hobby. Doesn't have to be an LBC of course, but they do present the best combination of fun and ease of maintenance. In addition to the Beetle, I would list the Spitfire and the Midget, definitely a Mini, although the prices of those are getting out of whack now.........any other ideas? I am not familiar with American cars, but surely there must be something that is reasonable in price and meets the fun and practical criteria?

04-15-2004, 09:01 AM
The Suzuki Sprint (especially a well-maintained Turbo). Porsche 924 or 944 (again, if well maintained). A decent old 325 BMW (if there are any good ones left). Mazda 323 4 wheel drive or maybe a similar Subie Justy. A Toyota Starlet (if you like rwd and japanese cars). Since I like FIATs, I think an old Yugo is a great deal (I've seen decent, non-rusted ones here in NJ for under $100 USD). A first-generation Toyota MR-2. A rubber bumper Midget. A Brick-Volvo (142 / 144).
My first choice would be a first-generation, 1600 Miata.

04-15-2004, 09:15 AM
I've been really happy with my Spitfire in this regard. Super easy to work on, decent part supply, reasonable prices and quite fun to drive. Others might include Chevrolet Corvairs (2nd generation), 70s Toyota Celica, MG Midget, late 2nd generation Camaro/Firebird, VW Bug (and related), Datsun Z, Triumph TR7, 79-85 Mazda RX-7

04-15-2004, 09:43 AM
I say go with a spitfire or even a porsche 914 they are usually pretty cheap, fun to drive and not so complicated to work on that you'll loose your mind.

Cheers, graemlins/thirsty.gif graemlins/driving.gif

04-15-2004, 09:47 AM
Hmmmmm, never thought about the 924......insurance would be a factor for him, so I would have to look into that. Likewise with the BMW 325.....those are notoriously skittish in the wet too, and he's not that good a driver images/icons/frown.gif

Thanks for the input sor far.....some interesting ideas.

Bruce Bowker
04-15-2004, 10:07 AM
Surprised no one mentioned an MGB.

04-15-2004, 10:18 AM
MGB is a good start I suppose, but a bit obvious IMO. Besides, I already have one, I was thinking of something different images/icons/wink.gif

04-15-2004, 05:10 PM
Off the top of my head, thinking strictly cost-wise (at time of purchase)... I'd say 1) Fiat X1/9 2) Fiat 850 Spider - not sure what they're worth on the market these days 3) MG Midget 4) Triumph Spitfire 5) first series Mazda RX7 6) first series Toyota MR2 7) Mini's - although they are getting a tad expensive now 8) VW Beetle or other variants - Type 3, Type 4, Karmann Ghia 9) even Fiat 500's - plenty of those floating around North America now and easy to uprate the small engine, ...that's all I can think of for now.

Most of those are cars are relatively cheap to purchase (except for some people who over-value their cars... that's another topic), are common enough to have half decent parts supply.

The other thing to consider... Many of the cars that tend to be worth more money can be purchased for cheaper, if you find an example that has rough cosmetics but is good mechanically, the rough cosmetics will under-value it and make it affordable, and many of these can pass a safety easily and be very driveable for a number of years before a restoration will be finally required.

Oh yeah... forgot about my beloved British saloon cars/Import sedans images/icons/grin.gif Most lower end British saloon cars sell for very little money and any of them from the 1960's up should be fairly driveable as is for modern traffic conditions ( Hillman's, Austin's, et al) Or how about a Datsun 510 (early series), any 1970's Mazda rotary car (pre-RX7), or just flip through local freebie classified paper and you'd be amazed what oddball import cars show up in there and many for a nice price for a decent driver because demand will be so low, parts supply... just worry about that later.

I'm done now... graemlins/crazyeyes.gif really... graemlins/crazyeyes.gif

04-15-2004, 06:45 PM
Second generation Honda CRX, if you can find one that's not rusted away.

04-16-2004, 01:05 AM
In the UK and Australia, at least, Imps are often bought as starter classics.

04-16-2004, 09:02 AM
Very true.....I have yet to see one over here though. If I could get my hands on one, a Marina or Hillman Avenger (Plymouth Cricket?) would work.

04-16-2004, 12:46 PM
Opel Manta.

Cheap to buy, fun to drive, easy to work on, unique styling, 2+2 seating and the only little Euro car with a three-body trunk.


04-16-2004, 12:52 PM
BMW 320is. Less power than the 325, so less likely to get in trouble. Very practical, tough, great handling, and surprisingly cheap to run. Dirt cheap to buy.

Whether you go with the E21 body 320, or the E30 body 325, go with an s model so you have the LSD. Makes a world of difference on grip in bad weather.

04-16-2004, 02:33 PM
I don't know if they are available your side of the pond but how about a P5 or P6 Rover, not very fast but plenty of style (excluding the 3.5 V8, to expensive to insure). Or what about a MK1 or MK2 Escort in standard, RS or Mexico guise or even a MK1 or MK2 Cortina.

There are plenty of 60s/70s UK saloons that are cheap to buy and run, just depends on availability over there.

Still, with your knowledge of the MGB I would guess a Midget or Sprite would be a good bet.

04-16-2004, 02:59 PM
The biggest issue with those old Brit saloons would be the cost of getting parts shipped over.

04-16-2004, 05:35 PM
I guess the first question would be the COOL factor...........Sorry if i offend anyone here but very few self respecting kids today would be caught dead in half the cars mentioned here.......I,ll defer to my son and daughter on this....My Rover is an old mans cars....My fathers MGB GT is only slightly better...Putt Putt cars i think they said....They like cars that are fast(relative term)good on gas, turn heads( not us old folks heads)and are high on the Cool factor chart........So starting there the Honda CRX qualifies(my daughter has one)Its quick and corners like a go cart....bulletproof motor cheap to buy and many aftermarket goodies....A Beetle could qualify if tricked out but here price is climbing(definately not a stock one)The Porsche of course but we,re talking cheap and ease of repair.....I would suggest a Datsun 240-260Z......These are fast, cheap to buy and many aftermarket parts are available..........Really it depends on the kid because like anything .............There is no accounting for taste.........ITs all about the bling bling

bang bang
04-16-2004, 08:47 PM
I have a Rover P5b Coupe right hand drive that Im doing a rolling restoration on. My 16 year old thinks its the ultimate cruising machine.
I still am not going to let her drive it

04-16-2004, 09:18 PM
One of the large factors that comes to mind is that kids don't have much money, so it becomes imperative that their first car is not a waste of money. The problem with Spridgets and Spitfires is that unless you buy one that is totally restored, a person will lose money on the deal. Granted, for those of us in the hobby with jobs and other cars, that's not a big deal, but for a younger person, it's more important that they be able to "trade-up" as they get more money.

There are many great starter classics out there with small purchase prices, cheap parts and good
(and increasing) resale. MGB roadsters top the list. I've seen '70-'73 MGBs as low as $2500 for solid, well running and not bad looking cars. There are still some decent TR6s around, and if you can find one, they're great starter classics. TR7s convertibles have no resale, but will in 3-5years (especially injected cars.) Plus they are very underrated in terms of fun potential...plus they're actually really comfortable for even tall guys like me!

Even though Fiat 2000 (injected models 1980 and newer) are wonderful cars, but the parts are too dang expensive. Still, you can buy a perfect one for $5000, and they are really fun.

In terms of American cars, the list is rather endless, but a few 70s models are starting to appreciate. 75-79 Trans Ams (with screaming chicken decals -- black and red are most desirable) are no brainer in appreciation potential. 1974-1982 Corvettes can be had in good shape for under $4500, and '84-'87 Vettes are under $6000, but their appreciation potential is about 15 years off -- but they're fun cars, provided you're under 6 feet tall and can put up with horrible ergonomics and the Atari dash. Another fun and very cheap car is a mid-80s Mustang GT convertible. They tend to be abused, though.

04-16-2004, 11:24 PM
You know, there are some really good suggestions there, and each will be given consideration......thank you all for your input. A P5B though? That IS the ultimate cruising machine, one that I would love to get my mitts on! I have never seen one over here, is it a left hooker or right hand drive still?

Another consideration of course is that wonderful Wisconsin winter, so most sports cars, although desirable, would be rather impractical. My youngest is 16, and he thinks of my MGB as a babe magnet.......not as good as an E-Type, but close. You see, there are a few kids driving ricers, and a few with BMWs (that kind of high school) but none with classic cars, and it is the different kind of car that he goes for. But I digress. The older boy is the one thinking about it, so we'll see. He doesn't go for the rice rockets either.

[ 04-16-2004: Message edited by: Steve ]</p>

04-16-2004, 11:33 PM
Steve, count me as one that would suggest a CRX, for the reasons most have listed: cheap entry fee, plentiful parts, easy to fuel and insure (a biggie), and, they are fun little cars.

04-17-2004, 02:16 AM
A well-sorted Volvo P1800 would be the ultimate chick-magnet, me thinks.
Not too common, not a rice-cooker, bullet proof mechanicals, oodles of style and still somewhat affordable.
Would blow them there Beemers out of the water! graemlins/driving.gif

[ 04-16-2004: Message edited by: rulle7 ]</p>

04-17-2004, 03:38 AM

Some of the British saloons are more readily available than others...

- Unfortunately no Escort Mk 1's were ever sold here (at least of the European kind), I only wish... There are a few private import examples around North America but that's about it.

- Plenty of Cortina's around and good parts supply, I have lots of contact with Cortina owners and with examples for sale all over the continent.

- Rover P6's... they're around, Rovernut here on BCF is the resident expert on them and I believe parts supply wouldn't be too difficult

Any of the British saloons can be cheap to operate. However to restore one over here can be a little tricky as parts supply can be sporadic, but if you find one in decent shape cosmetically the mechanical parts can easily be found in most cases as many of them share parts with sports cars that are much more common over here.

And British saloons do have a strong following over here, our club - British Saloon Car Club of Canada - has over 500 members and is an active club. IMHO, a saloon car makes a great, interesting alternative to a sport car, and some of them can be set up easily as a nice sports saloon with decent performance.

04-17-2004, 10:03 AM
I like the Volo P1800 idea. Cool car and fairly uncommon. As far as I'm concerned stay away from a honda, they are only good for blowing up in movies.

Cheers, graemlins/thirsty.gif graemlins/driving.gif

04-19-2004, 12:20 PM
If its a "chick-magnet" he's after, I can't imagine failing with a nice classic mini. The really cool cars attact guys, the cute ones attract girls. The old beetles can be fun in snow as well and always seem to turn girls' heads.

My CJ always attracted girls, but once they rode in it in the rain, even with the rag-top up, they were no longer impressed. Maybe it was all that water sloshing around the floor. graemlins/thirsty.gif

04-21-2004, 02:56 PM
I would stay away from Beetles before 1970 and the Spitfire for a new driver as both of these have swing axles - go into a corner over your head and slam on the brakes and both will guarantee, at the minimum, the need for a large can of upholstery cleaner.

My first car was a 1970 Beetle, and I still think they are the best of the lot - trailing arm rear suspension, not the hateful Super Beetle and with a slightly larger, more powerful engine (1600cc).

Parts are relatively avialable and fairly cheap (not to mention that the electrical system works and they don't leak oil). The downside is that in Milwaukee, a Beetle is like a mobile, personal ice box. Given that they do not have a continuous supply of corrosion inhibitor emanating from the front of the vehicle (as do most British cars) most of the Beetles north of the Mason Dixon line have departed to Rust Heaven.

For a dry, summer car, a Beetle is easy to fix up, reliable (as opposed to a Fiat - they do not routinely set fire to themselves) and fun.

Christopher H
05-09-2004, 04:52 PM
My Votes might also include:

2nd gen rx-7-much better chasis than first gen car

65-68 Ford Mustang v8 hardtop, If you can fine one in reasonable shape for decent money

Triumph TR-7, again if you can find the right car for the right money.