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What is the Best Starter Classic Car for You?

Starter Classic Car

As a young man, I always enjoyed spending time in the garage with my father, tinkering on some old car. My dad is a real classic car enthusiast and pretty good with a wrench. His likes became my likes, and eventually, I got into collecting cars too. This got me thinking, however, had I not had my father to guide my way, how would I know what would be a good starter classic car when I first started out?

What is the best starter classic car?

This may seem like a simple question, but it isn’t. There are probably as many opinions on the best starter classic car as there are enthusiasts. In fact, the starter classic car segment is a huge part of the classic car market. With starter classic cars becoming a cornerstone of the classic car hobby.

This all makes sense when you consider how many younger enthusiasts enter the market each year. New collectors are entering the market so rapidly, that a recent auction sold the largest number of cars in that event than in any other single event in its history. A whopping $141M changed hands that weekend.

Sure, many of those cars were high-ticket classics that sold to veteran collectors, but many were simply starter classic cars purchased by newbies.

This gets us back to our central point, what is the perfect starter classic car? There are literally thousands of different makes and models to choose from, so choosing your first car won’t be easy, but also will not be without options. In reality, there’s something for everyone. If you like classic American muscle cars like Ford Mustangs you’ll find plenty to choose from. Maybe you’re into little Italian or British sports cars. Yep, those will be available too. If you like classic pickups and SUVs you’re in good company because those are quickly becoming very popular.

To help you with your search, we’ve prepared some thoughts on some classic cars considered good for those newly entering the hobby. We’ve also gone out on a limb and selected five (5) outstanding starter classic cars for you to consider.

What’s a good starter classic car for a beginner?

I guess it goes without saying, you should always buy what you like. So, what is your taste? Are you hot for a two-seat sports car, a tire-smoking muscle car, or a classic pickup?

The next obvious thing to consider is your budget, and that you stick to it. While it’s true, a classic car is an appreciating asset and considered a good investment, being conservative is a smart approach when beginning a new, expensive hobby. Instead, buy a car you’ll love owning, a car you really want to drive and enjoy, and buy the best example you can afford.

Lastly, you should consider how much maintenance is going to be involved. If you’re not good with a wrench, a good classic car is one that’s low maintenance. True, nearly all classics will need some TLC and mechanical love at some point, it’s better to stick to the makes and models that are mechanically less complicated and require less expertise to keep running.

Think of reliability

When it comes to maintenance, classic American cars are more reliable and easier to work on relative to their European and Japanese counterparts. Moreover, parts for American classics are also easier to find and they’re generally more affordable. For example, a 1966 Ford Mustang is quite easy to keep on the road, but an early 70’s MG – not so much.

Any classic car or truck will need to be touched with a wrench eventually. Some classics will require an expert mechanic—a specialist for that particular make or model of car. This is usually the case with cars from Italy, Germany, or Britain, which have unique engineering and complexities. Others, including most American classics, are so mechanically simple that they can usually be repaired by most local mechanics with parts from an auto parts store.

With all that said, let’s talk about a few options for your starter car.

1) 1976-1981 Chevy Corvette

While there are some classic Corvettes that are highly coveted and have very high price tags, some even go for more than $1M. It may surprise you, that most are very affordable. It is not unreasonable to find restored models from the 1960s offered between $30,000 to $50,000. The price will depend largely on the engine size, its history, or its rarity. If you are interested in Corvettes made between 1976 and 1981, then you can find very affordable cars.

These older-model classic Corvettes won’t wow you with the power of the new 2020 Chevy Corvette, but you’ll find them reliable and easily modified. Also, with the new Corvette being introduced, there will be greater interest in the classic styling and retro cool interiors of the previous platform. These models can easily be found with a V8 engine, air conditioning, and an automatic transmission. So, don’t have to know how to drive a stick to enjoy one of these classics.

Corvettes are as fun as they are comfortable. They are simple to repair and parts are cheap and easy to find. The average price for a Corvette in good condition is around $15,000.

2) 1971-1980 International Scout II

The classic Ford Broncos have long been a favorite of collectors. Now, most classic SUVs, like the vintage Ford Broncos, are becoming very popular. In fact, Chevy Blazers and Jeep Grand Wagoneers have become very hot items in this segment of the collector market. The value of these trucks—built from the 1960s into the 1980s—has climbed rapidly over the last few years. These makes and models may be a bit too much for the beginner.

However, if you are interested in classic SUVs, the value of the International Scout, while also climbing, might be more suited to the novice. These trucks aren’t as well known as the others, so they remain far more affordable. You can still find prices well below $20,000. Like the other SUV’s in this segment, the second generation of the Scout is a rugged two-door SUV that features removable hardtops, like their more well-known counterparts. Just like the Bronco or Blazer, the Scout will deliver plenty of old-school vibes to satisfy your off-roading inner child.

The Scout was offered with four (4) and six (6) cylinder options, but the V8 engine is the most popular. You can also get them in both 2×2 and 4×4 drives. You can still find the popular V8 with 4×4 models in good condition for a price of around $22,000.

3) 1965-1966 Ford Mustang

Mustangs are always a good choice. However, like Corvettes, a classic Mustang can set you back a small fortune. In fact, the most valuable classic Mustang of all time—the 1968 fastback driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt—sold for over $3.5M. That’s not a good entry-level price.

There is good news, however, if a Mustang is on your wish list. Ford built a bunch of Mustangs throughout the 1960s. This helps to control some of the costs because there is simply plenty to go around. Good old supply-and-demand keeps the costs affordable. In fact, you can get a restored 1960s Mustang for as low as $25,000. If you’re willing to do a little work, you can get them priced well below $15,000.

Because the first Mustang was introduced in April of 1964, some think that was the model’s first year. However, it was actually 1965, and the original design was sold in 1966. These cars were offered in three body styles: Coupe, fastback, and convertible. Coupes are by far the most affordable. Ford also offered a six-cylinder engine or a V8, as well as a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Cars with a V8 and manual will demand more bucks.

4) 1985-1991 Chevy Camaro IROC-Z

Maybe you want something just a bit more modern? The Camaro IROC-Z made during the late 1980s is becoming an interesting selection, and has also seen a recent increasing trend in value. Don’t let that scare you away, however, they remain affordable with prices between $8,000 and $20,000, condition, and mileage.

While these cars aren’t the high-powered monsters the modern Camaro has become, they are powered by fuel-injected V8 engines and are quick and a blast to drive. If you’re so inclined, a 5-speed manual was offered with most engines, but if the stick is a problem, the vast majority of them were made with a 4-speed automatic transmission.

If you still want the performance and fun of an IROC Camaro, but want to save a little on your first classic car, Pontiac Firebird Trans Am used the same suspensions, engines, transmissions as well as many other shared parts. They’re near-performance twins. However, because IROCs were more popular than the Trans Am, they simply remain more popular today. Therefore, a 1985-1991 Pontiac Trans Am is an even less expensive alternative for anyone looking for a starter classic car.

The bottom line

Classic cars are a great hobby. It’s a blast to drive a classic car, and a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. If you like to tinker, they’ll give you endless projects to work on and talk about. The community is fun and always willing to help a newbie get started.

Whatever starter car you’re looking for, be sure to always keep it protected with a classic car insurance policy. You want to make sure to get the proper coverage on this investment. Not sure what classic car insurance is? You can contact us, or start a quote online

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