While there are first-time classic buyers in a position to start with a Ferrari or Duesenberg, most of us don’t have trust funds or multi-million dollar companies to pay for our old car habits. As a result, when looking for a first collector car, cost, ease of maintenance and availability of parts are incredibly important. In many cases, that’ll mean that you’re looking at fairly high-volume cars. Here are five of the best starter cars you’re likely to find.
1984-1990 Chevrolet Corvette C-4: As America’s most long-lived sports car, it’s no surprise that Corvettes are among the most collectible cars around. Part of their beauty is that they offer a huge range when it comes to performance and price. It’s safe to say that the C4 is the car that ushered the Corvette into the modern era. With time, the car was increasingly developed for improved handling, reliability and horsepower. Another great thing about the Corvette is that there is a fantastic supply of parts, specialists, events and clubs to help you find parts, service and like-minded enthusiasts.
1962-1980 MGB: It’s safe to say that following World War II, MG was the car that introduced the most Americans to the joy of sports cars. And with more than 380,000 produced over its long life, it’s hard to find someone between the ages of 50 and 70 who hasn’t had his or her life touched by an MGB. They are simple to work on, parts are plentiful and although not particularly fast, they are huge fun to drive. A good driver-quality rubber bumper car can be found for under $10,000, although the best early examples can bring well into the $20K range.
1960-1969 Chevrolet Corvair: For some reason I can’t quite fathom, Corvairs aren’t usually considered entry-level collector cars. They are good-looking, technically interesting, handle well (despite what Ralph Nader wrote) and have an incredibly loyal following. They also have a very broad model range from vans and pick-up trucks to wagons, sedans, sporty coupes and rakish convertibles. And performance can vary from sedate with the 80-horsepower engine mated to a two-speed automatic to scintillating with the turbocharged 180 bhp engine and four-speed transmission. Prices have also remained very reasonable and with the exception of the rarest convertibles and turbo models, $10,000 to $15,000 will buy an excellent example. But buy now, because these cars are rising in value.
1968-1974 VW Beetle: In the 1960s and 1970s VW Beetles were everywhere. If your family didn’t own one, the chances are that a neighbor or a friend did. Made by the millions, they are carefully engineered, incredibly well built, fun to drive, easy to work on, and parts and tuning accessories are plentiful. Although earlier Beetles are also popular, those from 1968 on offer greater bumper protection and have a ready supply of parts and service know-how. For about $10,000 for a really good driver, it’s hard to go wrong with a Beetle or Super Beetle, even if it’s not your first classic.
1983-1990 Mustang: Like the Corvair, the Fox-bodied Mustang is one of those cars that comes in such a wide range of configurations that it’s easy to find one for every taste. You can start with a four-cylinder car for tooling around town, or go whole hog for the High Output 5.0-liter V-8 and a manual transmission. Parts are cheap and plentiful, the cars are easy to modify, and virtually any shop can work on them. Once again, $10,000 will get you a really nice driver, although a late GT convertible could run a little higher.