We have an ever-increasing and quickly-diversifying fanbase over at the Hagerty Community, and sometimes a member poses a question worthy of wider distribution. As a 14-year-old car enthusiast looking for guidance from more experienced enthusiasts as he navigates today’s automotive landscape, Sam is one such person that deserves special recognition. His passion for cars goes just as deep as those reading this article, and we hope you’ll give him some advice in the comments … as he will be reading them!
Read the full article on Hagerty.com and help Sam out:
Let us start with the boring stuff. Do this exercise, research what it costs to own a house with a garage in your area. Add in the cost of food and driving an average vehicle, be as detailed as possible. You should come up with a dollar amount, monthly, annually, it doesn't matter. Now, look at jobs and see what they pay in the same time period. Whether that is an Automotive Technician, Accountant, Radiologist, Or Plumber. It will be a lot easier to afford your classic car if you have the means to pay for it.
Now for the interesting stuff! Your late model Corvair is no worse for the enviroment than 100 million trucks, vans, SUVs, from 2000 to 2015 on the road today. In some cases it is probably better for it. You could affect a greater positive environmental impact by living very close to where you work. I am thinking walking or biking distance, and or mass transit, because nothing is more boring than sitting in stop and go traffic 2 hours a day every day to get to and from work, to say nothing of the environmental impact.
So, you want to drive a classic car? Do it! If you want to help the environment make sure the tires are properly inflated and the engine is in tune and the clutch isn't slipping. When you can afford it upgrade to electronic ignition and fuel injection. On Corvairs, if yours doesn't have it, upgrade the suspension to tame that swing axle a little. Remember the other parts too, like wheel bearings and brakes, Front suspension joints and wheel alignment. They all have an impact on driving dynamics and fuel economy. Most importantly learn how to drive well. Learn about vehicle handling dynamics. Learn how to accelerate slowly and anticipate traffic to be able to keep moving. You see that stale green light get off the gas and coast.
Other members of the community may remember Click and Clack, The Tappet Brothers. They had a little piece on fuel economy about a Suburban and Prius. I am sure someone can find the recording. The gist of it is to get your vehicle to perform at its optimum level.
Save your performance driving for the track! Definitely participate in a high performance driving experience or a dozen. Go to an Autocross event every month or more if you can afford it. Go to your local cars and coffee frequently. And you know what else, help other people. I will let you define how you help others. I would encourage you to help them in the way they want to be helped as opposed to the way you think they need help.
All the best,
Let me give you a suggestion try to get a job at a dealership as a detailor or porter then on spare time talk to the mechanics show interest in learning the trade some dealership's will pay for part of your schooling that's what i did i worked at a chevy dealership they sent me to a lot of schooling all of it GM schooling but at the time i was the goto guy on all the corvetts that came in.
Sam. I see you are in the Philadelphia area. The Simeone Collection of historic cars is in south Philadelphia. I have been there 3 times. I can't think of a better way to learn and appreciate the successful designs that came years ago. Dr. Fred (collection owner) may even be available for a quick chat !
I'm 40 years old, and my advice is to pursue a career that will pay good. You can always pursue your interests as a hobby. Get into architecture, construction, structural engineering, or computer programming language like perl, python, C++, etc, but either way, go to a community college and always take one class per semester that's for fun, like Solidworks (it might be offered as a drafting class), or electrical circuit basics. The public school system is not going to do a good job at pointing you in the right direction, so you're going to have to figure out what you like to do best, and your early 20's are the time to figure that out. Don't work at McDonald's - it'll be a waste of your time because it's not something you can build on. Try plumbing or electrical, and after you learn about that stuff, learn to use AutoCAD for designing electrical or plumbing in buildings, and learn building codes. If you want to work on cars for fun, you need money for parts, supplies, and storage - it's an expensive hobby. Frequently look at job listings on craigslist to get a feel for what's in demand and what it is that employers are looking for.
Buy the car you love. I think Corvair's are cool too. Simple, air cooled, comfortable, handle great, what's not to like? As far as jobs go, do what you like. I liked cars when I was your age so I went to college and have a degree in Automotive Engineering Technology from Western Michigan U.. It has served me well. I've worked as a service engineer at GM, an electrical release engineer at Chrysler, and now I'm a resident engineer at a big supplier of automotive components. I've always liked working in cars. I bought a house with a big garage and tools to work on cars. It's what I do and I still love it.
And another thing, if you find a place where you want to work, if you get a job there doing anything, even sweeping the floors and cleaning up, you can learn by chatting with people there and helping out. I was a janitor in the automotive lab at Western and the instructors would always need a hand with this or that. They liked to tell me all about what they were doing. It wasn't long before I was wiring dynamometers, setting up and breaking in engines, and repairing broken equipment. I learned a ton sweeping floors.
I am a licensed mechanic living in Hagerty's home town of Traverse City, MI. I bought my first vehicle, a 1953 Chevy 3100 5 window p/u, when I was 14. When I was 16, I bought a 1968 RS Camaro. I have owned a tons of Chevelles, Camaros, classic pickups, and other cars in my life.
Go buy some tools. Get a 30 gallon air compressor, a 3/8" air ratchet, a 1/2" impact gun (Ingersol Rand or better), a torque wrench, a mechanic's tools set (if it doesn't have an 18mm, it's not a mechanic's set), an electric die grinder, a 4 pound sledge, a 3 ton jack, a creeper, and jack stands (not Harbor Freight killers).
Eat your Wheaties and start doing brake jobs and wheel bearing replacements in your parents respective driveways. Remember to grind the rust scale out of the brake pad channels and paint them and lube the caliper pins up well with silicone based lubricant if you refurb the calipers. Remember to torque hub bolts on wheel bearings. A PDF of torque specs can be downloaded to your phone from SKF.
Most shops charge $4-700 an axle for brakes. Pads and rotors cost around $100 for most cars. Calipers are $40-90. They get $3-450 for a single wheel bearing that costs from $60-170. Watch some youtube videos to learn the idiosyncrasies of replacements on different cars.
You could be making a few hundred a weekend rather easily if word spreads around. Take the test and get licensed as soon as allowed. Making the money yourself is always better than being paid $20/hr at a shop while the owner is making bank.
Get tight with your local delivery drivers (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc). They go everywhere and see everything. Ask them if they know where any cool cars are sitting. Maybe for sale, maybe not. Or, ask them to keep their eyes peeled for a specific car. I was a FedEx guy for 12 years and found a boat load of classic muscle sitting around on my delivery routes.
Good luck with it,
First off, I commend you for taking initiative by reaching out and asking for advice - that's a great first step, and shows your mindset for growth.
I'd like to quickly give you some details about myself to let you know where your advice is coming from - my name's Garrett, I'm 23, also from the East coast (Raleigh, NC), and I, probably like yourself, and all others in this community, have liked cars since I could walk. I also obsessed over classic American muscle cars in middle school, the 1st generation Chevrolet Camaro in particular. I'll jump right in and give you my best advice based on your questions:
My recommendation for a first car would be to find something reliable, safe, easy to insure/in your budget, fits your lifestyle, and that you like or think is fun/different. Also, manuals aren't *quite* dead yet! I drive a 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser 6spd - it was my first car and has been great in every way for me as a first vehicle. I hope to encourage you to take the time looking for whatever car will serve you the best - you'll enjoy it more, take great care of it, and hold onto it longer!
My recommendation for work and getting involved with classic cars is to spend time doing what you love. The money will come (and go), but there are too many responsibilities, obligations, tasks, and commitments that the modern world pushes on us for you to willfully choose something that you're not passionate about. With that, your remaining teenage years and well into your twenties will be a tremendous time for personal growth, changes, and developments - especially your interests. I encourage you to accept a dynamic mindset to what is most important to you at any given time. I don't want to discourage you from pursuing your current passion in the moment, but that you understand that you will learn new information and gain new experiences rapidly, and you'll change through them. For example, classic cars are still an interest of mine, but no longer what I plan on basing my career around, although I was sure I would at your age. My cousin did though - at 21 he started his own car flipping business after studying at UC Pueblo and is in the process of having his operation become an official dealership.
If you stay interested in classic cars through high school, you might want to consider looking at McPherson College in McPherson KS - they offer a bachelors degree in automotive restoration. Also, many community colleges and trade schools will put you in a place to peruse automotive interests. Definitely keep trying to get an apprenticeship or "shadow" position at a local shop - that's a great way to get hands-on experience and begin building a network. Otherwise, your best bet to be involved in classic/modern car mechanics and other car culture related activities is get involved with local clubs, meets, shows, friends/family connections, etc. - build your network and find community! Start local, but if you cannot tap in or struggle to find support, search regionally or nationally. Find and build community - that is my best, most important "take-away" piece of advice I can deliver. Best of luck to you Sam!
Welcome to the brotherhood of car nuts!
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Read,Read,Read! Everything you can get your hands on that’s automotive related - read it!
Second join a car forum for the brand you are passionate about.
im a Torino fan our site is welcoming of any new blood who wants to learn about the marque.
Third attend car shows every chance you get and ask questions! You’ll find like minded souls who just can’t wait to share with you.
Lastly tell your relatives that you want tools for your birthday and Christmas. I still have my Craftsmen tools my parents gave me although my parents have long since passed. Go to estate sales in your area and look for deals on used tools and tool boxes, you might be surprised the deals you can find.
As for employment, I was you many years ago. I took a job at a local Goodyear tire store sweeping and cleaning up the shop after the mechanics were done with a job. I kept bugging them to learn how to use the tire machine until I was able to move up to a tire buster. The rest as they say is history. As long as you are a hard worker who shows up on time and keeps a positive attitude, you will find people willing to help you along your journey.
People hire others for one reason- to solve problems for them. As long as you solve more problems than you create you have value to them.
if you create more than you solve your value is zero.
Good luck on your journey I hope it’s as wonderful as mine has been.
I've read through the posts and there are many good suggestions.
Another idea to consider is volunteering your time. If you tell your story of just wanting to learn, and you're willing to trade some time and free labor, someone might take an interest in you or offer suggestions.
Check out car events in your area, like autocrosses or races or car cruises. Many racers don't mind showing young people what it is they're working on at that moment. An encounter like that isn't a job or volunteering, but you might get to watch someone make a repair between race sessions. Certainly, you will discover if this further ignites your interest.
Which leads to a second point - cultivate your interest by doing. It's easy to be an armchair enthusiast, so the only way you'll truly discover what part of the car world you like is to simply go do things.
You may find you like gritty repairs and the fun of low budget cars. Maybe you go to a concours or car cruise and enjoy high end restorations. Maybe you and some friends pool some funds together and put together a 24 Hours of Lemons, or Chumpcar.
Go to https://www.motorsportreg.com/ and see if there are events in your area and walk through the pits and paddock.
Another cheap way to see if you're mechanically inclined...small engine repair. See if you can tune up a lawnmower. This site is great for parts: https://www.repairclinic.com/
sam, many great suggestions. i started by getting my hands on an almost free 49 plymouth. with the use of a motors manual i tore that car apart bit by bit and reassembled it. i learned, a lot. get good tools, not chinese made, the only time you will need metric is if it is a modern vehicle. i do not believe corvair used metric fasteners. you may not find the car of your dreams immediately, but getting a modern cheap wreck to learn on would be very valuable. you may be able to pick something up at a salvage yard for scrap value, who knows. yes read, everything, voraciously! people often abandon "free" lawnmowers or other small engines at curbside. grab a couple, learn on them. they take up much less space in the garage, and are still a valuable learning resource. service manuals are often posted online. do not be scared away by potential expense. people often nibble away at a project for many years, spending money carefully and in the right places. learn to refurbish, and not replace.
My name is Mike Brienza and I am the organizer for the Bergen County Cars and Caffe Invitational Display (presented by Hagerty) at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Feb. I want to tell you that your letter gives me hope that your generation will keep the hobby alive!
2020 was the first time for the Invitational Display which I geared specifically to introduce new enthusiasts like yourself (aka Youngtimers) to the older crowd (aka Oldtimers) and vice versa. I'm GenX and I have a very large collection of Camaros but also care about the environment and the impact the automobile has, and I am actually very excited to see what the EV future will give us performance junkies.
I like to consider myself a bridge between the two groups and have been stressing to the hardcore old guys who shun anything post-1972 or Import of any kind how critical you guys are to the hobby. I also have been trying to stress to the new guys how important it is for you to understand the history of the automobile (both in terms of the actual history as a machine, and the cultural history) its evolution, and how the old cars are relevant to the future of the hobby. You cant have one without the other. Since Philly suburbs is just across the bridge from the AC Convention Center, I would like to offer you a personal invite (and your parents) to the 2021 event, where I will introduce you to all the car owners and car builders I have displaying their cars. I will also give you private access to sit in them and get personal tours of the car by the owners. We will have Ferrari, Bugatti, Porsche, McLaren and other exotic hypercars as well as JDM and American Muscle of all kinds on display. Who knows, IF I'm able to locate a Corvair and Karmann Ghia that would like to display I'll set them next to each other so you can compare them side by side. That's a blatant call out to you Karmann and Corvair owners to hit me up if you want to display.
Hold on to your passion and dont get discouraged! The future for automobiles and the hobby is looking great as long as we have guys like you who have the drive to carry it on!
Please contact me ASAP so I can get you on the VIP list. 201-627-4506
Awesome Discussion. When you get your driver's license, Learn as much as you can about actual driving. Learn vehicle dynamics. Take any performance driving opportunity you can. Learn how to heel-toe properly. Good driving technique might save your life.
The technique of Motor Racing by Piero Taruffi - is a classic book and a great start.
Are there any neighbors working on car stuff? Make friends help out
SAFETY - Protect your eyes, ears, fingertips! JACKSTANDS ALWAYS!!!!
Hi Sam, I thoroughly loved reading about your car passion and your thoughts about choosing your first car. I am 72 years old, a woman rabbi in southern Italy and all my life I've had a love affair with cars. From the time in college when i stumbled over my first car, a vintage Henry J that, sadly, never came off the blocks, to my first ride, a 1969 Opel Cadet, to my mid-life crisis purchase, a 2002 completely analog Jeep Wrangler, Israeli blue, manual transmission (special ordered) dream machine. Now that I live in Italy I've been enamored with the original Fiat Cinquecento and the new Fiat Panda Crossover that I ordered last month and will arrive tomorrow!! I share my car history with you because, no matter what first car you select, choose it because it speaks to you and throughout your driving days, listen to your car... not just for clunks, bumps and problems, but for how it hums ... how it talks to you. Mind you, your car is not a person so please don't give your car a name... oy vey! Instead let your machine be an extension of yourself... get to know it and not just when it's ailing. Observe it, tweak it and understand its workings. Your first car? When you see it, you'll know. Rabbi Barbara Aiello
I'd go in this order as a first car- reliable, mass produced, utilitarian. Can be fun too though! As a first car you'll want all that. Mass produced means any problem that comes up there's plenty of info on fixes. What about a 4runner? Pickup truck? GM v-8 pickup could be a good choice.
Reliable- think about school, friends, your parents, running errands.
Since rust up there is a killer, set up a fly-in/ drive home of a rust free gem down in Florida! Document it for Hagerty.
Sounds like you enjoy history as well as old cars; that might point you towards the restoration & maintenance of older cars, and the Simeone museum would be a perfect place to inquire. Learn from the ground up from older experts, and you could become the go-to man in the future. As for the environmental factor of electric cars, you might want to actually look into the supply chain; it's not as rosy as advertised.
Dear Sam, whatever you decide to do in life you will be fine!
Persistence and Enthusiasm! Most importantly spread the word,
get your friends and others interested in keeping the car hobby
alive and well! Auto Clubs, car shows, etc. We need to keep young generations
like yourself loving anything on wheels into the next century!
As others have mentioned - don't settle for McDonalds. If you really want to earn money, at least get a job where you can earn tips (like a busboy at a fine dining restaurant) which will pay far more than minimum wage. You can bank enough in one summer to buy a car. It will be hard to get a job at a dealership or shop before you can drive, but I'd still try. Learn how to detail cars. Do your parents cars for free. Once you get good start to charge friends and neighbors. It isn't hard to figure out but it is hard work to do well and most people don't want to do it.
Get something safe, not too powerful, that you can work on for your first car. Your parents will be concerned about safety, reliability, and finances so your goal is to satisfy their demands as well as your own. An E90 BMW 328i/330i could work. Get an NA car, not one of the turbos. Fairly inexpensive, easy to work on I-6 that is very stout, tons of airbags and stability control for them plus manual RWD with hydraulic steering in a balanced chassis that you'll enjoy. Huge community and lots of aftermarket support. YouTube can help you do everything on your own.
Great to hear from you Sam! It sounds like you prefer the late model Corvairs to the earlies, which is fine, but don't let all the myths about the early handling keep you from trying one of them if you want. They handle very well and the predecessor to the NHTSA actually finally concluded they were not unsafe. My first car (age 17) was an early Corvair, my daughter and I rebuilt (she was 13 when we started) a 1964 Corvair which she drove over 120,000 miles as a daily driver, and I currently drive Corvairs as daily drivers. They are very easy to work on, and there is fantastic club support for technical issues, as well as a Corvair Basics guide that comes free with the CORSA membership (the guide covers basic facts, purchase tips, maintenance and service tips and more). Internet support from members is excellent. If you have a basic set of sockets with a ratchet wrench and a set of combination wrenches you can do most of the work without any special tools (a torque wrench is handy also. Corvairs have gotten more popular lately, but they are still a bargain relative to other cars of the era. Good luck and feel free to ask questions!
Sam, seems you don't have a big budget. That's OK. Few that answer this thread did either. I started with a 1928 Dodge. Bought it for $750, sold it one year later for $1,000. And what is interesting is I think I can still find it today. Plenty of story here, but I learned that there were some things I could do if I just mapped them out.
The rest of my basic knowledge and approach came from my brother-in-law, whom I just lost and sorely miss. His help and advice really kicked me over the hump to come to the realization "damn, maybe I can do this". We were good partners. We helped and encouraged each other. Neither of us ever held the other's beer so we could watch them do something. I don't remember being that smart at the time, but he was.
You might consider the following.:
1. Availability of parts at reasonable prices
2. Given your low budget going in your parts budget should be considered
3. Look for someone you trust that has extensive mechanical knowledge to help you evaluate your purchase
4. Consider staying American and purchase high volume sales cars from Ford, Chevrolet, or Dodge. That is where the parts availability is
5. Find a mentor that can work you through repairs. Someone that can help you assess the problem and plot the repair
6. Get on the internet and find out what you can about maintaining cars
7. youtube is invaluable
8. A complete basic set of hand tools is invaluable. Most retailers will have those at reasonable prices both online and in-store
9. As you need tools for the job, buy them. Acquiring the proper tool(s) for the job is usually much less expensive than a professional mechanic will charge for the repair. I have a nice collection after 50 years as a result
10. Read all of the other comments for comprehension. It will be expensive, but you don't start with everything to get started on the basics
11. Keep yourself organized. Always have a staging area for the project. Mine is a small cart that I roll around. Everything stays on the cart. Twist a bolt, back on the cart.
12. Clean up and when through with a job. Put everything back into its proper place
13. Get a small magnetic bowl to put bolts, screws , and nuts in. You will not regret it
14. Purchase a long-handled flexible magnet and set of claws. You will need those your first trip under the hood. They are cheap
15. When you get frustrated walk away and take some deep breaths. You will need it
16. GoJo, a soft bristled tooth brush, and rags/paper towels are essentials.
17. Gloves are important. Working with oil and grease over a long period of time increases your risk for brain cancer. This is serious advice to follow. It happens
17. When you hit the wall with a project or repair, walk away, take a few deep breaths, and think through what you are doing. This could be overnight or longer.
18. Never let a repair sit. Finish it. The longer it sits the more expensive it becomes
19. Always remember that part of the reason for working on your own car is to sharpen your language skills and thoughts
20. Always remember the end goal. Then break it down into manageable stages. You will get there, but perseverance is key
21. Finally, beat this into your head with a sledge hammer. A wife and a family will lengthen the time of a project, and it should. Your obligations, in order, are God and family. Shaping and molding children in partnership with your wife to be thinking and productive citizens helps ensure our continuance as a great country and you as a great mentor. There are several steps above that apply to raising a family
Others in this thread will have some I miss, or they may disagree with some. Or I may agree or disagree with some of what they say. That is for you to sort through and make those determinations.
And it will be interesting to know whether Hagerty set this up for our entertainment or you really are a real person. Regardless, I had fun replying.
I recommend the Acura RSX Type-S. I bought one new in 2002 and kept it for 15 years. Gas, oil and brakes was the only service it ever needed. Struts, clutch and synchros were all still good at 160k. And no timing belt. It had a low emissions killer motor, 6 speed gearbox and handled fantastic. I was able to do a few HPDE days with it, where it performed very well. After 15 years of CT winters the only rust it had was where the body had collision damage. It's modern enough to satisfy your green concerns and has enough computers to be a gateway to more modern cars. I sold it for only $2500 3 years ago. So not a budget buster.
Good luck in your search.
I wish you were across the street form me!!! I could use an eager set of hands on my old A Body Pontiac and Buick. Like you I was a car freak at an early age. I didn't start getting dirty on these things till I was your age or thereabouts. I was lucky, I good friend of mine, even to this day, got me started and his old man was an ex-engineer for a now defunct auto manufacturer. My buddy and I would create the mess and his dad with the steady hand and patience of a master would help us think our way through the problems. He would also jump on us for not cleaning tools or putting the tools up correctly. Yes, the hobby has plenty of "make your bed up in the morning" type analogies.
My point is this: You are 14 and can't buy thousands of dollars of tools. You also have years of school in front of you. Focus on that!!! If you can find an old guy who has an old car or 10 and can befriend him or her, it is a perfect way to get your way into the hobby and start learning what obsesses the rest of us. Obviously, make sure your parents are in the loop and be sure he or she is not a creepo.
Good luck Sam, and welcome to the lunatic fringe called the old car hobby. I am certain all in this forum are cheering you on!!!!!
So many great comments so far.
I confess that I didn't read them all as I hate it when my eyes bleed!
I was drafted and the Army trained me as a Computer Tech (there's a thought, let the military train you in what you want to do) ...
However, if you can handle "flipping burgers income", I suggest, as another has, to get a job in a dealership doing clean up or detailing used cars. Then comes the 'oldtimer' adage; "keep your shoulder to the grindstone".
Pick a brand you like!
Learn to never hear 'NO!' ...
If you get a brush-off, go back every couple of weeks ... another 'oldtimer' adage; "the squeaky hinge gets the oil" ...
Your sheer determination will win, as long as you can temper it with patience.
Us your free time to help techs.
Who am I that you should care? 21 years as a Toyota Parts and Service Director.
Your story sounds like mine. I had to use my free time offering to help the techs, hold something, ask questions they can answer while working.
After I became an 'OK' guy it flowed well - again Persistence and Patience ...
Got my start in a Trans shop ... cleaned the floors, picked up trash and asked the builders if I could help. I got to do the stuff they didn't want to. I was able to roll that experience into a Line Tech apprentice job. That means I worked on an occasional trans and did a lot of oil changes. And so on ...
I wish you the best ... I've owned Corvairs (3) too.
If you like older vehicles, spend your money there; the value keeps going up.
Hey Sam, I understand your enthusiasm for the Corvair. I was 6 yrs. old when I saw my first one parked on the curb next to my house. Shiny Black, Red Interior and Louvers all down the rear deck lid. I was young and had never seen anything like it! At that age, I literally didn't even know it was a car till a week or so later when I saw tires on it... My family was still driving a '48 Plymouth and the neighbors were still stuck in the '50's as well as we lived in the big city where nothing changed quickly.
Fast forward to college and I had a number of buddies into Corvairs. Great in Chicago snow storms and you should see them hill climbing! They'd run straight up dirt hills right on the tails of motor bikes...of course bottoming out all the way.
Go to a few club meets and get to know the local guys. They'll steer you right and probably have connections that can get you into the right car. And like most Corvair guys & gals, most have spares lying around in their garage that they'd be happy to donate to a young guy like you and your project.
Good Luck! And as my College Auto Tech Teacher once said...You may want to, But don't spend every last dime on your car...You have to eat too!
Join local and national car clubs (like Mustang.org or whatever brand, model interests you. When Covid gets under control go to local shows - in the meantime participate online and reading their publications. Cars restoration may be your future career, a hobby or maybe both (like writing about cars). Write to people like Wayne Carini of TV show Chasing Classic Cars. Stay in touch and maybe some summer you can an internship! Living in snow country finding a rust free car will be a challenge, but you'll find lots of cars at specialized sites for various brands so learn about what is available and people's experience. We had a first gen 1960 corvair. Read up and think about the second generation ! Just saying, throttle linkage fell off one day ! Still a cool and undervalued car.
Hi Sam, It's great to see young people interested in "old cars". As far as recommendations for a vehicle to be a first car, I would highly recommend a late sixties to early seventies MGB roadster or GT. They are very affordable and aren't any more complex then a garden tractor. The really great thing about them is that you can get almost every part for them, either new or used, and the club support is phenomenal.
Speaking from experience, some of my earliest cars were MG Midgets which are so much fun to own and drive but are a bit on the small side for some. The "B" on the other hand has a little more power and is much more livable on a day to day basis. I've owned both and can say the the latter is an excellent commuter car which gets decent gas mileage and is easy to keep up mechanically; best of all they are very economical to buy with the caveat that you get one with the best body that you can; everything else is easy. I would also recommend the B-GT as it offers more weather protection and additional cargo capacity (a Wabasto folding sunroof gives you the best of both the roaster and the GT). One can keep these cars of the road with minimal effort and a very simple tool set and as noted parts are readily available on the web or likely even at your local specialist shop.
I can tell you that I share your enthusiasm for the Corvair as well and have a 66 Corsa 4-speed as well as 3 B roasters and 3 B-GTs (one with a Camaro V6 and 5-speed which is an excellent modification) as well as a 73 Midget. None of these cars were more than $10,000.00 CDN and most were less than half of that. In my experience, enthusiasm and a little elbow grease can change a ratty B into a solid, reliable day-to-day classic driver which will give you years of great experiences and allow you to meet so many great people with similar experiences and a wealth of knowledge to draw upon. Good luck in your search.
There is a lot of good advice in these posts. My advice mostly reinforces some of what is in here. Two items:
1. Check your local community college. You can usually take night classes and learn auto repair and body work from an experienced teacher. Community college classes like this are usually taught by a seasoned professional has done the work he or she is teaching.
2. My best friend in high school got a job working for a local VW shop. The shop owner was a well known VW drag racer who had won some national championships. My friend started off cleaning the shop every weekend, and hanging around the shop as a helper after school most days. What he learned was invaluable. He was drag racing a VW bug by the time we graduated. While I was in college, we rebuilt my VW beetle engine. Many have recommended this route for a part-time job. I saw it work and it is a great starting point.
Let me add one more thing. I made the mistake of buying a very rare foreign car when I was 21 (1970 Renault Caravelle). Back before the internet, but I think this lesson still holds true. I couldn't find parts, and when I did they cost a fortune. The engine was not complicated, but nobody was interested in working on it and nobody was able to help me work on it. When i did find parts, I had to drive about 9 hours to pick them up. Research any car and the parts availability before you buy it.
Stretch your budget a bit and buy a first gen 986 Porsche Boxster, a set of ramps to raise the car, a basic tool set and a copy of Wayne Dempsey's "101 Projects for your Porsche Boxster" book. With some careful looking (which is half the fun!) you should be able to do this for well under $8k. And since you're a kid I bet you can probably find someone who will give you their old car.
This will get you into the world of Porsche (the coolest brand, after all) and will allow you to launch a career as a Boxster expert in a few years just in time for these cars to start appreciating.
Boxsters have a huge historical impact (they saved Porsche from bankruptcy) and are highly underrated in terms of performance (because they suffer from "not-a-911-itis," a common affliction among Porsche enthusiasts) and are only the second production mid-engined Porsche (which is a superior design to virtually anything else). Plus they tended to be 3rd (or more) cars and generally have lower mileage, were well cared for (the audience was older) and are in excellent condition.
These cars are going to be the next big thing in collectible Porsches (I predict) and you are perfectly positioned to ride this wave.
My #1 bit of advice would be to find a rust free Corvair. Drive train, interior, & paint can be taken care of as you go. I learned how to drive a stick on a 1962 Corvair Monza. We loved that car! Loads of storage. Strong engine. The latter Corsa is the tops! Good luck fulfilling your dream. I own my two dream cars: 1990 300ZX and a 1969 Jaguar XKE. Both bought on a teacher's salary!
You remind me of ME when I was about your age. I was building models mostly and learned a lot about cars assembling those, especially the highly detailed kits.
When I was about 12 and my brother was 11 our Dad had us replace the clutch in his '46 Chevy "enclosed driveline" P/U truck. Took us all week over Easter Vacation (Spring Break) with Dad checking our progress every day after he came home from work.
I gotta say, at the time it didn't seem like WORK at all, it was an adventure of sorts and ended up being a win-win situation for all involved. He got his new clutch and my brother and I taught ourselves how to drive...
(Dad spent some years looking for a gas leak that he could never find... we started refilling it with lawnmower gas...)
Alas... I have some simple recommendations for you that are rather general in nature.
1. Congrats on your Bar Mitzvah and becoming a man. Good men make good choices and try to be wise and discretionary. DO NOT SPEND your Mitzvah dollars on a car. That money was given to help you move into adulthood and should be saved and spent for an education at a college or technical school. When I say "move", I'm speaking figuratively, literally you can take a bus, bum a ride, ride a bike or purchase a car with what OTHER money YOU earn. The money they gave you is kinda sacred, respect it and them by spending it appropriately.
( I can just hear you now... "Look Aunt Sadie, I spent the money you gave me on a '66 Turbocharged Covair that doesn't run..." Or... I can hear Aunt Sadie say... "Look at my nephew Samual, he's such a mensch and is saving his Mitzvah money for college..." Your choice, Sam!)
2. Flipping burgers for minimum wage? For minimum wage you could sweep, clean, wash cars, detail them, assist in maintenance, do oil changes and minor tune-ups and the like at a dealership, used car lot, a repair shop, body shop, vintage gas stations or even at your school's Auto Shop if they still have those. If they like your work, your passion and ambition, they would most likely want to move you into a higher paying field than to hire another.
I was extremely fortunate to attend a GM Cooperative Work Training program right out of high school. I would attend classes, do bookwork, pass tests, actually did hands-on work like R&R-ing transmissions and the like, disassembling them and then reinstalling them into brand new 1966 Cadillacs so the instructor could drive one home! Two or three weeks in class, two or three weeks at the dealership. It was an amazing program and after working two years at the dealership, as well as the draft for the Viet Nam war, I enlisted in the Navy and became an Electronics Technician and that became my new field of endeavor. That, along with computers, degrees, and middle management positions became my WORK, leaving autos (Sports Cars, Hot Rods, Tractors, etc.) to be my HOBBY to enjoy!
3. If and when you do settle on a car you REALLY want like the Corvair, find and JOIN a car club where the Corvair is their primary or exclusive focus, and in person if practical. With enough passion, you won't necessarily need a car to join, but getting a car... well, what better venue is there. You'll probably walk away with one of another member's car he/she no longer needs in their fleet. Join online if a club is not available nearby, but these folks will still have the experience, parts, contacts, knowledge, etc. etc. PLUS the same passion for the same car and...
Most likely their hobby and specific cars and owners are fading from the hobby as well as this planet... and MOST will welcome youth into their midst to keep the passion going.
They also usually have events or get-togethers and can/will actually offer to assist you with your project.
Unfortunately, there are some clubs and types of folks that are snooty and can be offensive, mostly online... but that's OK, they don't deserve your friendship, there are plenty of there sites to explore.
Hope this helps, good luck, mozel tov... and Ciao!
I grew up outside Philly too (Valley Forge area) and my first car was a Corvair Monza convertible. I loved that car even though the engine fell out of it on the road twice, luckily I wasn’t going very fast both times. I had the Corvair throughout college. My next car was a Fiat spyder and after that most of the cars I had were foreign. VWs, Porsches, BMW’s, Audi’s, Toyota’s and Mazda’s. I currently own an Audi A5, Mazda CX-9, and my favorite a NB Mazda Miata. I’m a little older than you (71) but I think a NA or NB Miata would be a great first car for you. They are inexpensive to purchase, cheap to fix, and just about the most fun you can have on four wheels! I know a Corvair would be cool, so go for that too. Sam you are so lucky to have the “car” bug at your age, it is something that you will love for your whole life, I know I have.
Find an older car that's as original as possible, well maintained. Cars were made better 15 to 20 years ago. An older person would be the place I would always start with then the mileage may be lower... Have the car checked by a GOOD Mechanic.
My suggestion would be to attend as many car shows as possible. The car owners typically if questioned about their cars can "talk your arm off", and show you things about their cars that you can plant in your memory. Plus, there are always a variety of cars, engines, equipment, etc to find out about. My first car was a 1929 Model A Ford, which I couldn't drive yet, not being old enough, so it was parked in the back yard. I spent many hours in and around that car, and started working on it, finding out all about it and the parts that went into it, and why they were there. I was fortunate to have my father, who was an "old farmer", (not really old), who as a farmer dealt with machinery all his time on the farm - tractors, threshers, combines, etc. He guided me through the process of making the car sound mechanically and helping me understand what everything was for, and what it did. I also learned about metal crystallization due to bolts that sheared off instead of unscrewing. All of the modern cars carry the basics of the early cars, just updated, improved, and more sofisticated. 4 wheel hydraulic brakes with ABS, instead of mechanical 2 wheel brakes on the back wheels, sofisticated shock absorbers, etc. Talk with car owners at shows, and you'll be amazed at what you learn. Cheers, and good luck!!
Excellent beginning to a life behind the wheel. I started out as a porter at a Mercedes/Honda/Volkswagen dealer. My dad and I pulled a 1970 Beetle home behind another vehicle. It needed an engine, transmission overhaul, body work and floor pans. I was 14 or 15 at the time. While I learned a LOT, I also had a state champion Volkswagen drag buggy racer for a brother and many parts and help came my way because of it. My father helped with the floor pans as you must take the body off the chassis to do it right. The car was a hot mess for a few years as I worked on it off and on between girlfriends.
My Advice would be to buy the best car you can with the money you’ve saved. Often, the obscure 4 door or not so sought after muscle car can be a bargain, a Galaxie 500 instead of a mustang, or a Pontiac Tempest instead of a GTO. Be patient, many cars have come my way by scanning the ads daily. I now have a classic mini and four BMW Isettas in various stages. Over the years I’ve had anything from a 70’ Camaro LT1 350/Muncie Rock Crusher, to a Toyota Landcruiser FJ40. The good thing is that you have your whole life ahead of you to buy and sell cars!!! I’ve had over 100 to date.
Best wishes and good luck in finding your first car!
I am also a Corvair owner I have a 1966 Monza Sport Coupe. I bought this car outside of Allentown,PA. The car originally was own by a lady in Harrisburg,PA which I lived till last year when we moved to North Carolina. There are a few Corvair groups around you one in Phila and one near Allentown, there is also one in Harrisburg,PA area. There is also a place called The Corvair Ranch located near Gettysburg,PA.
I’m probably one of the oldest guys [close to 74] to write a comment to you, maybe the oldest.
First: The automotive industry is an apple orchard of career opportunities; so many trees, and so many varieties.
As I read your story, it brought back a flood of memories as I became, although I didn’t realize it at the time, a lifelong Corvette enthusiast when I saw Harley Earl’s Project Opel, XP-122, America’s Sportscar, for the first time in 1953. At age 10 I knew exactly what I wanted my edu path to be and the job I wanted. There are not many people that can say that. You, fortunately, have a passion for a subject and an industry so early in life. That is just terrific! My edu goal was the General Motors Institute of Technology [GMI, now known as Kettering University]; my job goal was to be an engineer on Corvette for suspension system development. I didn’t achieved either, didn’t have the grades or the money. Although, I own a 1980 Corvette 4 speed manual, cause it’s the last year for Corvettes before computers, and a 2013 Grand Sport 6 speed manual, which has every kind of technology management system. I wrench on the ’80 cause I can, the ’13 ... not so much.
Second: Success begins with a person’s ‘Will’ and ‘State-of-mind’. To that end, develop a healthy and robust work ethic, aim high and always Pursue Perfection in everything you do. We don’t always achieve Perfection, but achieving the next best thing, Excellence, puts you head and shoulders above your contemporaries. In life, a person’s reputation usually precedes them. Be known for a person of reputation who produces Excellence, and not one who produces Joe-**bleep**-the-rag-man stuff.
The automotive orchard; as you already know, there are so many moving parts to a motorized vehicle, whether it is a car, truck, or earthmover vehicle, internal combustion or EV. You may know, then again maybe not, that there are careers wherein people are assigned to: cylinder head development, cam and valve train development, rotating assembly [crank/con rod/piston] development, intake development, transmission and differential development….every moving part of every automotive vehicle has a development group and a career opportunity. At the GM Performance Center, as another example, engines are assembled for the PrattMiller Corvette Racing Team, and certain production engines, like the one in my 2013 Corvette Grand Sport with 6 speed manual. They also do development work on Indy Car and NASCAR engines there, as well. All the manufacturers have these kinds of terrific career opportunities. Being a manufacturers’ Field Tech Rep is a great gig, too.
Bosch; they design, engineer, develop, test & validate the technology that manages today’s vehicles. EV vehicles are the future, as you know.
Someone already mentioned the tire industry. Working for Bridgestone [Firestone], Continental [General], Goodyear [Dunlop], Michelin [BFGoodrich, Uniroyal], the top four in alphabetical order, is a great career path and profession, too. I wound up in the tire & rubber industry, suspension systems/front end geometry determines tire wear patterns and tire life, I was in my environment, and I can tell you I never ‘worked’ a day in my career. I was always around cars, and trucks, and earthmover vehicles. I spent 1/3 of my career employed with Michelin, starting out as the Technical Customer Service person in 1970, looking to transfer to our engineering department. Albeit, was convinced sales was a better career path. So I went from Territory Rep – to – VP of Sales, in a 43 year career journey. HOWEVER, the best job I know of in the T&R industry belongs to a friend of mine at Michelin. And if I were 47 rather than 74, I’d work for him in a heartbeat. That person is the assigned engineer to the Chevrolet Corvette [can you imagine that gig?!] responsible for designing and developing tires for the PrattMiller Corvette Racing Team and production Corvettes. Now that is a very cool occupation!
Then there are careers in automotive journalism, since you like writing. You need to discuss this career path with Don Sherman. B-t-w, Don probably doesn’t remember this, but he use to call me when I was with Michelin. He was always looking for ‘free’ tires to conduct tests with for Car&Driver. I always told him ‘Michelin makes some of the best tires in the industry and the world, we don’t need to be tested by a magazine.’
Third: Which brings me to my final point. If you decide to work for a company rather than being self-employed, always work for a company that is a leader-in-its-industry; a company that engineers and manufactures ‘excellent’ products, and strives for perfection. As such, you’ll never have to make excuses for a Joe-**bleep**-the-rag-man product.
Sam, best wishes are expressed for you success,
Sam, oh Sam; where do I begin?
To quote Val Kilmer as 'Doc' Holliday in, "Tombstone", "...he reminds me of, Me!"
Don't let anyone talk you out of a Corvair, just NOT as a First Car!
The car was a bold experiment, got a Lot of Love early on, had some issues, but in any early iteration of Political Correctness, was persecuted and put to death...
That said, there are Corvair Clubs all over the Country, and those who race them, do so with Gusto!
"Flippin' Burgers at McDonald's" is a fine pursuit for someone your age; all kinds of lessons and skills to be learned, behaviors to be observed, people to meet and work with and for; All Good!
As a Country, we have all but eliminated Auto Shop, as now we barely MAKE anything, and most can't FIX anything. So find a Car Club that will allow you to hang around, listen intently, do some parallel research into whatever vehicles they covet, collect, and preserve, and ask a LOT of questions...
I, too, am fascinated with History, and have written Articles and Edited Newsletters for Car and Motorcycle Clubs I have been involved with, and in a strange twist-of-fate, have edited 4 Fiction Novels; for my former High School English Teacher...
My first 'legal' car, purchased AFTER I got my Driver's License, was a '64 GTO, Red with Black Buckets, and like the song says, "...Three Deuces and a Four-Speed, and a Three-Eighty-Nine!" This was followed by a whole litany of What's What from the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, and beyond. When I was in High School, everybody wanted a new Mustang, Camaro, Firebird, Charger, Challenger, 'Cuda...
I wanted a Chopped Deuce 5window...
Located one, negotiated a deal, 'Flat Towed' it to a garage I rented for $10mo, and it took the next 5yrs to build. I 'rebuilt' that car 5x since, only to sell it to Richard Rawlins of Fast N' Loud a couple years back...
All you need is that Job, the Tools my fellow Responders suggest, spending some time reading, travelling, learning, and enjoying what's out there...
YOU can DO THIS!
Sam, there’s many good suggestions for you here, I hope you read all of them, and take to heart those that ‘speak’ to you! I have two: Everywhere I’ve been has some form of Cars and Coffee. In this version of our world, they might be harder to find, but you’re young and internet smart, I’m sure you can. Ours has a discouragingly small amount of young people, which could mean many people you could learn from, or nobody you’re interested in. If the latter is the case, find another one and try again.
Second, and more important - I think - when you’re ready to find someone to be involved in, make sure they have the same interests. Opposites attract doesn’t really work. Be it swimming, sky diving or motorcycle racing, the chances of ending up like your parents will be smaller if your significant does them with you.
You’re going to do great, whatever it is. Try writing on for size. Here. Tell us about how your search is going. Life, relationships, growing up, working, finding a car... you’ve already got an audience. Get good, maybe make a few bucks from Hagerty. If you think that unrealistic, go over to Bring a Trailer and look up Sludgo.
Best wishes buddy, Steve