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The Top Muscle Cars for College Students

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Most of the online consensus says that the latest generation or millennials have no interest in classic cars, muscle cars or anything with a carburetor, and would rather play with their tablets or smart phones.
The reality is much more a mixed bag and with a generation growing up in recession hit times and more debt than ever, certain car choices can be a good thing which don’t have to be limited to a small compact or what is typically associated with a student’s vehicle.

We are obviously not going to recommend something like a 1970s Barracuda or Chevelle as the ideal car for today’s college students, as the price of most classic era muscle cars are now in the investment category, but there are still many examples out there which not only will provide you with a daily driver, but a platform to work on for years to come ( we will expand on this point below.)
The best buys are usually from the out of years muscle cars and the models that are seemingly not as cool, but for the people in the know, you can get these cars for a reasonable price and they are great platforms to work on.

Muscle Car Myth Busting
No one should recommend you a muscle car or any type of car over 30 years old if you don’t know what you’re walking into, but we are also trying to be objective as much as we can be, not overly negative or positive, but the caveats of owning any older vehicle.

The latest generation of muscle cars are more high-performance vehicles. The golden era of muscle cars were also performance vehicles but were also platforms to be enhanced and built upon. These vehicles have much simpler technology and engineering which was of its time, which I think is the most important factor to consider.
It’s far too easy to compare any car over 30 years to what is being produced today, but that is really comparing apples to oranges. You should take the car for what it is, not what it compares to.

You will be buying into technology from either the 60s, 70s,80s or 90s.
Simpler mechanics mean a simpler platform, but that also means more regular maintenance and knowledge of the car and its engine. Instead of relying on computing power to optimize your car, you have to rely on brainpower. Back then the repair manual was king, not the laptop.

Raw, direct power.
Some would translate this into sheer danger, but that was the appeal. You had to treat these cars with respect and you learnt to do so. Even with a modern car with traction control, you can spin the car out, so again it goes back to the saying of its the driver and not the car.

This all means that you are buying into older technology which you have to be prepared to work on constantly.
If this isn’t for you, simply buy something else.

A Muscle car for a student??
Reiterating the point from above, we are going to be recommending more ‘outs of years’ muscle cars, simply because the classic years are now so collectible, their price points are out of reach for most.
You can still buy reasonably priced classic year muscle cars, but you are then more into the realms of full or part restoration. Again, if this is the path you want to take and you have the tenacity and dedication to restore a car, then go for it, but also be well aware of the work involved.
Just because you see a restoration show take a rusted shell to show car in two weeks, doesn’t mean you can. Most of these restoration shows have a team of experts working on a vehicle night and day, with contacts to find all the parts they need and the financial backing. Basically, just be aware of the amount of work involved if it is only you doing the work with limited resources.

A dedicated work ethic.
This may come across as if I am 90 years old (I’m not, I’m only 23….ahem!), but I’m still a true believer of the first few cars you own, you should get your hands dirty and know how to fix the basics. Not a total engine rebuild, but how to change basic components in the car and tweak them.
I almost feel sorry for someone today who owns a car that they just buy and drive. Once it stops working, they buy another.
If you own a car which you know you have to tweak constantly and look after, future cars which you can just get in and drive, you respect all the more as you have come from a hands-on, work ethos.
Tweaking the carburetor, cleaning out the distributor, clocking up a new cable as the old one stretched, is to be honest a pain at the time, but you also feel so satisfied after you’ve completed the job. As a 43-year-old I don’t really want to be doing that these days as much, but I am so glad I did it when I was younger. It gave me the respect of the progression in car technology and the fact that I know my way round a car simply by working on it through trial and error.

The people around with the knowledge to fix cars over 30 to 40 years old is becoming less and less, but they still came from an era of grabbing the car manual and getting a little help to be shown what to do. Really no different to now, we just need a laptop as well these days.

Muscle Car Recommendations
If you are still reading, then you are possibly someone who likes to be ‘hands-on’ so if you want a loud and proud car, which you can work on yourself and know you have the power to fix, then there are still choices out there.

Third Generation F-Bodies
Here we are talking about cars like the third-generation Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, base models of the Berlinetta, Z28, IROC-Z, cars essentially built between the early 80s and early 90s.
Not exactly renowned for their power in base form, but the beauty came from being able to Hot Rod these beauties. Replace the original powertrain with an LT1 or LS1 and you immediately get some genuine horsepower.
They have retro appeal, easy to work on and can still be found for reasonable prices. You can still impress people with the occasional burnout.

Fourth Generation F-Bodies
Essentially, platforms between the early 90s and 2000’s.
You could argue this is the start of the muscle car revival, especially with the 1998 Pontiac Trans Am and fourth generation Camaro.
LT1 engines ruled, with around 275 to 300Hp and 350 lbs/ft of torque. Easy to upgrade for not much money, not as expensive as classic era muscle cars or the latest generation.

Other out of year muscle cars are also worth looking at, such as the 1978-1983 Chevy Malibu, the 1974-1979 Chevy Nova which has always been a great platform to work upon, 1978-1987 Chevy El Camino (with enough room to carry 18 people in the back!) and 1981-1988 Chevy Monte Carlos. All hold classic muscle car status, just not the most sought after.
What about an 1985-1987 Oldsmobile 442, a 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 or even a 1982-1993 Chevy S-10 truck? All have their individual muscle with not too outlandish prices.
The other well-known muscle car brands – Dodge, Ford, etc. all have examples which can be bought for reasonable money, but as with any vehicle, you have to evaluate it on its individual basis and preferably have someone with you who knows about these cars.

Any vehicle that is more than 30 years old can take you from the heights of happiness to the depths of despair if you are not careful, but this is why people buy into muscle cars. You get the full range of emotions, but when it does work out, it’s the most exhilarating, raw experience you can have.
It’s really down to you if you want to put in the work.

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