My first car was a 1988½ Ford Escort hatchback. It was automatic, it was beige, and it was slow. It was also quite free, having passed from my father to my brother to me, so I didn’t complain, and I loved that thing.
But I didn’t become a hoon until years later. My car interest was so low I never changed the oil in that poor old hatch. Oh Escort, would that I knew you now. I’ve grown. That said, if I were 16 now, my potential for hoonage in a first car would be significantly lower than it was back in 2000. Fox body Mustangs are getting more expensive, and the cheapest of the cheap is now a Geo Metro.
Which is not to say one can’t hoon a Metro. But between parents’ ever-swelling safety paranoia, price gauging insurance companies, and collectors snatching up the cheap power, it’s a hard knocks life for the 16-year-old hoon in America.
So we put together a few fun and/or powerful first car selections to help you scratch the itch. They’re all going for pretty cheap these days, and should be pretty cheap to insure, too, even if your license is still warm in your wallet.
1. Lincoln Mark VIII
It was a luxury coupe, a true gentlemen’s touring car. Refined, sophisticated, and RWD. These days you’ll find them rusting in single-shack car lots and clogging up Craigslist. Grab yours for a cheap ticket to 290 hp.
2. 1992-1993 Dodge Dakota
There’s nothing cheaper to insure than an old, compact pickup. Plenty of the now-orange Dakotas came loaded with a 5.2 liter, 230 hp V8, rather insane for the size, and more than enough to kick the lightweight tail free, especially in the ubiquitous 2WD version. You can even find one with a 5-speed. Just make sure to keep some weight in the back during the winter months.
3. 1994 Chevy Caprice
We’re not talking about the cop car, which only had 200 hp. Many of these beached whales came with a 260 hp LT1, a detuned Corvette engine. That will impress the girls. SS models will be rare and tough to get with your Taco Bell money, but get a standard Caprice sedan (or wagon for extra points), and you’re golden.
4. Datsun 510
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Datsun 510. The best of the little four-cylinder engines got about 96 hp. But don’t run yet. They’re RWD, almost all manual, and lightweight, tipping at just over a ton. If you’d rather have your fun around an autocross course than in a straight line, the 510 is your hoonmobile. Also, it’s pretty unique. Kitsch cred.
5. Mazda 323 Hatchback
For another low-power choice, look into Mazda’s old 323 hatch. Better still, look for one with 4WD. Yes, the little carry-all came in a rally-fried dirt road version. The 140 Ford-sponsored horses under the hood are more than enough to get the 2,000 lb car moving.
6. 1989-1995 Ford Taurus SHO
Speaking of Ford’s dalliances with Japan, they once partnered with Yamaha to build a mid-engine competitor to the Toyota MR2 and the Pontiac Fiero. Then budgeting or somesuch stamped out this blazing torch of awesome. The 3.0 Yamaha V6 remained, however, so Ford threw it in their much loved family car. Yes, it’s FWD, but it’s a Taurus with a stick, and it has 220 hp.
7. Infinity Q45
Infiniti’s very first car in America was a marketing disaster when it hit our shores in 1990. The ads didn’t show the car or say anything about it. Not exactly Don Draper material. So, as forgotten as the Infiniti brand often is, the Q45 is the forgotten Infiniti. But everyone missed out. The RWD Q45 has a 276 hp, 4.5 liter V8, four wheel steering, and active suspension. And, as often is the case with mid-market luxury sedans, it depreciated quickly. Not a bad choice for a young hoon.
What was your first car? Was it at all hoonable? What would you add to this list?
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.