Recently, I drove down to the harbor to watch a neighbor launch his wood sloop, at last finished after 28 years under construction in his shed.

I wasn’t in a Corvette, but rather a 1967 Mustang that I recently adopted. The little Ivy Green coupe exerted a magnetic pull on a college-age young man, who ambled over to ask about its engine. This somehow took me back to my own college days, when my buddies and I scored dozens of now-covetable cars off the streets and alleyways of Los Angeles.

Streets were rife with old iron then, usually with some problem or another sidelining them from active duty. And with two oil crises, escalating gas prices, and ever-better Japanese imports arriving, these old American lumps were cheap. Knock on a few doors, and we’d eventually find a GTO, T-Bird, Mustang, or a big-finned American convertible for $25 to $350. No joke.

While we were busy picking these fruits off the streets — and then inevitably selling them after we’d had our fun — we did have serious conversations about the future. “You know what we should do?” it would invariably start, “Buy a barn in the desert and put some cars away. Someday we’ll regret selling them.” Well, that happened.

So in hindsight, for us at least, the biggest problem of young men owning neat old cars was never the mechanical or cosmetic issues — all of these can be solved with effort and dollars — but life getting in the way. Schooling to complete. An apartment with lousy parking. Frequent job or career moves. Girlfriends. Wives. Money needed for a house, or an IRA, or a baby. Poor old cars never stood a chance.

So as the college kid looked in the window and I looked out (and back in time), I found myself reliving 22 and thinking about what would have made it work, and what Corvette would I pick if I were that age now. So herewith, I present a brief but heartfelt guide to Corvette collecting for young people.

What to collect

In almost every case, the value curve for used cars is an inverse bell curve: full retail when new, depreciating for 10 to 15 years, laying low for a while, and then ascending in value as they find favor as collectibles.

From 16 to perhaps 26 years old, absent good fortune or family assistance, many young Corvette fans must look for the cheapest model they can find. And today, amigos, that means either a late C3, a C4, or an early C5. Are these models poised for greatness in collectibility? Maybe. Maybe not. What matters most is whether you like them.

The 2016 ACC Pocket Price Guide lists 25 Corvettes as worth less than $12,000 in median price. For my money, the top four most desirable ones include:

1978 coupe ($11,900): Benefiting from fresh restyling, the ’78 model was a sales juggernaut, with nearly 47,000 made. Among them were more than 6,500 now-iconic Pace Car replicas.

1980 coupe ($11,900): The last iteration of the C3 Shark body design included a standard kick-up spoiler, adding style points to an 18-year-old platform.

1986 convertible ($10,400): The return of the drop-top Corvette was a huge home run for Chevrolet, and 1,464 of them were painted an eye-popping yellow that year.

1984 coupe ($7,500): Here is the cheapest (all right, “most affordable”) ’Vette in the ACC guide. With over 51,500 made, they’re plentiful, and the Buck Rogers digital instrumentation is like a throwback video game. For a tech-savvy kid, it’s perfect.

Insurance matters

Thankfully, the cost of insurance is not draconian for a young Corvette owner. In California, I found that the annual premium for full coverage on a 1996 coupe goes from $623 for a 50-year-old male to $1,095 for a 22-year-old male (or $39 per month more), assuming both have held licenses since age 16 and have clean records. I was surprised to learn that insurers can’t discriminate based on age, but they adjust the rates based on how many years drivers have been licensed. So if you’re a parent, to keep your kid’s insurance rates down when they’re in their 20s, get them licensed when they’re first eligible.

How to hold on

As noted above, life’s journey of schooling, relocation, jobs, marriage and family can make retaining even the perfect car difficult or impossible. To avoid this squeeze, plan for how you’ll hold on to that Corvette when the road gets rocky. Just a few thought starters:

Loss of storage: While you’re saving for your Corvette, kick in funds for a secure garage in case you ever need to mothball the car. Plan on at least a two-year window to see you through. If garage space costs $100 monthly in your area, make sure you’ve got $2,400 monthly rent available for the purpose — or at least the ability to make the payments. The benefit? You’ll never lose your Corvette due to lack of storage.

No free time: If this is all that stands in between you and a Corvette, count yourself lucky. And the solution is just as easy: Instead of selling the car in frustration, mothball it instead, and look forward to the time when you can reconnect and enjoy the ride. Whether that’s a few weeks or a decade doesn’t matter, as long as you get back together eventually. Plan financially as above.

Money blues: Sometimes there just isn’t enough green stuff to go around. This can happen to most anyone at any age, so don’t feel singled out for being young. Contributing monthly to a “rainy day” or discretionary fund can take the sting out of suddenly needing cash, thereby helping you retain your Corvette during lean times. If you absolutely need the money that’s tied up in your ’Vette, as a last resort maybe a parent or relative will agree to buy it from you, with a straightforward deal that has you repurchasing the car after a specific period of time — or else.

My final point of Corvette advice for Youth Under Pressure (YUP) has to do with foresight. When we’re young, our world view holds that we’re gonna make all the money, all doors to opportunity will always remain open, we’ll never become 30, or 40, or 50, or worse(!), and we’ll never miss what we pitch by the side of the road. But I’m here to tell you, having been there and lived that, if you’re a car guy (or girl), eventually you’ll reach an age where you’ll wish you had kept just one single car.

And so if you can accept this truth today, you can catch and hold that car for tomorrow.

While you’re at it, just make it a Corvette.

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