CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Need a car for my 10yr old to tinker on - suggestions?

My 10 year old is obessed with engines and cars and I’m looking for a cheap car that’s straightforward to work on. (He’s already brought a dead lawn mower back to life and is looking for something bigger.) Any ideas?

Air cooled VW engines are easy to rebuild.

I once rebuilt a 1971 VW engine in my kitchen. I didn’t have a garage at the time. If I can do it I’m sure a 10-year-old can do it.

Just don’t let him drive any of the vehicles these engines are attached to.

After he masters that he can move on to something like a modern Toyota Corolla, or perhaps a motorcycle engine. There are lots of multi-cylinder motorcycles out there.

An old air cooled VW isn’t a bad idea. I’d go with a rough '64 to '66 Mustang hardtop. A 6 cylinder would be cheaper and easier to work on. When he gets to driving age he’ll have a cool car.

Taking off of mcparadise’s last idea, I’d actually go with a dirt bike that is about his size. Or maybe a go kart. How much cooler is it to actually be able to drive the thing after you’ve fixed it up? Answer: way cooler. I’ve recently seen a couple of off-roading dune buggies for sale in my area. You might also try one of those.

Instead of a car what about something like a 4-wheeler that he could work on. When he is done with it then he could drive also.

I also suggest you get him some books that cover basic electrical concepts relative to automobiles. That way he’ll have a solid foundation in both areas.

If you insist on a car, old or recent used 4 cyl Ford Ranger. Haven’t changed many of the parts for years so new or old, he’ll have something to tinker with and you’ll have an occasional use practical trash/building supply/ATV hauler. In reality, I agree that a good start is small engine repair and lawn mowers, snow blowers and outboards are better starts.

I think that you should find a 1960s car that you like for him to work on. Then you can drive it. He’s earning his college tuition.

My vote is with the air cooled VW or an older 4 cylinder pickup.

I’d say go with a 4 cylinder truck, go cart, small 4 wheeler or riding mower. He can earn as he learns.

I’d suggest a snowmobile or motorcycle or riding mower, but parts and repair manuals are harder to get and more expensive than cars.

Go to your local salvage yards (especially U-Pull-It places) and look around. If the establishment will allow it, you and he can take apart cars there.

Do read the recent thread on cars or major parts of a car falling on people and killing them. This should be what is called CLOSE SUPERVISION. Even brilliant kids do not have the life experience to know what can hurt them in all cases.

I would stick with something he can legally operate now. like a dirt bike or a scooter.
Maybe he could look to the future and get an electric scooter.
Some fixer-upper on Ebay.

A few years ago I bought one of these for a song: http://www.egovehicles.com/
Just needed a fresh set of batteries.

I don’t know this 10 year old. I have a 5 year old grandson, and we call him the Little Engineer. His dad is the big engineer. Before he could walk his favorite toy was the clothes dryer He played with the door, pushed the little button to turn on and off the light. And, he loved to clean the lint filter.

When he was 2 or 3, we have pictures of him laying across the radiator/grille assembly of his dad’s car, peering down in there.

A few weeks ago, his mom brought home a science kit of some sort, perhaps Legos, to assemble a space shuttle, a big thing, intended for 8th graders. They explained how it went together, sort of, and he assembled it by himself. I’m not sure if he can read yet.

I guarantee you if when he’s ten his dad offers to buy an old car to work on, then brings him home an electric scooter, he is going to be disappointed.

Try an mid nineties 4 cyl Mustang with a 5 speed. Everything is fairly basic and the parts are plentiful.

I’d also suggest TOOLS!! This is a great opportunity to start a fabulous tool selection. Start small with a hand held chest with a few sockets, then work your way up to a rollaway. The idea is to buy it so that the next toolchest is just an add-on - not a replacement.

I believe that a father asked a similar question some months ago and I will repeat my suggestion, find a Lincoln welder. It will make a good back up power supply at the house and the engines are as basic as model A Fords and parts are cheap and plentiful.