In the 1980s I first learned how to drive on a vehicle with a manual transmission, as did most of my friends. Fast-forward to today and it is hard to find a teen who is learning to drive on anything but an automatic transmission. Hagerty Insurance, an insurance company dedicated to the classic and collector car market, is stepping in to help keep this art alive by sponsoring driving experiences across the nation.

On March 23, Hagerty Insurance and Ford sponsored the first driving experience of the year. A once-vibrant auto sales complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., is now the site of a private collector car museum and on Saturday, the parking lot was turned into a closed driving course with one purpose: teaching teens and young adults aged 15-25 the art of driving a manual transmission.

Local automotive enthusiasts donated their vehicles and their time to teach these teens how to drive using a clutch. This wasn’t a high-speed romp around the parking lot, instead the route was filled with several stops designed to give participants multiple opportunities to learn how to use the clutch to go from a complete stop to first gear.

I attended the event with my nephew, Zach. Zach is learning to drive on a manual transmission but a quick survey of the afternoon crowd at the event showed that only about half of the attendees have ever driven a manual. The day kicked off with a classroom lesson about what a clutch is and how it works, led by Hagerty Insurance’s Jonathan Klinger. After the clutch lesson, Klinger led the workshop attendees outside for a quick maintenance tip talk. Once that was done, it was time for the drivers to get behind the wheel and learn to drive using a clutch.

Warren Smith was one of the classic car fans attending the event. Smith brought along his beautiful blue 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. I’ve always loved the lines on the late 1960s Corvettes, even when I was only a young girl. I asked Smith why he decided to participate in the event, and he explained that he wanted to have fun and pay it forward, helping teens learn to drive a clutch and appreciate the beauty of a classic Corvette.

In a follow-up email, Smith said, “If the classic car hobby is to continue, then young folks today need to be involved and what better way to peak their interest than to get them to drive one. I believe most kids today see classic cars such as the ones at the big auto auctions — like Barrett Jackson — and think while it would be wonderful to own a classic, it’s too rich of a hobby to pursue. That’s not the case at all — it’s quite reasonable to get started with your first one and then work your way up to your dream car.”

Smith’s LeMans Blue Corvette was my nephew’s favorite vehicle at the event. Zach explained, “The low rumble of the exhaust screamed pure muscle, and the clutch was extremely smooth to operate. The curves and styling are timeless.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

In addition to Smith’s Corvette, Zach also drove a 1968 Triumph, a highly modified 2004 Dodge Neon SRT/4, a 2013 Ford Mustang GT and a 2013 Ford Focus ST.

Future stops on the 2013 Hagerty Driving Experience include:

  • April 13 – Houston, Texas
  • June 7 – Denver, Colo.
  • July 12 – Orange County, Calif.
  • Aug. 2 – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Sept. 21 – Las Vegas, Nev.
If you have a teen between the ages of 15 and 25, I highly recommend this free event. Learn more by visiting the Hagerty Driving Experience Facebook page and check out my pictures from the event at 2013 Hagerty Driving Experience - Scottsdale.

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Teens learn the art of driving a manual transmission
The prevalence of automatic transmissions is leading to an entire generation of youth who may never know how to drive a manual transmission.