Hagerty Driving Experience: Teaching young drivers three-pedal fun

For the newest generation of drivers, and even those with years of experience, the skill of driving a manual transmission is one that few possess. With less than 10 percent of new cars produced today being equipped with a manual transmission, there’s far less opportunity and need to learn how to operate a clutch and shift gears. The Hagerty Driving Experience Powered by Ford aims to help steer that outcome down a different road.

Pairing a classroom session with closed-course driving lessons, the Hagerty Driving Experience provides a unique and exciting opportunity for young drivers to learn how to operate a manual transmission. At six locations across the country, more than 300 participants finessed the pedals in a wide variety of vehicles that included a 1929 Ford Model A, 1963 Jaguar E-Type and 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS.

“The future of the car hobby depends on young drivers being excited about cars, and being able to actually drive them,” said McKeel Hagerty, President and CEO of Hagerty.  “The Driving Experience gives them the chance to learn those skills from behind the wheel.”

Ford Motor Company shares the passion for teaching young people how to drive manual transmissions, and it was with great pleasure that the Driving Experience officially partnered with Ford this year. Through the company’s support, two 2013 Ford Mustang GTs and a Focus ST were provided for each event, giving participants the chance to experience modern performance vehicles in addition to a variety of classic cars provided by local car owners.

With the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang approaching in 2014, the inclusion of new Mustangs at each event offered a perfect opportunity for participants to experience the modern version of one of the industry’s most iconic cars, one that is easily relatable to young and old alike.

Some events included both modern and classic examples of Mustangs.  During the Orange County, Calif., event, ABC- 7 television personality Dave Kunz volunteered his 1965 Ford Mustang. It was with this car that he learned to drive a stick shift as a teenager, and he was thrilled to give today’s young drivers the chance to learn behind the same wheel. Having Kunz’s first generation Mustang roll alongside Ford’s 2013 Mustang GT was an ideal parallel that helped participants gain an even deeper appreciation of our automotive heritage and how the past continues to carry us forward.

The Driving Experience wrapped up the year at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September. The experience was especially unique for 16-year-old Krystal-Jo Weiss, who used her newfound shifting skill to drive her 1967 Ford Bronco to her high school homecoming.

“It was fun driving both the classics and the new cars,” Weiss said. “I learned that you really have to focus when driving a manual transmission. You’re more involved and more connected because you have to know your car better.”

The Hagerty Driving Experience Powered by Ford continues to gain momentum for 2014. Our partnership with Ford Motor Company helped provide more young drivers the chance to learn the ins and outs of motoring in a unique and memorable way that will remain with them for years to come – and might even lead them to owning a manual transmission vehicle of their own one day.

Hagerty is currently planning dates and locations for 2014, so keep an eye on our Facebook page (www.hagerty.com/drivingexperience) to learn where the gears will be shifting!