Youth programs fuel kids interest in classic cars

It may seem like there’s no shortage of classic car buffs, with regular meets, cruise-ins and swaps spanning the states. But without the interest of the youth, the future of the hobby is in danger.

Hagerty is working hard to instill a sense of passion among the next generation of collectors through its Operation Ignite! initiatives. Its Youth Judging Program is an opportunity for kids to learn about great cars firsthand. At select events around the country, a knowledgeable adult guide leads children through a car show, teaching some automotive fundamentals as the children judge the cars and interact with the owners.

Most recently, 11 lucky kids from 6 to 11 years old had the chance to get a close look at five collector cars at the Charlotte Auto Fair in April. Clad in official Hagerty gear and toting an official judge’s clipboard, the kids scrutinized five different vehicles. Each car was rated in several categories, ranging from the sound of the horn to the condition of the paint. A 2008 Corvette C6 took 1st place, followed in order by a 1995 Camaro, a 1965 Mustang Fastback, a ’66 Charger and a ’57 Chevrolet 210. After the judging, the kids were able to meet the cars’ owners and even sit in the Mustang and the Chevrolet.

Tabetha Salsbury, Hagerty’s youth advocacy coordinator, says the program is impacting the lives of youth across the country by providing them hands-on and affirming learning experiences. “It is exactly these kinds of programs that are essential to growing the next generation of collector car enthusiasts,” she said.

Other Operation Ignite! initiatives include a Young Designers Contest, which asks kids to submit original renderings based on a specific theme each year. The 2010 contest is calling for futuristic designs of what kids think their favorite collector automobile will look like in 2060.Two other program are also in development: a “Kid Friendly Car Show Kit” designed to make car shows more educational and entertaining to kids; and paddock tours at racing events for kids to get an up-close look at race cars and drivers.

Hagerty’s Youth Judging Program wasn’t the only program geared toward young enthusiasts at the Charlotte Auto Fair. Mike Munao, vice president of youth development for the AACA Hornet’s Nest Region, had his own group of budding car guys and girls. His approach is to get kids interested in current vehicles and their maintenance in order to encourage interest in the older models as well. He provides program participants with tools like a car checklist for a safe road trip and tips for buying a used car.

These programs let kids take an active role in the hobby, and judging by the smiles on the kids’ faces in Charlotte, it’s creating lasting connection between current collectors and the next generation of enthusiasts.