Hagerty Race Team: Little 1935 Austin 7 provides big thrills

Logan Calkins may be a rookie race car driver, but he knows plenty about the race car he drives. His 1935 Austin 7 Nippy is one of a number of pre-war European automobiles that he worked on during a 14-year career as a professional restorer before joining Hagerty 2½ years ago.

Bugattis were Calkins’ specialty—some went on to win their class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—but when it came time to buy, Calkins was realistic. “I knew I could never afford a Bugatti. I helped a client rebuild the Austin mechanically, and I told him, ‘If you ever sell it, I want first dibs.’ He eventually gave me that opportunity, and I went for it.”

The 700-pound Austin carries an engine from a British shop that specializes in Austin 7 racing. It produces a period-correct 50 horsepower and 48 lb.-ft. of torque, neither of which seem all that impressive — unless you’re behind the wheel. “Fast is a relative term,” Calkins says. “Believe me, 60 mph is incredibly fast in that little car.”

Calkins is still getting use to racing the car at speed. He recently earned his racing license from the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association and is eagerly awaiting the SVRA Sonoma (Calif.) Historic Motorsports Festival in June.

THE ROOKIE

Driver: Logan Calkins, 33; Vista, Calif.

Position at Hagerty: West Coast Private Client Services Manager

Race car: 1935 Austin 7 Nippy

Family: My dad and grandfather were extremely interested in cars, but they didn’t race. My wife, Jennilee, wants a Mini Cooper that she can race someday. We have three kids: a son, Cache (8), and two daughters Velzy (6) and Florence (11 months). My son is so used to being around the cars that I don’t think he realizes just how cool they are and how lucky he is.

Events per year: I’m hoping to do 4-6 events a year.

Favorite track: I haven’t raced it yet, but I’ve always dreamed of running at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. I grew up in northern California, so the thought of being on that track with all that history is pretty amazing.

Most memorable moment in racing: Well, that’s an easy one. Getting my racing license is definitely my greatest memory so far. It was more exciting than when I got my driver’s license in high school. SVRA racing school was fun. It was in Atlanta, so I didn’t drive the Austin because it was too far from home. But I got lots of track time, and we had two full races. I’ve been able to get a feel for the Austin with some exhibition runs. The first time I took it out on the track and drove it as it was meant to be driven, it was like a whole new car. I’m addicted now.

What about racing keeps you coming back? I love the pre-war group. I think that’s the purest form of racing, because it’s the least safe and the rawest (laughs). It’s fun to safely take your car to its limits and full potential. Vintage racing isn’t as competitive as modern commercial racing, but it’s a great way to test yourself. The older drivers really inspire me. The guys I know are (physically) fit, so obviously racing keeps you young.

What’s it like to race on a team? It’s fun to be part of it, and our clients love that we have a race team. I hear that all the time.

How does Hagerty fuel your passion for cars and racing? I get to participate in some great events. And when I mentioned that I wanted to race, I received a lot of support. It’s great that people see us out there doing it. Not only do we say we get it, we prove we do. I think that means a lot.