Sharing your car with people serves a higher purpose

Rob Kauffman (in sunglasses) explains the finer points of the 1966 Ford GT40 to an obviously delighted Ryan Briscoe of Chip Ganassi Racing as Larry Webster (left) looks on.
Jamey Price
Rob Kauffman (in sunglasses) explains the finer points of the 1966 Ford GT40 to an obviously delighted Ryan Briscoe of Chip Ganassi Racing as Larry Webster (left) looks on.

One of the last things I did as we prepared to send this month’s issue of Hagerty magazine to the printer was to open my garage door, walk over to my 1994 Ford Mustang Cobra, and tear a Hagerty sticker off its windshield.

The sticker reads, Sniff but Don’t Scratch. Hagerty has given these out for years. Perhaps you have one, and you appreciate its whimsical reminder for onlookers at your local cars-and-coffee events to be careful around your beloved machine. I did.

Rob Kauffman, proprietor of RK Motors in Charlotte, North Carolina, and owner of the Ford GT40 on the magazine’s cover that will be hitting Hagerty Driver’s Club members’ mailboxes in early November, changed my thinking.

If any car should be behind velvet ropes, beyond the probing, greasy fingers of mere mortals, it’s the GT40, chassis P/1046, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. One of the most significant cars ever made, it played a major role in racing’s most compelling era. Oh, and it recently received a painstaking restoration. Needless to say, it’s worth a fortune.

We were at Virginia International Raceway as part of our special coverage of the upcoming Ford v Ferrari film, which we’re covering with a special feature story in this issue. Ford brought along a modern GT racing car, just like the one that won the GTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2016. We had gingerly asked Kauffman to bring his GT40 so we’d have the pillars of Ford’s endurance racing victories in one place. And could we possibly drive his historic jewel?

Despite his GT40’s provenance, Kauffman kindly assented. He trailered the car to VIR, let anyone sit in it, and didn’t panic as a half-dozen people laid hands on the GT40 to push it into position for photographs. And, yes, he granted me the rare privilege of driving it. (I’m still pinching myself.)

Kauffman’s GT40 is truly one of a kind, but his attitude is one we all can—and should—emulate. Hagerty owns some 50 classic cars, and all of them are heavily used. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to snag a slot at the Hagerty Driving Experience, where we let anyone drive them, no charge. (We’ve also used many Hagerty member-owned cars to teach people how to drive manual transmissions.)

Now, why is this open-arms approach the right way to go? Why risk damage to your pride and joy? Because Hagerty and its members are on a mission to save driving, plain and simple. Driverless cars will come eventually. When they do, we all need to make sure as many people as possible, particularly younger people, share or at least appreciate our passion, lest our cars be legislated off the roads. Cars as inanimate museum artifacts will not help this mission.

We all play a part. My 40,000-mile Mustang is nothing special in the great pantheon of cars, yet the previous owner coddled it so obsessively, you could eat off the valve covers. Initially, I felt I needed to preserve the car like he did. How many 1994 Mustangs are so clean?

I forgot, however, about the bigger picture. That’s why I ripped off the sticker. I’ve since taken neighborhood kids for rides, and I let my teenage son drive the Cobra on dates. Of course I worry, but there’s a broader purpose. Please join me and share your cars.