Here’s to driving out of the storm and making new memories

Hagerty Family Packard summer cruise traverse city
McKeel Hagerty

My “Drive of the Year” for 2020 was in my 1937 Packard convertible sedan. In its day, Packard was known for some of the most elegant and stately machines on the road. The automaker’s clientele came from the cream of society, bankers and financiers in particular. With big, L-head V-12 engines and long wheelbases—144.1 inches, in the case of my ’37—Packards were a perfect reflection of their owners: imposing and powerful. I like to imagine what it was like at the time to be a Packard owner. How did they live? How did they spend their time? What did driving cars like this mean to them?

I love chauffeuring people around in the Packard. This particular day in July involved my 85-year-old mother, Louise, and my 24-year-old daughter, Olivia. COVID had limited our time together, so we decided to take a spin up the long, narrow peninsula where we live. With its top down and oceanic back seat, the Packard was perfect. And so was the weather.

Until, suddenly, it wasn’t. A massive storm blew in from Lake Michigan and we were caught with the top down, miles from home. If you’re wondering, “Why didn’t you just put the top up?” my response is only half-joking: “Because it takes three people about 45 minutes to get the top up on a ’37 Packard.” And it was already raining heavily. So, we made a run for it, away from the storm but also further away from home. Fortunately, nearby was a friend’s vineyard with lots of outbuildings with attached overhangs. Sure enough, one was unoccupied. We pulled in and rode out the storm there, laughing, telling stories, and listening to jazz on Olivia’s phone. The rain really came down, but we (and the Packard’s wool upholstery) were fine. And bad weather always passes.

Hagerty Family summer cruise traverse city
McKeel Hagerty

It’s amazing how many memories include our cars. Who doesn’t remember their first car? Who doesn’t have a road-trip story, a going-too-fast story, or, yes, even a caught-in-a-storm story that, in retrospect, wasn’t so bad after all?

Cars are part of us and our lives. It’s hard to imagine that ever changing, yet autonomous vehicle technology is supposed to kill the car as we know it. Just like the horse was replaced by the car, the car will be replaced by other forms of transportation. That’s what “they” say. But they don’t know everything. Horses, for instance, haven’t gone away. They’re a $120 billion industry in the U.S. Why? Because people like horses. Horses and people build memories together. It’s the same for cars.

So, no, cars and drives away from rainstorms aren’t going away, not on our watch. At Hagerty, saving driving for future generations is our purpose and mission. It’s why we print Hagerty Drivers Club magazine, teach teens to drive a manual, and have given grants to struggling auto shops during COVID. It’s why we sponsor motorsports, create cool driving tours, support organizations like the Historic Vehicle Association, and much, much more. We have even bigger plans for 2021 and beyond (including getting 25,000 newbies to try competing in amateur motorsports). But none of it would matter without you. You are our partner in spreading car love, and we thank you for that. Together, we are saving our beloved pastime and preserving it for future generations. Sounds good, right? My mom thinks so.

Here’s to making more memories in the new—and hopefully better—year.

McKeel Hagerty is the CEO of Hagerty. He still drives his first car, a once-dilapidated ’67 Porsche 911 S that he restored with his father, on the same northern Michigan roads that he did as a teenager.

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    Thank you, McKeel. When my brother and I were young, your mother was always so kind and took such good care of us. We will think of her always.

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