Arizona Auction Week isn’t just for big kids and big wallets

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Hagerty Test Garage Matt Lewis

Who says kids don’t like cars anymore? Certainly not them.

“Look, a Ferrari!” a 10-year-old girl says in astonishment after spotting a silver 1983 Mondial during Wednesday’s Hagerty Test Garage youth event at Tavan Elementary School in Phoenix. “OMG! I can’t wait to tell my dad!”

The event, held in conjunction with Arizona Auction Week, was developed to help ensure the future of the classic car hobby by providing young people with unique access to classic car-related experiences. Hagerty hosts similar youth events throughout the country each year, and we couldn’t do it alone.

Hagerty Drivers Club members volunteer to bring their vehicles and give rides, host games, and talk about automotive history. Alan Travis is one of those generous people. Dressed in period clothing and standing in front of a 1913 Bugatti, an early 1900s Excelsior Autocycle, an 1897 De Dion Bouton motorized bicycle, and a table filled with antique memorabilia and vintage magazines, he encourages a lucky group of fifth graders to embrace history.

“I have 18 historic vehicles and thousands of artifacts, but I don’t own any of them. I’m just their caretaker,” he says. “Sure, I paid money for them, but I don’t really own them. I’m taking care of them, just like the people before me did, and just like the people after me will. You could be one of those people. I have a passion for these things, and hopefully seeing these things will inspire you to become a caretaker too.”

Hagerty Test Garage
Matt Lewis

Afterward, Travis explains why his involvement with the Hagerty Test Garage is so important. “I’ve been giving tours of my collection for years, and I’ve been helping Hagerty at these events for five or six years. I certainly love it, and the kids seem to love it. I’m just trying to give them the sense that even though they may not see it now, they could be a caretaker someday too. It’s important to get them excited about that possibility, because we’re going to need more of those people someday.”

Hagerty Test Garage
Matt Lewis

In addition to Travis’ history lesson, the fifth graders also try their hand at slot car racing and then get the opportunity to have their photo taken in the driver’s seat of the Mondial or a red, first-generation 1993 Dodge Viper. During the week leading up to the event, they also created color drawings of their favorite car or cars.

Without a doubt, however, the most popular station on this sunny morning is the classic car ride-along. Each student gets to ride around the school’s soccer field in four different vintage automobiles—a 1901 Oldsmobile replica, a 1953 Mercury Monterey convertible, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door sedan, and a 1972 Buick Gran Sport convertible. With each pass they wave at their teachers and classmates as if they’re riding in a parade car.

Arizona Youth
Matt Lewis

“This is an amazing thing—a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these kids,” a school administrator says, then she jokes, “I know of a lot of adults who would like to be out here standing in line right now.”

Brett Lirones, Hagerty driving coordinator, insists that kids still get excited about cars. You can see it in their wide eyes and the smiles on their faces.

“So many people have the misconception that kids don’t like cars, but from the moment we got here with the Viper, they’ve been swarming it,” he says. “They’re having a great time because, yes, they love cars. We just need to nurture it.”

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