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Teaching the classics: how young drivers are discovering manuals

When Danielle Clayton pictures her next car, she doesn’t think of luxury SUVs or even anything made this century.

“I want a Volkswagen Bug,” the 20-year-old college senior said. “It’s a fun little, unique car. All my friends…have brand new cars. I want the car with a story behind it.”

Just one problem: She doesn’t know how to drive one.

She’s not alone. A report last year from U.S. News & World Report suggested that fewer than 1 in 5 drivers know how to drive a car with a manual transmission. It’s likely that the number of young drivers who know how to navigate a manual is much lower, too.

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That’s part of the reason Hagerty, the classic-car insurance giant, organized a nationwide tour to teach young drivers basic car care, maintenance, and how to “row their own.”

“It’s a little intimidating,” Clayton said. “I drive a Camry, so I’m not used to that at all.”

Danielle’s father, Rich Clayton, is an avid car collector who heard about the event, which was held in Golden, Colorado, on May 13 at the Colorado State Patrol test track. Rich Clayton owns a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, albeit with an automatic transmission.

“This was her idea,” Rich Clayton said. “She asked and I said, ‘Absolutely.'”

This is the sixth year the insurance agency has sponsored the event, according to Rachel Ventimiglia, youth advocacy coordinator for Hagerty. So far, they’ve taught roughly 1,000 young drivers how to drive a manual. For roughly three hours, teens learn about the cars in a classroom, and then transition to the track to drive several cars, including a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS.

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