Teenagers learn art of driving stick shift


Danny Tovar, 17, got to take a spin in a brand-new Mustang GT, but there was just one catch -- the Mustang had a manual transmission.

A couple new and classic cars with manual transmissions were rounded up, along with their owners and local teens, for the Hagerty Driving Experience in Anaheim. It was a day-long exercise put on by the classic car insurance company to show teens how vintage cars work and how to drive them.

"It's really important that we share these classic cars with them, and that they have the experience and the opportunity to really feel what these cars are like and get excited about them," said Tabetha Hammer with Hagerty Insurance. "Hopefully, someday they'll own one as well."

The teens first took part in a classroom session to take the mystery out of how a clutch works. The kids then picked their favorite car to get to work in, from Beetle to Corvette. The cars are all similar in the fact that they have three pedals but all very different. Ford brought three new cars, too.

Ask anyone who's ever tried it -- it's not an easy thing to learn.

"Yes, it's hard, but when you get used to it, it's not that bad," one teenage driver said.

"I guess you could say I'm good," said teen driver Dillon van Neel. "I'm a decent driver at least."

Hagerty Insurance put out the call to classic car owners to come and help out by offering their cars. I brought my 1965 Mustang with a four-speed manual transmission. What's special about it? The Mustang used to belong to my uncle, and I got a stick shift lesson in it when I had my learner's permit.

Many enthusiast owners obliged, even one with a 1964 Corvette.

"I want to show them the same trust that people showed in me when I was their age and letting me drive their cars, too," said classic Corvette owner Jeff Roessler.

There were rough spots for sure. But like mastering a dance step, dancing with a car's clutch pedal and gear shift properly can make you feel graceful and in control.

"We should learn how to do a manual first then an automatic because this seems like something a lot harder to learn," said teen driver River Clark.

His friends may not agree, but perhaps they would if they had gotten to be part of this unique hands-on demonstration.

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