Classic car restoration students learn paint techniques at McPherson College in Kansas | Photo by Larry Edsall
McKeel Hagerty is on a mission to do more than merely insure classic cars. He wants to insure the future of the classic car hobby.
He recently was speaking to a group of car collectors and reminded them that there is “that one guy who knows how to make this one thing” you need for your car.
Skills are being lost.”
— David Madeira
It doesn’t really matter what that one thing may be, he added. Too frequently, there is only one person who still knows how to make it or to fix it, and the hobby cannot afford for that person’s knowledge to disappear when that one person dies.
“Skills are being lost,” said David Madeira, president and chief executive of the Le May — America’s Car Museum, which was host to the gathering at which Hagerty spoke during the annual Arizona Auction Week.
To keep those skills — and the classic car hobby itself — alive, Madeira and Hagerty announced that what has been known as the Collectors Foundation will be reborn as the Hagerty Education Program, a 509 (a)(3) non-profit that will be administered through the museum.
Why this change? Well, for one thing, Collectors Foundation chief executive Bob Knechel recently retired. For another, Hagerty said he has learned that while he may be able to run a for-profit insurance company, his skill is not oversight of a non-profit.
The inspiration for what became known as the Collectors Foundation was provided nearly a decade ago when car collector and comedian Jay Leno was accepting the Meguiar’s Award as classic car person of the year. Instead of telling jokes, Leno told his fellow car collectors it was time they all started giving back to the hobby, particularly by helping to educate a new generation of classic car maintenance and restoration specialists.
What started as the Hagerty Fund evolved into the Collectors Foundation, raising money to fund scholarships and to help “bring back shop class” to high schools across the country.
The alternative, Hagerty realized, would be that, “some of these arts, these skills will go away.”
In the ensuing decade, the Collectors Foundation provided help to some 2,000 young people seeking careers in classic car restoration and maintenance by funding 100 programs, 285 scholarships and 27 internships.
To launch the new initiative with the Le May, Hagerty Insurance has pledged $1.75 million during the next five years and hopes other businesses in the classic car industry will make additional significant contributions, and that individual classic car hobbyists also will make donations.
Hagerty and Madiera also announced that former Indy 500 and Le Mans racer Lyn St. James, a long-time advocate for young people — especially young women — in motorsports, in sports and in education, will serve an “ambassador” for both the renewed educational fund and for the LeMay museum itself.
“There are 22-million collector cars out there,” St. James said, adding that those cars need caretakers, not only now but for generations to come.