Fifth graders enthused with their introduction to car collecting

Fifth graders enthused with their introduction to car collecting

If you wanted to see enthusiastic bidding on classic cars, you needed to be inside the Worldwide Auctioneers’ tent in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Friday morning.

Fifth graders raise their paddles as they bid on scale models of classic cars | Larry Edsall photos

Fifth graders raise their paddles as they bid on scale models of classic cars | Larry Edsall photos

If you wanted to see enthusiastic bidding on classic cars, you needed to be inside the Worldwide Auctioneers’ tent in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Friday morning when 120 fifth graders were introduced to the wonderful world of collector vehicles.

Under the banner of the Hagerty Test Garage, the students visited four educational stations, learning about the history of the automobile; the energy sources that have provided power for those cars; about ways to experience those cars, including the challenges of time/speed/distance rallies; and with seven collector car auctions taking place next week in Scottsdale and Phoenix, the students also took part in an actual auction experience.

“This is what I’ve been dreaming of. This is what I had in my mind that our youth programs could be,” said Tabetha Hammer, who runs youth programs for Hagerty, the insurance and collector car valuation-tracking company. “Now I want to have 400 or 500 students through it in a weekend.

“It exceeded my expectations about how well the students would receive it,” she added. “They were into the old cars, that was the coolest part, to see the kids engaging and being excited about every station.”

John Kruse, who grew up in the auction business but taught school before returning to help found Worldwide Auctioneers, stepped back into a teacher’s role to explain how auctions work.

A winning bidder's paddle and the car she got to take home

A winning bidder’s paddle and the car she got to take home

“It’s important not to spend more money than you have,” he said, offering the fifth-graders advice we all should heed.

To make the event a hands-0n experience, each student received a numbered bidder’s paddle and got to examine a group of five, hand-built, 1:43-scale Brooklin model cars. Next, each student received an envelope containing $500 or less in play money and, with students serving as auctioneer and bidders’ assistants, an auction took place.

Students were enthusiastic as they raised their paddles, though fewer were lifted as the amount of the bids increased. Finally, there was only one remaining bidder as each car was hammered “sold.”

The high bidder had to give up his or her cash, but got to keep the model car.

Well, with one exception. One enthusiastic bidder forgot Kruse’s warning about not spending more than you had, so, in a real-life auction lesson, the car went to the under bidder.

The collector car hobby often frets about whether youngsters will appreciate cars as Baby Boomers have for so many years. Gen-Xers and even Millennials are starting to enter the arena, an indication that at least a couple more generations will keep the hobby going.

But after watching several scale-model cars being auctioned, and seeing how much the students enjoyed the process, I’d encourage every collector car auction house — and collector car club for that matter — to do similar sessions as a way to introducing even younger people to the hobby.

I saw similar enthusiasm as Brass Era car collector Alan Travis talked about automotive history and racing as he stood between two of his cars — a 1909 Delage and a 1915 Scripps-Booth Vitesse. Travis has been a frequent competitor in The Great Race, a subject the students had researched before their visit and a subject which another Great Race competitor, Herb Clark, was on hand to discuss with the fifth graders.

Also leading one of the stations was Debbie Kray, education manager at the Le May — America’s Car Museum, who not only talked about energy to power cars, but had various power-generating stations where the students could experience the work needed to generate electricity.

Students take a close look at Alan Travis' 1915 Scripps-Booth Vitesse

Students take a close look at Alan Travis’ 1915 Scripps-Booth Vitesse

The Hagerty Test Garage program filled the first day of the three-day NextGen AutoFest being staged by the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, with participation from Worldwide Auctioneers, the RPM Foundation, the LeMay, the Automotive Restoration Club of Sun City West, and from the Vintage Kart Company and its Scottsdale Grand Prix.

The program continues Saturday morning at 6400 East McDowell Road in Scottsdale with a Cars, Kids and Collectors car show; a Hagerty Driving Experience, with drivers 15-25 learning how to drive cars with manual transmission; a series of RPM Foundation seminars about automotive careers; and an official early-bird preview of the upcoming Worldwide Auctioneers’ sale, except instead of scale models, this preview will feature the full-size real collector cars that will cross the block Wednesday.

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