Grind the gears. Kill the engine. Spin the tires a bit. It’s OK — even in Gary Krings’ red Ferrari.
Or in Nathan Spears’ Model A, or one of the 1966 Corvettes, or that 1970 Mustang Shelby GT500.
Learning to drive a manual transmission is tricky. But that is exactly what happened Saturday morning when a dozen classic cars met 14 young drivers in a parking lot outside Kansas Speedway.
These were students learning how to handle a stick and finding out how much has changed in cars through the decades, all thanks to the car owners and the Hagerty Driving Experience.
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The Michigan-based company sells insurance for collectible cars and boats. This was its first event in Kansas City, drawing a wide collection of cars for the program open to student drivers ages 15 to 25.
Mandi Mitchell of Olathe was the first to test-drive the 1981 Ferrari. Three laps around the stop-and-go closed course with owner Krings along for instruction and maybe a bit of safekeeping for his car.
It was the first time she’d driven a stick, unless you count when she was 12 and drove an old Volkswagen.
Next, the calendar rolled back a few decades as Mitchell drove a 1941 Cadillac Fleetwood. It was the only car there with its gear shifter on the steering column instead of the floor — “three on the tree.”
“It was much harder to drive,” Mitchell, 23, said of the Cadillac. “It’s so much more technical.”
The big, heavy Caddy also needed a lot more gas to get rolling as the clutch engaged than the fleet Ferrari.
“You think you’re going, you think you’re going. Nope. You’ve got to give it more,” Mitchell said.
Before they got behind the wheels, the young drivers took a classroom lesson in how clutches and transmissions work. Hagerty’s Tabetha Hammer told them to expect some difficulty but to press on —they’d get it.
Jack Wallace, owner of one of those red Corvettes, offered a caution.
“It’s meant for high speeds and road courses, but not today,” he told the group before the driving began.
Hagerty holds these events to help instill interest in classic cars, which generally need the driver to know how to handle a manual transmission.
Krings, a financial adviser in Overland Park, said he and his Ferrari were there to pay forward the thrilling experience of cars that he first got as a toddler. Someone gave him a ride in a race car down the Paseo.
“It’s like it was yesterday to me,” Krings said.