In the Rearview Mirror: Doubling down

July 30, 2021

Hagerty Drivers Club Magazine
McKeel Hagerty

It all started with Jay Leno. Back in 1997, I was at a black-tie affair in California where Jay was being honored as the Car Person of the Year by our friends at Meguiar’s. I was 29 at the time (is that even possible?), with a head full of hair and big dreams. My youth and my hair have both receded since then, but one thing that has not changed is my appreciation for what Jay said that night as he accepted the award.

Jay was his usual funny self. But then he became serious, talking about the “dying arts” of the car world, how generations of knowledge were fading away. He said we were rapidly losing the skilled craftspeople who could restore and repair classics. We’d long benefited from a ready supply of “old-timers” who grew up building and working on cars. Without a meaningful way to transfer that knowledge, Jay said, it wouldn’t be long before it would be darned near impossible to find someone qualified to fix up our prized rides.

Jay’s words probably didn’t mean that much to some in the room, but to me, they were a lifelong call to action. He was right,

after all. If you love something, you can’t assume it will always be there. You have to protect it, not just for today, but for poster- ity. From that moment, it has not only been Hagerty’s mission to protect cars but also to be good stewards of automotive culture for future generations. It’s why we make this magazine. It’s why we have our valuation tools. It’s why we’re creating a TV network of cool car shows on YouTube. (Check it out if you haven’t already.) And it’s why we publish the most comprehensive collector car value guide in the biz and operate events like the California Mille and the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance.

doubling down imageSince 2003, Hagerty has helped raise over $20 million to support car culture. We’ve taught thousands of teens how to drive a manual transmission. (Some say it’s a dying art, but not on our watch!) We’ve helped hundreds more afford driver’s train- ing, with thousands more to come. We helped keep small automotive shops afloat during the early days of the pandemic. We even founded the organization that names cars and trucks to the National Historic

Vehicle Register, housed in the Library of Congress. (This year’s first entry: the DeLorean from Back to the Future. We’ll announce two other inductees this fall.)

It’s been quite a journey, but we’re not done yet. In fact, we’re doubling down. In late May, we officially announced the formation of the Hagerty Drivers Foundation. Why a new foundation? The bottom line is that we wanted to bring our philanthropic efforts to a new level. With 501(c)(3) non- profit status, we’ll be able to do more than we could in the past to preserve, protect, and expand car culture. In year one alone, our goal is to provide $2.5 million in direct sup- port and programming for the automotive community. Our focus areas: automotive culture, education, and innovation.

I invite you to join us. If you would like to support the mission of the Hagerty Drivers Foundation, visit foundation for more information. As Jay said, it’s our responsibility to preserve this passion of ours. Car culture can dwindle one person at a time. It can grow that way, too.