The collector car lament goes something like this: Who’s going to want my cars after I’m gone, and even if someone wants them, who’s going to know how to work on them so they can be driven and enjoyed?
But not everyone in the collector car community is lamenting. Some are working to make sure there’s not only a group of people eager to own those cars, but also a group of young people eager to learn and to apply the skills needed to keep those cars on the road as Henry and Carroll and Ettore and Enzo intended.
One of the newest efforts regarding kids and cars is the Shop Hop, the first of which was started recently in Chicago — and would have been completed had winter weather not interfered after the first of the planned three days.
“It enabled me to end the year with a gigantic smile on my face,” said Diane Fitzgerald, Chicago resident and president of the RPM Foundation.
RPM takes its initials from Restoration, Preservation and Mentorship. It was founded in 2005 as the Collectors Foundation, and later changed its name to the Hagerty Education Program, and very recently to RPM. While the name has changed, the mission has not: to provide the next generation of craftsmen (and women) with formal training in automotive and marine restoration and preservation through education and mentorship programs. That can mean grants for internships and college tuition or, most recently, the inaugural Shop Hop.
The Shop Hop goal is to expose students with an interest in automobiles not just to automotive careers, which can be done in a classroom, but to take them into the field, to visit businesses where collector cars are restored and maintained. But education is only one aspect of Shop Hop, which also is a job fair on wheels.
Dress up, bring your resume, be ready to interview for an internship.
“At our last stop, Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage, Stephen Murphy did flash interviews for an hour afterward and hired two of the college kids to work Christmas break and interviewed high school students for summer internships,” Fitzgerald said proudly.
Shop Hop had its test run in Chicago because that’s where Fitzgerald lives, where she and her husband collect microcars and vintage motorcycles, and have learned which shops have what she called “the mentoring mindset.”
Seven schools — high schools and junior colleges — were invited, as were local students who attend Southern Illinois University and McPherson College.
Earlier in the year, the students and their parents were invited to attend the Geneva Concours d’Elegance, where they received guided tours that included “stand-up seminars on careers.”
On Day 1 of the Shop Hop, some 40 students, three teachers, two parents and three even younger but interested youngsters caravanned for a series of 90-minute visits — the Klairmont Kollection to the Collectors’ Car Garage to Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage.
Weather postponed the second day’s stops at Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle, Sport & Specialty Restorations and Vintage Racing, and Schwartz Performance, but those visits are being rescheduled for early spring.
Fitzgerald said she hopes to stage similar Shop Hops in four other locations in 2017.
In the meantime,” she said she’s delighted “by the number of young people who love cars. It’s awesome.”
Oh, and to those in the collector car community lamenting the future — well, Bah! Humbug!