Keith’s Blog: Today’s Kids are the Next Generation of Concours Judges

Is there a better time to get kids involved with old cars than when they are 6 to 12 years old?

There are already a few “junior judge” programs, often supported by Hagerty, at concours. These programs generally mix kids from pre-teenagers to 18 years old.

However, I think there should be a class specifically for kids from age 6 to 12.

I’d like to see them all with t-shirts that say, “Concours Judge – The Next Generation.”

The goal is not to teach them how to be nit-picky judges, but rather to learn how to look at cars. A secondary goal, and equally important, is to provide them an opportunity to learn collector car manners.

Over the years, I have taught several classes at elementary schools that were titled “Learning to Look at Cars.”

I had very simple forms for the kids to fill out. I asked them to go home and look at their parent’s cars. They were to mark whether the cars had two or four doors, a bench or bucket seats and a shifter on the column or the floor.

There was a place to write down the year, make and model of the car — and what color the outside and inside were.

I also asked them to see if there were two or three pedals (that’s simpler that trying to explain stick or automatic). They also marked down if the wheels on their parents’ cars had metal covers (hubcaps) or spokes (I showed them an example of each).

The next day, the kids would always come back bubbling with enthusiasm. I asked each student to talk about their parents’ cars, what they had seen and what they had learned.

They were learning to look at cars.

In my hypothetical junior judges class, a goal would be to learn as much about the owners of cars as about the cars themselves.

I would have kids ask owners how long ago they bought the car and why they picked it out. I would ask them how much work they have done to the car.

And now comes the “collector car manners” part. I would ask them to politely ask the owner if he would open the doors to the car, so they could see inside. “Excuse me sir, would you please open the hood for me so I can look at the engine?”

I view all of this as a terrific opportunity to make cars come alive for young people.

I also think that the awards they decide on should be kid centric. They should have categories such as, “The Car I Would Like to Have When I turn 16” and “The Car I’d Like to Drive on a Road Trip with my Friends.”  And perhaps, “The Most Outrageous Styling, Most Modern Styling and Most Old-Fashioned Styling.”

There’s plenty of time for them to learn about hose clamps and fuel pumps and original seating surfaces when they become older.

Imagine seeing a group of ten 9-year-olds interviewing the owners of 300SL Gullwings, Gallardos and BMW 2002tiis about their cars — and then sharing with us what they learned.

To bring kids into our hobby, we have to start them out young. And we have to give them real reasons to learn about cars. Having this type of judging class would be a good beginning.

I’d like to hear your thoughts here.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

3 comments

  1. Outstanding! We love hosting the Hagerty Youth Judging program at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals show in Chicago. This is always a hit, and my 9 year old Granddaughter Emily looks forward to participating every year. Indeed…a great way to introduce our awesome hobby to the next generation of enthusiasts.

  2. Great Ideas and suggestions! We have the largest Hagerty youth judging program in the country at the Cincinnati Concours d’Elegance at Ault Park coming up on June 10th this year, which will be our 41st year of the show. I will propose that we incorporate some of your ideas into our program. Thanks!

  3. Hi Keith – There is much I would love to discuss with you from your article. But, as a staring point – if you will be at Amelia Island, I would love for you to join me to observe the Hagerty Youth Judging program and how I lead it. Much of what you describe above is incorporated in to our program. There is certainly opportunity for a much more ‘in depth’ program – but I think you may find satisfaction in what you see. I have always taken the approach that the program is not about the score – it’s about teaching the kids how to look at a car and understand what they like/don’t like beyond just the color of the paint, how to talk with the car owner and how to properly approach/respect a vehicle. Please let me know if you’ll be at Amelia and available around 8:30-10am. We will have about 30-40 Young Judges. Thanks!

Comments are closed.