By Kelly Werthmann

GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Cars these days come with all kinds of new gadgets and the auto industry’s future could include driverless vehicles. It is almost as if manual transmissions are a thing of the past.

Yet one insurance company is hoping to change that by teaching millennials the beauty of classic cars and driving stick shift.

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“It’s kind of a dying skill, the manual transmission,” Rachel Ventimiglia, Youth Advocacy Coordinator for Hagerty Driving Experience, told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “This is a learning experience.”

Combining classroom instruction and closed-course driving, the Hagerty Driving Experience in Golden provided 60 teens the opportunity to get behind the wheel of classic cars, such as a 1966 Lotus Elan, for free.

“I was a little nervous,” 16-year-old Haley Graham said. “That was one thing my dad told me before I came to this — ‘Don’t ruin the car.’”

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With a nervous smile, Graham hopped into the bright yellow Lotus to learn about switching gears and how to avoid stalling.

“It was interesting,” she said. “The accelerator was really sensitive, so I didn’t want to touch that a lot.”

What perhaps made the drive even more nerve-wracking was that the driver sits on the right side, opposite of every other vehicle Graham has ever driven.

“It was hard at first,” she said. “The clutch was also a bit different than the other cars.”

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About a dozen classic and modern manual transmission cars were on hand for the event, which took place all day Saturday at the Colorado State Patrol Training Track just a couple miles north of Highway 6. Private owners, who offered their own time — and patience — to teaching the millennials how to drive their cars, provided all the vehicles.

“The car owners are fantastic,” Ventimiglia said. “Some of these classic cars are their babies and they’re just dedicated to passing on this skill of how to drive it.”

According to Hagerty’s research, 69 percent of millennials feel they lack the special skills needed to operate classic cars. About 60 percent want to own a classic car one day, so the lack of knowledge is a barrier to that future ownership.

“You never know when you might need that skill, too,” 16-year-old Ashton Bott said. “I don’t want to screw it up.”

CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann (credit: CBS)

For 16-year-old Payton Weinman, driving a classic car opened her eyes to the distractions of her modern day vehicle.

“My car is just like a go car,” she said. “There’s a gas pedal and a brake pedal and you can just go and be on your phone if you want. But these cars really make you pay attention to the road, I think.”

More than just a driving lesson, Hagerty hopes the event also teaches millennials the importance of maintaining older vehicles.

“Classic cars are a part of our history,” Ventimiglia said. “You don’t want to let that history die.”

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The Hagerty Driving Experience heads to Canada for its next lesson before coming back to the U.S. with pit stops in Arizona and Texas. For more information, visit hagerty.com.

Kelly Werthmann