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Northville teens trying to make classic cars cool with their peers

Despite being the generation of scooters and electric vehicles, Northville high schoolers


Bennett DiMeo and David Kibbey are infatuated with the regal rides of their forefathers.

“So, I’m going to be honest, I’m more from the exotic and newer car side of things,” said Kibbey, 17, whose affinity for autos came from hanging around his grandfather Greg Marrs, who ran a car dealership. “I will say I am not interested in EVs. I understand and I support them, and I see their necessity, but I’m not there. They are not for me.”

DiMeo, 16, also “got my gearhead on” due to family, attending Mecum Auctions in Indianapolis on his 11th birthday. The first-hand view of vintage vehicles being bought and sold whetted his appetite as did his clan’s extensive car collection, which included a 1940s Hudson.

The pair is part of a four-teen contingent steering the wheel for this summer’s premier automotive showcase, the Northville Concours d’Elegance on Saturday and Sunday, July 22-23, at Mill Race Historic Village.

Kibbey and DiMeo are joined by fellow Northville residents

Chase Ziegler and Drew Lenhert, who like Kibbey attend Detroit Catholic Central. DiMeo goes to Northville High.

The engine for the prestigious car gathering is being primed by a founders’ dinner and live auction on Saturday, April 15, at Genitti’s Hole-in-Wall in Northville. All proceeds benefit the 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Tickets are available at www. northvilleconcours.com.

What puts Northville’s

By Larry O’Connor

upscale car competition on an elevated track are the judges, which in this case will be under 18 in age. Organizers are putting a premium on youth, and for good reason.

Without a new generation, industry experts fear passion for the autos of yesteryear will sputter out.

“The Northville Concours is a true testament to fueling the next generation of car enthusiasts and drivers,” said Samantha Pina, senior event coordinator at Hagerty, Northville Concours’ main sponsor, in a written response. “We’re proud to be a part of an event whose sole purpose is youth judging and engagement.

“From inception to execution, the Northville Concours has kept youth at the forefront and we can’t wait to see future drivers explore their take on the love of automotive.”

Kibbey and DiMeo’s shoes fit the gas pedal.

Thanks to Hagerty, whose insurance agency is behind the youth push into the classic automotive realm, the duo has become full-fledged concours judges. Judges follow criteria set by concours organizers. Though organizations provide training, no certification is required, Kibbey said.

This month, Kibbey helped score the Amelia Island (Fla.) Concours d’Elegance and the pair has been invited to the Keels & Wheels event in Seabrook, Texas, outside Houston, in May.

Kibbey is also scheduled to judge at concours shows in Pebble Beach, Calif., Aug. 16-20, and Newport, R.I. Oct. 1. He is also booked for the Detroit Concours event Sept. 22-23 at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Their cohorts include automotive executives, journalists, event hosts and celebrities. They’ve even crossed paths with former latenight TV star and car enthusiast Jay Leno.

“He’s really a casual, nice guy in person,” Kibbey said. “He acts exactly like he does on TV, and that was the most refreshing thing about meeting him.”

With their accrued knowledge, the pair’s enthusiasm is boiling over like a radiator with a busted thermostat. A huge number of young people are into cars but don’t know where to start, Kibbey said.

The restrained setting of a Concours d’Elegance hasn’t been an ideal jumping-off point, either.

Among owners of rare vehicles, the sight of a teenager perhaps produces an instant flashback to the 1986 comedy “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where Cameron’s dad’s beloved 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder is depicted going through a glass garage window before crashing down a ravine.

“Maybe we can take pictures or get close to the car, but we’re never going to sit in it,” Kibbey said. “We wanted to change the whole stigma that’s around that.”

For this edition of the Northville Concours, those under 18 will be admitted free. Vehicles will not be surrounded by barriers, allowing easier access to view their historic splendor.

Word is also going out to worrywart owners.

“If you’re not willing to show your car, if you carry a cloth around and wipe every little dust bunny off, we’re not the show for you,” Kibbey said.

Organizers still expect classic vehicles — some worth more than a million dollars —from California and Arizona as well as Ohio and Michigan to turn out for the second annual event, which debuted last year under the banner Race to the Mill.

The hope is they come in the same spirit of a man who possessed a rare factory-painted highland green Shelby Cobra last year. His laid-back persona enabled him to share the sports car’s grandeur.

The Shelby Cobra owner availed himself to questions about the 1960s roadster, opening the hood, doors and trunk for good measure, Kibbey said.

Among other marque vehicles on display last year were limited-production Porsche 911s and Edsel Ford’s pickup truck from 1941, the Black Ghost.

Still, planners decided a name change was needed. Race to the Mill conjured up unintended images.

“People were concerned it was a marathon or it was street racing,” DiMeo said. “We really wanted it to resonate with it being a Northville community event for people to come out


WHAT: Dinner and live auction to benefit this summer’s Northville Concours d’Elegance

WHEN: Saturday, April 15 WHERE: Genitti’s Hole-in-Wall MORE INFO: Visit www.northvilleconcours.com and experience the Northville historical village.”

Organizers want to keep the Northville program to 10 classes with eight vehicles in each for a total of 80, which is a smaller number compared to other concours, DiMeo said.

“We’re trying to restrict it to the best vehicles in the country, and have the best cars there for the kids to be able to experience them and to get to know more about them,” he added.

The teens have developed a point-based system like one employed by esteemed concours judges around the country.

Between 30-40 youth judges will work with an adult group leader, including automotive industry leaders and concours judges.

“Bennett has just done an amazing job to pivot and create this system that is reminiscent of what we will see at future shows,” Kibbey said.

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