How revving the engine of his ’66 Sprite led our son to Stanford and the Revs Program

I must confess that I actually cried a few months ago while making our last tuition payment to Stanford for our youngest son’s education. They were partially tears of joy and partially tears of sadness. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks on each side of that equation.

Reflecting back to his desire to be accepted into his ‘dream school’, I can’t help but think how his passion for classic cars and robotics helped make it a reality. Nowhere is this more evident than in one of the essays he wrote for his college application to Stanford four years earlier.

It began: ‘In 2004, I helped my father, a mechanical engineer, tow home our first “basket case.” It would become a prize-winning Triumph TR4A, but that day, it was a rusty frame and a pile of plastic bins filled with parts. While working on our project, our conversations were never ordinary, we contemplated making it battery-powered, and spent hours discussing Tesla Motors and their unique, cutting edge approach to electric vehicles. While rebuilding the engine, we discussed torque and tolerances. Suddenly physics became very real and very applicable’....

... and several paragraphs later his essay ended with this line: ‘[Then] I learned about the new Revs Program at Stanford. Discovering this was, as any classic car enthusiast might put it, “like uncovering an original Duesenberg in a barn find!”’

I’ll get back to that Duesenberg in a bit.

After that first TR4A made its way home, Matt’s passion for this space continued to grow. In junior high and high school, he went on to help Brian restore an Austin Healey Sprite, a Triumph Stag, and an MGB. He added an original Cobra and a 1960-1962 Corvette to his ‘would love to own someday’ list (the kid has good taste!) He even co-taught a restoration course, that he and Brian developed, at a local college. Looking back at the cars, the Sprite had a special place in his heart – it was his non-winter daily driver during his high school years. To make a statement, he took great pleasure in always parking it between two large trucks in the student lot. And because the speedometer was never accurate, and he feared the dreadful speeding ticket, it became the inspiration for our company’s first product ‘Classic Speed’. Needless to say, and much to the delight of his dad, our son became hooked on cars and innovation.

Fast forward to Stanford...while there, Matt (a mechanical engineering major) became involved in the Stanford Solar Car team. This brought him to the Automotive Innovation Facility which houses CARS (the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford) and VAIL (the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab) where his team would work on the Solar Car and where he attended seminars. To say this facility is an automobile enthusiast’s playground would be an understatement. Closely connected is the REVS Program at Stanford. Stanford calls out the mission of the REVS Program to “Forge new scholarship and student experiences around the past, present and future of the automobile.” Because this program is so remarkable and noteworthy, I must give a shout-out that the program was made possible by the vision of Miles Collier, the founder of the Revs Institute, business executive, artist, and philanthropist. Check out the Revs Institute’s website – simply great stuff!

Programs like Revs bring more youth into this industry. Indeed, getting youth involved is an ongoing quest for many of us in the arena, and a topic I will continue to explore in future blog posts. It centers upon the question of ‘How do we preserve a part of our history that is so important?’ Bringing our sons, daughters, and grandkids into the garage is a first step. Look what it did for our son. I grabbed a bunch of stickers from the ARMO booth at a recent SEMA show that read ‘Bring a kid to a car show’ and passed them out at our local car club. As you hit the show circuit this summer – I encourage you to give extra attention to any young people that come by. Talk with them, let them sit in the driver’s seat, show them how it feels to shift, let them look under the hood. You may be responsible for changing their life.

The hands-on experience Matt acquired from his time in the garage with our classics led to the content in his application essay. I’m confident that opened the door to his Stanford engineering education. And so it seems only fitting that one of the very last classes Matt took as a Stanford student was a mechanical engineering class sponsored though the Revs program called ME 200: ‘Judging Historical Significance Through the Automobile’. I encourage you to read through the full class description and check out the instructor bios. Here are a few lines:

‘This seminar is for students to learn how to assess the impact of historical importance through the lens of the automobile. Students will participate in discussions about measuring and judging historical importance from a number of perspectives - engineering, aesthetic, historical, etc. ...

...They will then decide on criteria and use these to be a part of a judging team at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.’

Wow, 20-something year olds taking a course and learning about incredible vehicles that have significant historical significance - and then going to judge them at the premiere concours in the world. I think it’s brilliant! THIS is how we get youth involved. THIS is how we preserve history. I can't help but think that to our son, the Pebble Beach experience will be “like uncovering an original Duesenberg in a barn find!” Seems to be his lucky car...could bode well for the Duesenberg. Judge well, Matt!

About the author:

Pam Induni and her husband Brian are the co-founders of Classic Automotive Innovations. After spending years in high-tech marketing, Pam finally saw the light, helping to turn her husband’s hobby and passion into a business to help preserve these amazing pieces of history. She still calls the little British cars ‘cute’, still has a soft spot for her very first car (an olive green Dodge Dart Swinger!), and is still waiting for an Austin Healey 3000 (tupperware bins and all) to show up in her garage…

Coming soon in the series -- Wire Wheels Wife: Confessions from outside the garage:

  • ‘Classic Millennials™’ – Oxymoron? I think not! An interview with insight from the future.

  • “I thought you were going to paint the car white? Is it sick? It looks a little….mint greenish?”

  • “Seriously? You have the auction channel on again?”

  • The day my husband caught me watching ‘Jay Leno’s Garage’ by myself

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