The accidental car club

It happened by accident – I never intended to start a car club. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it before, but in the two clubs that I’d started previously, besides a passion for cars, the members shared other commonalities too. This time around, well, we’re just sort of a hodgepodge, like a Jensen Interceptor (you know, British car, American drivetrain, Italian design).

We don’t have a name or club jackets or decorative license plates in our rear windows. Not one of us pays dues and, as befits an accidental club, it’s extremely informal. Members, if you can use that term, include a couple of guys who own $100,000-plus cars and a couple whose cars could almost be sold for scrap; most fall somewhere in between. When I want to arrange an event I just start an email chain and last year we probably met up nine or ten times, maybe more. And, with one exception, all of those meetings were drives, or “runs,” as we call them.

So how do you start a car club by accident? First, your upper radiator hose has to fail in a spectacular, Casey Jones-esque steam explosion as you arrive at a car show. It happened to my Viper as I pulled into the first Malibu Cars & Coffee. That’s where I met Bill, Paul and Lance for the first time. Bill is a retired lawyer who owns an MG and happened to have high-temp radiator tape, which he readily volunteered. Paul and Lance are a couple of young guys who work at a private collection, who helped out by giving me a ride to a gas station to buy coolant and water, and upon our return to my still-steaming car, helped me wrap up the shredded hose (the high-temp tape repair lasted about six miles, after which Hagerty Plus® was called). Lance has since left town, but Paul, Bill and I have attacked the rocky Santa Monica Mountain canyons a couple of times since.

More surprising than that trio is how I met Sam. I have an instagram account (@KeepItWideOpen) and happened to snap a photo of a gorgeous, blood red Porsche 993 basking in Venice, Cali.’s warm rays. A day later Sam left a comment on my feed, “That’s my car!” We began chatting and, despite my wife’s fears, met at a car show in the Valley. He is not an Instagram-stalking axe murderer, just a guy with a beautiful Porsche who likes driving the same roads I do, in the same manner.

Then there’s Dan, who was supposed to become a business partner, but the deal didn’t work out. We seem to have similar taste in cars, though, and much like Sam, we enjoy the same roads. I met Tamir and Jim on a forum and finally, there’s Jorge, who is also a Porsche guy – you’ll read about him soon. I met him because I needed to photograph a certain type of Porsche and he allowed me to shoot his. Turned out he lived three blocks away from me. Oh and he’s also an avid canyon driver.

I’m sure that if we lived in the 1950s or ‘60s we’d be SCCA members hitting Paramount Ranch or Riverside every few weeks in our current cars’ predecessors. We’d be part of the young, growing SoCal sports car scene. But those days are long gone and the Mulholland “Raceway” scene, or what’s left of it, is still too hot — we’re not old timers puttering along, but we’re not reckless teens either.

So we wake up early, these days long before sunrise, and typically meet somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) briefly, before disappearing into the foggy mountains. When the sun breaks the horizon, we dart between shade and blinding light only to run down the mountain, like skiers, to the coast once more. And then back up the twisting lift, as quickly as we care to risk, or to breakfast.

It is difficult to picture just how dramatically and suddenly the elevation changes in Southern California. The mountains meet the crashing surf and in many cases a 30-foot-wide ribbon is flattened out of the craggy mountain-sea junction, allowing the PCH a fragile existence. I certainly didn’t expect to fall in love with driving (driving, mind you, not commuting) in Los Angeles coming from the East Coast. How different can it be, right?

But it’s this landscape that provides a driving experience that is unmatched nearly anywhere in the world. And the urge to push a car, to attempt to master yourself and the car’s limits, is what fuels the club.

We attend car shows sometimes. And we’ve met up for a detailing session, too. But looking at cars or working on them is just killing time until the next run. It’s this philosophy that unites our mixed gaggle, more than any make, model, or social agenda ever could.

Editor’s note: Since writing this, I have moved to Traverse City, Mich. Any suggestions for equally entertaining roads in this area would be most appreciated.