17 March 2016

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.

11 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Tamir Los Angeles March 17, 2016 at 17:25
    Great article! I had the pleasure of being on these canyon "runs" a few times with Yoav and his motley crew of car friends. I'll tell you this, Yoav ran the fastest out of the whole group, and it was a pleasure trying to keep up. I had a nickname for our little sub group of Silver NSX's - The Silver Wolf Pack. Now it is only down to Jim and myself, just not the same. ;( Look forward to finding some backroads in Traverse City to explore next time I'm up there.
  • 2
    John DeSpelder Traverse City March 23, 2016 at 17:55
    Yoav, you paint a great word picture of what I would love to do if I lived in California. I visit the Bay Area and parts north once or twice a year but I'm always driving a rental car. I dream of trailering my 911 out there for a month of backroad driving. So welcome to Traverse City! We have some very fine roads here too. You may have already discovered some of these, but here are some of my personal favorites. 1) just about any road in Leelanau County. M22 is heavily traveled and policed but the interior roads are more fun and very lightly populated. 2) M119 from Harbor Springs to Cross Village. Filled with tight twisties through wooded dunes. My favorite drive was around midnight on a summer Friday night. Amazing. 3) the Upper Peninsula has roads that are generally in great shape and there are lots that have very little traffic. I discovered some this fall that are worth the trip. US41 west of Marquette is sinuous and quick. The locals seems to know where it's ok to go fast. And beautiful scenery driving along rock-ledged lakes. Keweenaw County has outstanding roads and very little traffic. US41 north of Houghton to Copper Harbor is a hoot--it gets tighter the closer you get to the north end. And M26 from Phoenix to Copper Harbor is even more remote with lots of very tight twisties and some yumps. Then there are the great road courses for track days, but that's for another time. Enjoy!
  • 3
    Kevin Davin Pacific Northwest March 23, 2016 at 20:03
    The "Accidental Car Club" eh? Great name! I guess that's what our local "run junkies" could call ourselves. We became aquainted at a common storage site years ago. We each favor different marques. Some of us even have a variety to choose from-like selecting the instrument of the day-above all though it's all about hitting the road and having a great time rolling in dedicated driving machines!
  • 4
    Dan Rogalny Sometimes Essexville, Mi, sometimes Alden, Mi March 24, 2016 at 17:09
    Welcome to TC, even if I am a bit of an outsider myself. For a good part of the year, we make our home in northwest Michigan (based in Alden) and frequent Traverse City for the films, food, culture, car club meetings, bookstores and more. As an MGB driver, we enjoy the Twin Bay British Car Club (TBBCC), which meets the first Tuesday of the month at the Elks Club at 5 pm. You might want to make that connection, even if you drive a non-British set of wheels. As for entertaining roads, there are too many to list here. A good start would be trips up Old Mission Peninsula, almost anywhere in nearby Leelanau County and almost anywhere in Antrim County, to name a few. (Disclaimer: Having spent a little time along the California coast, there is a different kind of beauty between that and northwest Michigan. We have some spectacular views, but we also have a lot of places that have a more quiet beauty, similar to what you might see in New England.) If you decide to check out the TBBCC, look me up, starting in May, when I hope to be back in the loop.
  • 5
    Al Nelson Pentwater MI March 24, 2016 at 06:52
    South Lakeshore Drive, Ludington to Pentwater. Start at the intersection of S Lakeshore and Iris and drive south to the intersection at Oceana Drive. It's not very long and at the southern end there is a cottage area, but in the middle is a fun, but short, stretch.
  • 6
    Omar Toronto March 24, 2016 at 08:33
    Wow, This article is written just like the beautiful landscape described within, elevations of high and low. The high is the whole article good job, the low is - btw - I moved to Michigan now. Sorry to hear that, I hope you find that fire again in MI.
  • 7
    Barrie Robinson Barrie, Ontario March 24, 2016 at 08:53
    After restoring several British classic cars using help from various car clubs,I started on my 1957 Aston Martin. Unfortunately I could not find a club that was "into" restoration work so I searched for other owners. I found a few and somehow the few became the Aston Martin Feltham Club with a current membership of 162 and growing.
  • 8
    J W Dreyer YYZ & LAX March 24, 2016 at 09:08
    That's exactly what I do. I have a 560SL that loves the PCH - always insists on stopping at the Trancas Market Sbux for some reason.
  • 9
    Mead Shelby Township, MI March 24, 2016 at 10:52
    Nice article, seems some of the best times are never planned...One of the best driving roads I've ever seen is M22 in northern Michigan. If you start just north of Manistee, it will take you up the west coast of Michigan (I was raised in Onekama) to Northport, and then back down to TC. Great Drive! Try it on a weekday, off tourist season but watch out for the deer at dusk...
  • 10
    Dan Davis Dewey, OK March 24, 2016 at 12:07
    After being in 2 car clubs while I was in the Auto Industry in Michigan, after I retired I moved back to my childhood home in Oklahoma. A couple years ago, the Men's Group at our church was going through some "transitions", so I suggested we get some speakers for "car guys". The pastor took my idea, and with my background as an Adult Ed teacher and interested in old Mustangs, guess who got "drafted' to lead the new Northpoint Engine Club. Our first projects are restoration of a 74 F-100 and a Ford 8N tractor.
  • 11
    Yoav Gilad Traverse City, MI March 28, 2016 at 14:56
    Thank you all for your comments and suggestions – looks like I have some driving to do... And those of you nearby, feel free to introduce yourselves too, I'm sure we'll run into each other (figuratively, of course).

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