The Toyota and Chevrolet dealerships across the street shut their doors for good last year.…
Where there are cars, there are clubs.
The day after the first horseless carriage was built, the second rolled off the line. You can bet shortly thereafter a race or show was held somewhere to prove who owned the best one. And it wasn’t long after that the first car club was formed.
Today, there are thousands of car clubs around the world, all of which can significantly enrich your marque-owning experience. Whether you’re seeking brotherhood, knowledge, parts, historical research, show-and-shine opportunities, social gatherings, road rallies, or just plain competition, there’s a car club out there for you.
While the first car club, the American Automobile Association (aaa.com), was founded in 1902, the formation of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) in 1935 is considered America’s first club for vintage and historic vehicles.
Today, AACA (aaca.org) is an international organization, with members in all 50 states and in more than 50 countries worldwide. It provides organization for members with a mutual interest in the antique automobile hobby.
Regions and chapters support the interests of the members on a local basis. Direct participation is limited to AACA members. However, the public is encouraged to take an interest in the organized activities, meets and tours – including its famed Eastern Fall Meet held each October in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Clubs come in several varieties, including those that celebrate individual marques. Examples include the Porsche Club of America (pca.org) and the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America (vcca.org). Meanwhile, the Milestone Car Society (milestonecarsociety.org), the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) (classiccarclub.org) and Horseless Carriage Club of America (hcca.org) cover multiple marques.
Besides specialities, clubs vary in size as well. Some have just a few local members, while others, like AACA, boast many chapters and thousands of members worldwide. Of course, if you can’t find a club large or small enough to meet your needs, you can always consider starting your own.
Many clubs exist primarily for social purposes, but an increasing number have started producing their own restoration parts. Although British clubs, such as the Alvis Owner Club (www.alvisoc.org), have long been in the parts business, it’s a new venture for most American clubs.
Gary Hoonsbeen, president of the Curved Dash Oldsmobile Club, says his club probably started this activity in the United States. “We were really the first American club to actively pursue vendors for parts and literature,” he says. “If you want to work on one of these cars and you need a fender, you have to make it. Not many of these parts are lying around in junkyards anymore. We’re finding ways to keep these cars running, and we do it by mutually communicating and working together.”
Considering that the per unit cost of anything from a crankshaft to a brake drum can quickly plummet as volumes increase, parts sourcing is a terrific service for a club to offer its members.
FIND YOUR PASSION
Not all clubs require you to already own one of their featured cars. Just pay the membership fee, get the newsletter, attend club meetings and enjoy the fellowship and fun. Sometimes it’s even a good idea to join a club first as a way to learn more about a car you are interested in owning.
The best place to research clubs is online, including hagerty.com, where you can refer to the club directory in the Resource Directory. Use your favorite search engine to find local and national clubs, as well as cyber-based clubs that can provide forums or blogs for members to share technical info, used-car listings, supplier contacts and more.
Many sites offer podcasts, photo galleries, videos, e-mail lists and their own online newsletters – all of which are member supported. Some clubs are organized exclusively online, such as the MGA Twin Cam Enthusiasts e-mail discussion group (mgatwincam.homestead.com/).
MAKE YOUR CHOICE
So you’ve chosen your brand, your model and perhaps even have the car – now you’re ready to join a club.
Expect membership rates to be annual and range from $10 to $50 a year. Some clubs, including the National Council of Corvette Clubs (NCCC) (corvettesnccc.org), provide for memberships on both the local and national levels. NCCC clubs compete for points on a national level and have shows and events across the country.
Most clubs don’t require dual memberships, although members of CCCA, the North American MGA Register (namgar.com) and other clubs are encouraged to become involved at their local level.
Registries, an interesting and recent phenomenon, exist mostly to document the history and current ownership of certain specialty cars by VIN or chassis number. Model-specific registries focus on finding the cars and documenting ownership and race history using images and text. They also assist with purchase, maintenance and proper restoration, and can assist with establishing provenance of specialty cars and spotting fakes before you buy. Good examples include the Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car Registry (pacecarregistry.com) or the Type 34 Karmann Ghia Registry (type34.org).
Once you join a club, jump in with both feet. There’s more to the experience than just attending monthly meetings or annual meets. Consider volunteering to work on a newsletter, manage a club Web site, run the yearly car show, plan social events or even join the board.
To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Summer 2008 issue of Hagerty magazine.