It was love at first sight 12 years ago when I first saw my 1951 MG TD with those big chrome headlights and very British cutaway doors. I knew little about British roadsters, and next to nothing about these slow, leaky, and utterly charming vehicles from seemingly Victorian-era British automotive design. The old MG was great fun to restore, but more important, the local British car club became the source of many wonderful life-long friendships. It was a difficult decision indeed to move from Colorado to our post-retirement home on the central Oregon coast.
High on the “guy list” for places to live were a good hardware store, a Starbucks, and a car club, and our new community had all three! We move. The retirement dream home is built. I attend the car club’s occasional meetings. Driving a classic British roadster along the spectacular Oregon Coast Highway is a dream come true. But all is not right in paradise. The local club was a grand mix of hot rods, old Corvettes, Model A Fords, WWII Jeeps, old Buicks, and a few British roadsters. 500-hp Chevys and little British cars are not a good mix. They want to sit all day at car shows, we want to go drive. Someone needs to start a British car club!
We had a small core group with previous British car club experience. Two years ago, we figuratively ran the Union Jack up the flag pole with a newspaper announcement, and we were off and running. Sadly, we quickly outgrew the local microbrew pub. Now with over thirty couples and 54 British classics signed up, we inadvertently tapped into an unmet demand for a social group centered on these British relics. We were hoping for a dozen members, tops!
We learned some lessons along the way.
Define your club carefully:
Clearly define your new club’s “market”, goals, and limits. Misunderstandings and unpleasant frictions had surfaced between the big-block engine crowd and the other sub-groups in the local club. Moreover, this was a guy group—spouses were ignored.
We marketed our new car club as a relaxed spouse-friendly social group with a common interest in classic British cars To keep the “classic British” focus, membership requires ownership of a classic British car. It doesn’t have to run—a concession to our Lotus owners.
Our goal was to create a new social network of good friends. Watching strangers coalesce into new friendships has been a most rewarding aspect of forming our new club!
Bylaws: I know – boring. But, you need to use written bylaws to keep everyone on the same page as the group grows and matures.
Money: Mailed newsletters and membership cards are expensive, but if you utilize modern communication technology, you can eliminate the major expense of pre-digital era car clubs.
“Split-the-pot” raffles are a popular way to raise club cash. Restaurants will offer free meeting rooms if members also purchase a meal or adult beverages. Email is free.
Communication: Mailed newsletters were the way to communicate not so long ago. Today, most everyone has fully embraced the digital revolution in communications and photography, although there’s still some Neanderthals without computers.
Email is easy and free, but keep subject matter strictly on car club topics. Club web sites are inexpensive to create, and Facebook is the latest “Next Best Thing.” All free, of course.
Politics: The political silly season used to start a few months before elections, and quickly fade away. Not anymore. Other regional club leaders are lamenting that today’s political hyper-partisanship is a huge problem tearing clubs apart.
Leave politics at home. Our members may trash-talk British politics and politicians to their heart’s content, but US politics is strictly off-limits.
So, get together with a couple of like-minded car buddies. Define your perfect car club and proposed group activities. Write it down. Run it up the flag pole. You’ll be surprised how many other folks are also thinking “Why doesn’t someone start a car club around here…”
By Dick Mason