I remember when I first started messing with cars, it was me and my lifelong buddy Dwight Guild. We grew up together from the third grade until the end of our college days when life took over. (However, we have recently reconnected through vintage drag racing so once again all is right with the world.) So what was in a car club for the average hot rodder like me?
For starters, we did everything together, from working on cars, listening to music, which consisted of a healthy dose of the surf music (Dick Dale, The Ventures, etc.) and then a more commercialized version inspired by the Beach Boys (we did live in Southern California), next the Beatles, and, of course, Barbra Streisand. We spoke endlessly about girls. Girls, some of the greatest shapes and bodies I have ever seen were attached to girls. Can’t remember what we talked about regarding girls but it must have been fun since I don’t have any bad memories. Of course, I can remember precious little of what happened before breakfast this morning, but they tell me that’s a problem for another day.
We did spend an inordinate number of weekends at Lions Drag Strip located in the Wilmington coastal community between Garden Grove, where I grew up, and Los Angeles. It was here that I came in contact with other car guys who belonged to car clubs. If I remember correctly it was the “older” guys who were into the car clubs. These would be my friend’s older brothers who were into the car club scene. The car clubs didn’t have as big of an appeal or draw for me or my friends. Let’s face it, why would we want to do anything like our older brothers? They were idiots, at least that was our view of them! Some wore crew cuts, although the even older ones had jelly rolls and duck tails (sometimes called D.A., write in and I will tell you what that stood for!), white T-shirts, straight-leg blue jeans, and black leather jackets. Brylcreem and Vaseline was a commodity not to be without.
The older guys had ’32s and the like and were into the car club scene and their style of dress wasn’t for us. I came from the generation, at least in the beach community I grew up in, who wore a pair of Jack Purcells with the trademark blue “smile” across the toe, then Vans tennis shoes or sandals with chopped-up tire casings for soles. Our dress was influenced by evolution of rock ’n’ roll into the ’60s music. Why would we have a ’32 Ford when we could go out and buy a muscle car that came with a warranty and would flat blow the doors off just about any one of those “old” cars? As for clubs, well, I was too much of a lone wolf, too independent to belong to any group, or so I thought.
After signing on with Street Rodder back in the early ’70s one of my first visits to the South brought me into contact with the Memphis Street Rods out of, where else, Memphis, Tennessee. To me these were a bunch of old farts, heck they must have been in their early to mid ’30s! About that same time I began to visit the Dallas Area Street Rods, you guessed it, out of Dallas. Between these two clubs I began to learn a great deal about hot rodding, car clubs, and rodding in the Sun Belt. Turns out those “old” guys weren’t so bad after all and by hanging out together they were able to get a lot more accomplished, and more quickly on their cars. Hmm, maybe there’s something to this car club thing that I may have missed the first time around?
It wasn’t long before I began to hang around with more old hot rodders back home. Most notable Dick “Magoo” Megugorac from the San Fernando Valley, Jim Ewing out of the Monrovia area, and, some old guys from the L.A. Roadsters. Turns out every one of these guys taught me plenty about hot rods, car clubs, and life in general. My first official car club experience was with the L.A. Roadsters and to this day many of the club members are among the best of friends. I also patronize my current club (although I am a member in abstention) the California Roadsters. In fact, everywhere I turn in our hobby I see lots of car clubs, which leads to plenty of camaraderie, and lots more getting done to one’s latest project than if tackled alone.
I read somewhere this past year that car club participation is down in local and national car clubs. Even online clubs are down. About the only thing that appears to be up is the lack of participation in any club. Now my guess is just like anything else there are some who are down and others who are experiencing growth and a healthy social network. I can only hope that car clubs will continue to be a vital part of our hobby because nothing replaces friends and there are no better friends than those we make while a member of a car club. I doubt this is National Car Club month but I have just proclaimed it as such. Let’s get out there and keep this vital part of our hobby vital.