At one time these club affiliation plaques were commonly found displayed in the rear window, mounted above the license plate, or hanging from chains from the rear bumper. There were all kinds of cool club names and logos in the Fifties and many have been resurrected in the modern age. Not only could you display these cool plaques but you could fly your colors on your club jacket. Remember the "Pharaohs" in American Graffiti? While they were cruising around in that cool chopped Merc it seems like they were more concerned about kicking somebody's ass when the opportunity presented itself. Or how about the" T-Birds" in Grease? I guess for most of us any ideas about these old timey car clubs comes from these movies. I don't think that too many of us are trying to relive these fictional celluloid fantasies. When I was more in tune with the Rockabilly phenomenon I remember reading a few years back why the West Coast Nationals of the West Coast Kustoms Club were moved from their home in Paso Robles. It seems that some of the members of these resurrected old timey clubs thought that it would be charming to stage a old time "rumble" at one of their concerts. After this was repeated a couple of times the city fathers pulled the plug. The event was moved to the confines of the fairgrounds in Santa Maria. This was a real loss as the event taking place in the Central Park and streets of Downtown gave the event an amazing nostalgic vibe. The streets and businesses were full of vintage customs and I'm glad I got to experience it a few times.
The "Lone Wolf" plaque and patch were often worn by the singular hot rodder or "kustomizer" as a badge of honor or maybe a tragic plea to form a bond with other outcasts. If you didn't want to join, or weren't accepted into the club of your choice, wouldn't it be better to keep it yourself, instead of being thought of as a loser?
Before I even had the avatar of Rivguy I was a member of the Riviera Owners association. I got interested in Rivieras and bought my first one, a very nice 1971 Boat tail. I saw a note at the end of a magazine article and I contacted the club via good old fashioned US Mail. I was looking for a source of parts and information about the cars. The monthly club magazine was well produced and it contained news, upcoming events, feature articles and a classified area of cars, parts and some club items like t-shirts and caps. I had a club decal which I proudly displayed in my car's rear window. The magazine was instrumental in building and maintaining my enthusiasm for the process. The process of owning, fixing, restoring and driving my Riviera. I even got started selling parts that I obtained from various wrecking yards. Through the club I even arranged the sale of my '71 to a buyer in the Netherlands. I remained a member for quite a few years. I attended National events at Lake Tahoe and Klamath Falls Oregon. I had even toyed with the idea of starting up a regional driver's club for the Bay Area. In these olden pre internet days my plan was to contact local members listed in the annual Club Register (Remember these?) by mail or phone. I would cast the net by listing a possible event in the club magazine. This plan collapsed because it was just more work than I wanted to do. As time passed and my interest in Rivieras waned I gave up on the idea.
These large organized Nation wide "associations" are not the same as clubs. They don't place the reciprocal responsibilities on their membership that an actual face to face club demands. These are easy to join, just send in your dues and wait for your magazine or newsletter, membership card to arrive. Think of the NHRA. You can be a member even if you don't have any interest in drag racing.
My next great interest became the first generation of the Datsun Z car. My son had seen one when he was still quite young, probably five or six years old. He became obsessed with these cars. He would point them out whenever he saw one. At the time I told him that I would never own a small car. I drove Cadillacs and Buicks, I was never going to drive a sports car. Well when he was in fifth or sixth grade I decided that I was going to be the cool Dad and drive a car that my son thought was cool and it would be a bond between us and provide us with a wealth of memories that we would share. I found a very nice, one owner 1977 280Z 2+2 with a five speed manual transmission. While the 2+2 models are somewhat shunned by the Z enthusiast in favor of the two seat models, this model was quite well suited to my needs. I had two rear seats which were perfect for my two kids. This gave me the opportunity to use the car as everyday driver. I joined the SCCA so that I could share a special experience with my son. I wanted to try auto crossing and as a benefit I could take my son along as a passenger. As a member when you participate in an event you must contribute by helping run the event. When I attended the first regional meeting I found a close group of very friendly and motivated people. I got to know some of these people during the years I was involved but I never formed any close friendships. This is probably my fault, while I am always pleasant and friendly to every one, I am seldom seeking close relationships. When my son moved away to attend college I found that I was unwilling to commit my time to this activity if it wasn't going to involve me as a Father and Son team.
Well this post has not been a good assessment of my potential as a future club member. Maybe I'm not interested in making close friends. Still, I know how to get along with all kinds of different people and be a pleasant companion. Besides social activities clubs perform a very important basic function; maintaining energy and enthusiasm in the enthusiast. Restoring and maintaining older cars can be a lonely, discouraging and under appreciated activity. It is nice to talk to a sympathetic ear. It seems that internet forums can fill this void. There are forums for every car and subject. And these forums can be extremely friendly and helpful. Lots of very useful factual information and solidarity. There is usually a cadre of frequent and knowledgeable contributors. Friendly interactions and relationships can arise over repeated communications. These forums can build a real sense of identity. The forums provide a convenient and relevant arena to keep in touch with their fellow enthusiasts. Sure beats licking stamps and stuffing envelopes! Social interactions can arise out of these exchanges. Groups of regional forum members can decide to host an activity, a meet and greet, car show, swap meet or group drive.
I had a pleasant experience this weekend at an event hosted by members of the Jaguar Forum, (Jaguar Forums.com). They have formed a group named BAJ (Bay Area Jaguars). We met up for a group drive in the Napa Valley, a wine tasting at the Duckhorn Winery and a group lunch at the Archetype restaurant in St Helena. This event was a great combination of cars, people, driving and food. I thank the hosts for their hard work. Who knows, maybe a car plaque will come out of all this!