Based on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota Café Racers is not a traditional car club, nor does it fall under Cars & Coffee or Cruise banners. It’s a members-only car guy lunch group for serious enthusiasts who share a common passion – the love of everything automotive and the pulse-quickening experience of driving specialty and high-performance cars. Seating at bi-weekly lunches is reserved and drop-ins are not welcome. A typical lunch during the winter season draws between 60-75 members.
Café Racers cross all socioeconomic and cultural lines, with interests spanning everything from hot rods, muscle cars, vintage racing and collecting classics to the latest supercars. Some members own a single muscle car and work on it themselves, while others literally have buildings packed full of two and four-wheeled exotica. Some have run the Le Mans Classic race, while one has driven in more than a dozen Mille Miglia events in his vintage Ferrari and Maserati sports racers.
After being unhappy with local traditional car clubs – listening to treasurer’s reports, membership drives, attending rubber chicken dinners, etc. — I searched for real car enthusiasts who cared less about club minutia and social activities and more about cars, the hobby and auto industry. From our humble beginnings of literally a handful of people grabbing a few informal lunches in 2002-2003, we are starting our 11th year of All Cars, All The Time.
Photos by Martyn Schorr
Our database has gone from single digits to more than 150, plus we have satellite Café Racer lunch groups in Oldwick, N.J.; Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; Munich, Germany, and three extremely active (lunches plus rally and racing events) in Iran: Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz. All subscribe to the Café Racer maxim: NO DUES, NO DRAMA, NO DOUCHE BAGS!
In the August 25, 2003 issue of AutoWeek magazine, accomplished racer and writer Denise McCluggage wrote in her “Now and Then” column about a small lunch group in Santa Fe, N.M. That article provided the impetus for me to start the Café Racers.
“Tuesday Car Table is not a club; it’s a fixed place and time and a floating assemblage of people who are keen on cars,” she wrote.
Now, Tuesday Car Table and the Sarasota Café Racers are both going strong for more than a decade.
Because we have parking as well as seating space limitations, especially during the winter season, plus have little patience for poseurs, there is a vetting process for Café Racer membership. The emphasis is placed on one’s personality and ability to play well with others, not on how valuable or how many or cars a potential member may own.
Mean-spirited people and arrogant snobs, regardless of how many cars they may own, are not welcome.”
— Archie Urciuoli
[/pullquote]Lunches are every two weeks at a local Sarasota restaurant where we turn the parking lot into a head-turning car show. On occasion we also have off-site brown-bag lunches at members homes, or even in an airport hangar. Off-site lunches often last for three hours or so.
“Just about anything goes at our lunches, but you can’t cross the line,” said vintage sports car enthusiast, former racer and an RRDC (Road Racing Drivers Club) member, Archie Urciuoli. “We certainly are boundary-pushers, and attitude levels at our lunches run near the redline, but mean-spirited people and arrogant snobs, regardless of how many cars they may own, are not welcome.”
The Sarasota Café Racers has a truly eclectic membership, ranging from mechanics and local small-business owners to retired CEOs and chairmen of Fortune 500 companies. AC/DC’s lead singer Brian Johnson, also a racer, has been a member for a few years. He often drives his 1928 Bentley Le Mans to lunch. Newbies include Dick Smothers (yes, of the Smothers Brothers), an accomplished road and drag racing driver in the 1960s-1970s, and Jim Padilla, who retired as president & COO of Ford Motor Company in 2006.
Cafe Racers, Tehran chapter
Many of our members are active vintage road racers or drag racers. Rob Gibby is co-driver of the Dripps & Gibby ’34 Ford roadster (E/STR), a former Bonneville record holder. Rob and I also are part of New Jersey-based Bonneville Racing Team 608, which campaigns a 300-mph Lakester.
The team’s motto is: GO FAST; DO GOOD! We run for records every year and to raise money for charities.
For more information about the Café Racer Community, visit http://www.sarasotacaferacers.com/