(Editor’s note: During the month of February, the ClassicCars.com Journal presents a series of stories exploring car clubs and what they offer to the collector car community. If you have a car club story to share, see the note at the end of this article.)
Finally, you got that classic car that you’ve always wanted, parked it in your garage and have it ready for whatever activity you have envisioned, from car shows to joyful road tours. So, what next?
While I’m not typically a joiner of clubs, I have found that linking up with like-minded car collectors in some kind of organization has greatly enhanced the enjoyment of my old cars. The clubs have launched great friendships, not to mention providing repair and technical guidance from wily veterans whom I otherwise might have never met.
With my Porsche 356 club, the Arizona 356 Outlaws, I’ve been on some imaginative adventures on scenic highways and mountain roads, and in the company of small armadas of similar Porsches. There’s nothing quite like being part of a motley herd of cherished vehicles on a rally or club drive.
Whether you’re into Ford Mustangs, vintage Ferraris, Chevy Impalas, Jaguar E-Types, Rambler Americans, Fiats, street rods or race cars, there is a club for you. There is a lid for every pot, as they say, and there is a club for essentially any kind of vehicle produced down through the ages, even if it’s a wide-net group such as the Antique Automobile Club of America. Hey, there’s even a Pontiac Aztek Fan Club.
With club support, you get to drive your collector cars, rather than having them collect dust and rust while standing on static display in the garage, or taken out for the occasional show. You know where to turn when there’s a problem, and you reap the benefits of group knowledge.
British sports cars were what did it for me starting from my teen years, even when most of the guys (and a few girls) who I knew went big for the muscle cars and stoplight drag racers that were so hot in those days. For me and a few of my buddies, it was MGs, Triumphs, Austin Healeys and Jaguars, as well as macho British motorcycles.
We were working-class kids though, and funds were scant, so our British motoring experiences mainly involved those motorcycles – I rode a cool 1965 BSA 650 Lightning. I eventually bought a used MGB roadster once I got a real job, and which I brought out to Arizona when my wife and I moved from Philadelphia.
In Phoenix, I joined the Arizona MG Club, which was fun and provided entry to the whole realm of British cars, from Minis to Aston Martins, and such egalitarian gatherings as the erstwhile All British Car Show. The MGB was later joined in the garage by another MG, a 1957 Magnette 4-door sedan, the aim being to take my wife and two boys along on rallies.
That worked out great when the boys were small, not so much when they grew into strapping young men standing well over 6 feet.
The Magnette was eventually replaced by a “barn find” 1967 Austin Healey 3000, a step up in the British sports car pecking order from my MGB. The Healey hadn’t been driven in a couple of decades, but after many hours of scraped knuckles, I got it running and drivable.
The Healey was undoubtedly a great piece of British motoring, but I had two basic problems with it: 1) My too-tall lankiness was a tight fit behind the wheel, and 2) There was no local club of Austin Healey enthusiasts, so I had trouble getting to know any fellow owners. While I engaged with some of the other British car clubs, I missed the camaraderie of a marque-specific club.
But then I made a momentous swap – my Healey straight up for a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe, a Ruby Red beauty that stole my heart as soon as I saw it. It was a good deal for everyone involved, as it turned out. And for me, it entailed not just a great car but an entire life change because of the club I joined, the Arizona 356 Outlaws.
The Super Coupe is a definite keeper. While hardly perfect, it’s a great-running little beast that’s always fun to drive. But it wasn’t always this way, and here is where great club support came in. Being part of the loosely organized Outlaws (a term of endearment for custom 356 examples and a play on our Old West locale) has made all the difference.
My 356 was a running piece when I got it, but I knew from the get-go that there were things that needed attention, mainly because it also had been off the road for a while.
As it turned out, it needed a whole bunch of attention, which would have cost me several thousands of dollars if I had brought it to a shop to have it done – while I’m an OK shade-tree mechanic, serious engine and transmission work I leave to the pros. And they charge plenty, especially the Porsche experts.
But through my contacts with the Outlaws, and especially one generous member who is an experienced Porsche mechanic, all the engine, trans and brake work that needed to be done was accomplished in my own garage, with me learning tons while serving as shop assistant and chief gopher.
My involvement with the 356 Outlaws has been instructive, in other words, as I learned the sordid mechanical details of these quirky little cars. It’s also been engaging, with regular get-togethers (not recently, though, because of the pandemic) and drives.
In 2019, our Arizona club hosted the High Desert Holiday in Flagstaff, for the annual multi-day gathering of the national Porsche 356 Registry. About 180 coupes, convertibles, cabriolets and Speedsters and their keepers showed up, some of them trekking thousands of miles from as far away as Florida, North Carolina and Massachusetts.
The Outlaws and its parent group, the 356 Registry, are made up of friendly and mostly unpretentious members, who share stories and information freely, and who are available to help when needed. It really is a very good club, our Arizona branch based in and around Phoenix and Tucson.
Quite a few other drives take place during the year with the Arizona 356 club. Once a year, Drive Your 356 Day is celebrated with owners from around the world taking part in planned and impromptu road trips, which are then chronicled with photo galleries in the Porsche 356 Registry magazine, a bi-monthly publication that in itself makes it worth belonging to the club.
That’s really the core value of belonging to a car club, having unfiltered enjoyment of our collector cars in the company of fellow travelers, who collectively create the experiences that make it all worthwhile.
Do you have a car club story you’d like to share? Just go to this link, fill in the information and submit your story to be considered for publication in our Car Club Series.