By Jan Wagner
And no, the AAA isn’t quite what I’m recommending here.
The final decision when shopping for a primary, everyday automobile often comes down to practical considerations like room for our stuff, fuel economy, safety equipment, comfort and more, but shopping for a car to have fun with can be an entirely different matter.
That decision depends upon what kind of recreational driving we enjoy. For me, that is a no-brainer. I’ve been autocrossing since the late 1970s and I still do that, so my recreational car needs to be a competitive autocrosser. Other people might prefer off-road driving, going on road trips with others who have vehicles like theirs, participating in track days and so on.
Belonging to a car club puts you in touch with other like-minded people. Membership is also a great way to make new friends. Suitable clubs that match your automotive interests are just a quick Google search away.
In San Diego we have clubs that include autocrossing as one of their regular activities. Over the years I have belonged to several, including the San Diego chapters of the Porsche Club of America (when I had my ’78 911SC), the BMW Car Club of America (when I owned my ’95 M3) and the Sports Car Club of America (too many cars to list here). The SCCA’s autocross program is open to most makes and models, the few exceptions being for reasons of safety on the track.
Belonging to just one club might not be enough to satisfy your recreational needs. For example, typically in San Diego our SCCA autocrosses are held a little more than once per month (a weekend consisting of one Championship day and usually one practice day). Since I don’t run practices (to extend the life of my autocross tires and thus keep costs down), that leaves only the Championship days to autocross my car. We get about four runs of around a minute or so each and then, other than working the event and perhaps going to meetings, the fun is over until next time. I want more car-related fun than that.
So, that can be a good reason to belong to more than one car club. When I buy an autocross car, I try to find one that has a local chapter of a marque club associated with that make or model. There are Porsche clubs, Ferrari clubs and so forth. I bought my Mustang in large part because I knew that there are active Mustang clubs nearby. The one I joined is the Mustang Club of San Diego (www.sdmustangclub.com).
For starters, we have monthly meetings with guest speakers. Coming up in the next few months are car shows, a bowling night, dinner cruises (the car kind, not on the water), a teen driving course, a wine cruise and more. Frankly there are more activities than I have time to participate in.
Last Sunday we held our annual MCSD picnic. A bunch of us drove our Mustangs (and a few other special Ford vehicles) to scenic El Monte County Park in Lakeside. We enjoyed each others’ cars and company, a BBQ and a raffle with lots of prizes.
In addition to marque clubs, there are clubs for types of vehicles such as 4x4s, vintage automobiles, sportscars and more. The possibilities are endless.
Car clubs often serve the community at large with charitable donations and other philanthropic activities. They also provide expertise and help to their members. Shortly in advance of my most recent SCCA autocross, I realized that my new Hoosier autocross tires were not going to fit as easily in my Mustang as my previous Hoosiers had. The new ones are slightly larger in diameter, which means they do not fit within the tight confines of my car’s spare tire well or two-across in its back seat area. I turned to the Mustang club for help and found two members who came to my rescue. Eldy arrived at my house at 6am on autocross day to drive my autocross tires to the event, and afterwards Curtis drove my autocross tires back to my home. Then, at the autocross, they and Randy took photos for use in this column. Needless to say, I am sincerely grateful.
Well, that’s it for this installment of AutoMatters. I hope that you’ll join a car club and, as always, please write to me with your comments and suggestions at
Copyright © 2013 by Jan Wagner – #279