21 December 2017

End of the world for Car Clubs? Not yet!

| Peter Norton
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Photos: Peter Norton.

I have a little secret to share. I have a mistress.

Her name is Daisy. Outwardly her appearance is reasonably conservative, but when the clock strikes three, she starts to party! That is where the trouble starts. Daisy has a drinking problem.

I know this is socially unacceptable. Many who know about the relationship quietly shake their head in disapproval. Daisy is a 2016 V8 Mustang.

Above 3,000 rpm she comes to life. The party starts at three and is really rocking after that. However, we live in a world where sensible, market-leading vehicles get great economy and have low emissions and excellent safety features. It is amazing that medium-sized family cars now have a range of over 1,000 kilometres with figures under 5 litres per 100 kilometres.

When Daisy is partying hard, such as a track day at Wakefield Park, she can drink over 40 litres every 100 kilometres. That is a range of just 150 kilometres from a tank, but that is OK, as I am not sure the rear tyres would last much longer anyway.

For many people, this is irresponsible and socially unacceptable. Community standards and the market for new cars have changed. Manufacturers pitch their cars based on Bluetooth technology and how well the car works with your phone. Five-star safety ratings are now only available with an alphabet soup of ANCAP, ABS, AEB, and ESC.

When I was growing up, performance cars were cool, and the coolest people were found in car clubs. But with changing community standards, many old-time car nuts felt like social outcasts. Over the years, participation in car clubs declined.

But I am not sure this signals the end of the world. There is an uprising. Car clubs are growing again.

People who loved cars in their younger days drifted away from the clubs to attend to their family commitments. With that job done, and now with a few dollars behind them – they are back. They are also clinging to their youth. What better way to stay young than buy a car that was your childhood dream?

This uprising is gaining strength. It is no longer an underground movement, and regional towns are embracing this. A clear example of this was in Cooma in early November with the convergence of three motoring events.

Firstly there was the Cooma Motorfest. Rogan Corbett, a Director of the Cooma Monaro Historic Automobile Club explained that the event started from humble beginnings in 1997 and is held biannually. Mr Corbett remarked that “it was just too much work to do every year”, but humbly failed to mention how busy the car club is, holding hill climbs and other events during the year as well.

Under cool November skies, people and their vehicles started turning up – by the hundreds. Only Cooma could be this cold on a November morning, but the many food and coffee vendors kept people fuelled for their wanderings through the rows of motoring magic. It was an eclectic mix of vehicles, with 300 cars, 50 trucks, various tractors, some steam engines, and even amphibious vehicles.

Some cars were priceless restorations of the old classics. One Jaguar E Type had a ‘for sale’ sign, but most people knew it was out of their reach and didn’t bother asking “how much?”

Other cars had a more creative take on car culture. The diversity of the cars on display was one of the event’s strengths, with something for all tastes.

Secondly, the Cooma Showgrounds and Motorfest was also a stop for the 17th running of the “Snowy Ride”. More than 100 volunteers were behind the Honda Snowy Ride 2017, with 2094 registered riders and pillions contributing to fundraising more than $200,000 for the Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation.

The Honda Snowy Ride has been held each year since 2001 with motorcyclists spending a day riding the picturesque Alpine roads and raising money to fund research into a cure for childhood cancer. Some riders added some fun and colour with dress ups, including Smurfs and Elmo style covers on helmets.

A brand new event, the Monaro Stages Rally, was also in town, and it set up its service park alongside Motorfest. The 40 rally cars that gathered to race through the forests and shire roads around Cooma covered the spectrum from state-of-the-art four-wheel drive rockets, through to the classics. Some pristine, and some a bit rough around the edges. Some remarkable workmanship was on display with cars from the 1970s and 80s fastidiously rebuilt, and they started the day in concourse condition. Some could have taken home silverware from the Motorfest judges but were thrashed through the forests instead.

Across the three events, there were over 2,500 vehicles involved. Most would have been from out-of-town, and most brought an entourage of people.

If political correctness and environmental concerns are predicted to be the “end of the world as we know it” for car lovers, then I feel fine. The resistance is strong and growing.

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These are not evil machines – they are works of art to be loved and cherished!

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