Does your car club seem more like a lonely hearts afternoon tea than a thriving organization? Car clubs are struggling with declining numbers, dwindling revenue, and keeping pace with changing times. Times are changing so quickly it is enough to make your head spin, but don’t let that overwhelm because you will be left in the dust. Perhaps you need a thump on the head because you’re not doing enough to ensure your club’s survival. The old saw “that’s the way we’ve always done it…” doesn’t cut it anymore. Young people sure as hell don’t want to hear it because they have better things to do. As a matter of fact, we’d do well to listen to most of them because that’s where the future is. Keep repeating this age old excuse for inaction and you go the way of the humble dinosaur and Studebaker.
We are creatures of habit. We like what’s familiar and predictable – yet that’s why old school focused car clubs are getting left behind. We’ve grown decidedly stale. Put on your thinking cap and open up your mind to the possibilities even if you’re not comfortable with the idea.
In the 35 years I’ve been attending car shows, I’ve watched trends come and go.
In the 35 years I’ve been attending car shows, I’ve watched trends come and go. Thirty years ago, it was the painstaking trend of factory original concours restorations. If you modified a Mustang, you were scolded and shunned if you didn’t walk in lockstep with the purists. Though this trend helped preserve classic Mustangs as they were from the factory, it also chased off a lot of potential for growth because purists didn’t live and let live. Purists with closed minds pushed their agenda hard against those who had no interest. We lost enthusiasts then who have never returned.
Stagnation and decline have come largely from boredom and economics. A crippled economy has affected car clubs just like it has business and commerce. When you are unemployed and facing foreclosure, the last thing on your mind is attending a car show because your main concern is survival. So ask yourself why anyone would want to join your club and attend your events even in the best of times. Why are your numbers down and what are you going to do about them?
When I was at a large regional Mustang show in California a while back, I couldn’t help but notice numbers well below par and the obvious decline in the number of classic Mustangs. Some of it is demographics – an aging population that loves the classics in failing health or experiencing hard economic times. This is understandable – and inevitable.
However, I am a born people watcher and I have observed patterns for a long time worthy of comment because it is make or break time, folks. Seasoned Mustang enthusiasts – judges, club officers, enthusiasts and the like need to work on their bedside manner with those who are new to the hobby. What this hobby needs more than anything is knowledgeable, courteous, respectful mentors who can show aspiring enthusiasts the way without being rude and insulting.
People ask me when I am going to bring my ’67 Mustang to a car show. My answer – probably never because I’ve watched untold thousands get scolded for what isn’t right about their cars instead of what’s right.
A bad first show experience is enough to run people off who will never return. It is okay to politely and respectfully advise enthusiasts of what needs correcting, just keep negative comments to yourself. And unless someone asks for your opinion, please refrain from comment. My feeling is simple – if I didn’t solicit your opinion, please don’t give it to me as a means to feeding your ego.
With the Miss Manners stuff out of the way, lets get to what makes clubs successful. People attend events that are stimulating and exciting. Shelve your old worn out lawn chairs, coolers, and car care kits. Emulate successful car clubs and what keeps members coming back year after year. The old dusty sedate car show will always have its purpose, however, it can’t be your only purpose. You’ve got to rock with mufti-faceted activities.
And for crying out loud stop playing “Mustang Sally” and all those other worn out oldies at your events.
And for crying out loud stop playing “Mustang Sally” and all those other worn out oldies at your events. Provide music all generations can relate to including big band and rap in moderation. Mix in great comics over your loudspeakers like George Carlin, Richard Prior, George Lopez, Jay Leno, and legendary others. Make your events entertaining for everyone with variety. No goofy square dances or corny sock hops. No Elvis or Beach Boy impersonators. And no boring guest speakers who want to reflect about the good old days.
Get the exhaust manifolds hot with driving events like cruises, autocrosses, drag and road racing, gymkhanas, drifting, ride and drives to fascinating places. Where possible, take cross-country drives – not every time there’s an anniversary, but as the mood and individual budgets permit. And when you host these driving events, make sure everyone’s on the same page.
The key to survival and growth is to watch trends, listen to constructive criticism, and glean what useful in it all. Then, work out a game plan everyone can live with. This is what happens when everyone pulls together in a spirit of cooperation.