Andy’s Advice: The Club Saved My Bentley

Story By Andy Reid

This might sound a bit crazy, but more than once I have sought a particular car only because I liked the associated club. In fact, I would have to say that if I find a neat car for sale that doesn’t have club support, I’m likely to keep shopping.

On the plus side, I’m pleased to report that I have not run into a car club whose company I did not enjoy, which I guess explains why I am currently a member of the Porsche Club of America, Ferrari Club of America, Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club, Maserati Club, NorCal MINIs, Jensen Healey Preservation Society and probably a few others I have forgotten. I’ve been a member of other car and bike clubs in the past as dictated by what I owned at the time.

Never mind the associated marque, being a member of these clubs has always been a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. The clubs have helped me make friends, understand technical procedures, learn marque history, become a better driver and just simply enjoy some terrific events.

Of all the things clubs offer their members, I feel the most important is the driving events. These not only bring members and their cars together, but they’re also a way to involve spouses—which leads me to my story.

As you might know, a few months ago we purchased a Bentley Brooklands. I really shouldn’t say “we” because it was my decision to purchase the car—my wife, Ann, didn’t want any part of it.

As I wrote in our June issue, this was not one of my better ideas. To say that she was underwhelmed is the understatement of the century. She hated the car on sight, and no amount of discussion was going to open her eyes to the Bentley’s many neat features.

My comment about the Queen having one did little to quell her unhappiness about the car, which she saw as a completely ostentatious display of wealth. (The fact that I paid less than $25,000 for the car didn’t matter.) Daily I heard about what a stupid car it was. I quickly grew tired of the argument and decided to sell the car to defuse the situation.

Fortunately, the club came through.

When I bought the Bentley, I immediately joined the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club. In fact, my first event with the club took place two days after buying the car. It was a detailing clinic followed by lunch at a member’s house, and I met some terrific, real car people, many of whom actually work on their own vehicles. Beyond that, they had the ability to talk about things besides cars, sometimes a rare thing in our hobby.

The next event planned was a drive to an antique train museum followed by a VIP tour of the Jelly Belly candy factory. It sounded like a fun event and against my better judgment I asked Ann if she wanted to attend. To my surprise, she said yes. There was a potluck picnic planned for the day as well, and I signed us up to bring a dessert at my wife’s request.

The day of the tour we loaded up the car with picnic supplies and started on the road to the museum. Along the way we met up with some other members and caravanned with them to the museum.

The museum was a neat experience. All of their trains still worked, and part of the visit included rides. After the rides, we had our club picnic. To say that the food was delicious would not do it justice—the Rolls-Royce club knows how to do a potluck. Ann met a ton of people and seemed to have a great time, especially when people made such a huge deal over the cake she baked for dessert.

After we each ate our body weight in food, we took one last train ride and then headed off to the Jelly Belly factory. When we got there, we were allowed to park our cars out front in a roped-off area. I had never been treated this well at a car event, and the cars looked great.

Other visitors to the factory flocked around the cars, asked lots of questions and took tons of photographs. All different kinds of people seemed to love these cars, and it was a lot of fun to interact with them. On top of that, the tour was terrific and we all left with gift bags stuffed with free candy. That didn’t stop many of us from getting more at their shop. I think they must put something in those beans to make you eat them in huge quantities.

We left the factory in smaller groups, and drivers heading the other way honked their horns, flashed their lights or simply waved at us. That was pretty neat.

During the entire day, Ann seemed to be having a nice time riding in the car. We stopped at a terrific steak house near our home and had an excellent dinner. Over dinner I asked Ann if she enjoyed the event. She said that she did and that she really liked a lot of the people she met. It wasn’t what she expected. She also admitted that she loved the way the Bentley rode, adding that the thick carpets felt wonderful under bare feet. She then said that maybe we should keep the car.

After that day, I began to let her know that I’d really love to own a Rolls at some point, and the idea didn’t put her off. In fact, she has even gone shopping with me, something that wouldn’t have happened in the past.

I will be forever grateful to the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club for opening up my wife’s eyes to these wonderful cars as well as the people who enjoy them. We have not argued about our Bentley since the event and are planning on attending many more of the club’s gatherings as time permits.

Car clubs are wonderful things, and if you aren’t a member of one associated with your classic, then you’re missing out on one of the most rewarding and fun aspects of our hobby.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about the Internet doing away with car clubs. This is utter nonsense. The Internet cannot take you and a friend or significant other on a road trip. Nor can an online club begin to approach the fellowship and fun that exists only when many people who share a common passion get together in person. The Internet could never have opened Ann’s eyes to the Bentley’s good side or the fun that it has to offer.

The annual dues for most car clubs run anywhere from $35 to $50, and the higher end groups cap around $100. With your dues you will get entry into events, technical information plus the camaraderie offered by meetings and dinners. Many clubs also provide members with free subscriptions to their magazines—I receive the Rolls-Royce club’s monthly, bimonthly and quarterly publications. Several of these mags also provide print advertisements at no charge. On top of this, some clubs also offer a parts discount that can easily erase the membership dues.

My advice comes in the form of a two-step program: First, get out and join the club that serves your chosen marques. Second, use the club to get the rest of the family involved in the hobby.

If you follow these simple steps, you might find that those arguments over parts and accessories purchases just disappear as if by magic. Behold the power of the club.

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