It’s supposed to be fun people!
The Professional Car Hobby has fought an uphill battle since it began. The cars we love and admire are usually looked at by the masses as strange, morbid, or just plain creepy most times. Our vehicles are curiosities at the best of times and a reminder of traumatic times for individuals at their worst. A hearse is always associated with death, and not many among us think of the death of a loved one with any sort of joy. As a result, the pioneers in our hobby fought long and hard to get the rest of the old car hobby to recognize us as a relevant and legitimate segment of the hobby. They fought to prove that professional cars of all types were historically relevant and worth saving and collecting, and they fought against the stigma that our cars carried. To that end, they formed clubs and organized like-minded people to show the unity and the strength that our little part of the hobby had. All the while fighting to have our cars be recognized by the other major old car groups. Just as we were making decent progress, and educating the rest of the old car hobby and the public about the value and the history of our cars, something went wrong. Our clubs closed in on themselves. It became less about the cars and the history and educating the public and more about cliques, power, and who and what was acceptable to those with the power. The cars became a tax write off for a small segment of our hobby, and our events became intolerant and elitist and closed to the world. Even within our own membership it was a matter of Us versus Them most times. If you were not one of Them, you were somehow less valuable as a member. Our Money was good, but our opinions were not. If you didn’t toe the party line, you were excluded and derided. People were denied technical support, access to parts, and even entrance to our own events based on what they believed and what they did with their own cars. Members were told that their coaches were not welcome at events because they didn’t fit the narrow image that a few small people were trying to cultivate, or those in power felt that certain coaches reflected poorly on their businesses outside of the club itself. There were two sets of rules. The published rules, and the rules that were enforced. It didn’t matter that the clubs had cashed our checks and it didn’t matter that their own published rules allowed anyone with an interest to join. Those in power did as they pleased and ran the club like a backyard tree house. And while they were doing as they pleased, the people in power hid the vast majority of their misdeeds from the very people they were supposed to represent.
And so our little chunk of the old car hobby fragmented. Smaller groups started up and pushed to become bigger, and they were proud to claim that they were “not like the old clubs” were. They claimed they were more open and accepting of people and better than the older clubs had been. Sadly, the reality was they were open and accepting as long as you agreed with their particular opinions. Moreover, the new clubs seemed to spend as much time bashing the older clubs for old ideas as the older clubs bashed the new ones for being young and clueless and stirring up trouble. Each group made it a goal to wipe out the other. They all felt a need to prove that their ideas were more right than everyone else. It got to a point where being an expert became more important than the cars themselves. Trying so hard to prove that they were all right got in the way of everyone enjoying each other’s cars and company. Clubs hell bent on being the only source of information, clamped down and the flow of information stopped. And the hobby suffered again. Some outspoken leaders of the clubs felt it was better to have a coach crushed than let someone do as they please with it. Others felt that it was better to save a coach at any cost. Sadly, neither side was willing to budge, and neither side was willing to listen.
To the rest of the old car hobby, we all looked like children again.
And then one of the older clubs exploded within itself for too many reasons to list here. It splintered within itself and broke into divisive factions and fought internally. Member attacked member. Lies were concocted and spread, and some people seemed willing to do anything to retain the hold on the power they had within the club. And then that established club split almost in half, and another new club was formed.
Throughout all of this, one small item was completely ignored. The cars themselves. The history and the love of these cars was totally set aside so people could argue and fight and attack each other. The shared experience that we all had, and the entire reason for us being together as a club and a hobby was thrown out in the heat of battle. The entire reason for organizing in the first place, that legitimacy that we so desperately sought within the old car hobby was ignored and in some cases ground into the dust in the name of being right and being an expert and being better than everyone else. The message was clear. We know better than you. We ARE better than you. And, We don’t care one bit what you think because we are right and you are not We are the experts, and if you want to play, you have to pay.
The organized professional car hobby had become entirely about power and greed and some misplaced sense of people’s need to be right no matter what.
We all seem to have forgotten why we were here to begin with. The battle cry for both sides of the hobby for years has been “it’s about the cars” while at the same time completely ignoring the cars and attacking anyone with a differing opinion And while it should be about the cars, I think there are even more important things that we need to focus on.
At the end of the day, It’s supposed to be fun.
I don’t think any of us bought one of these cars gleefully anticipating the drama and the attacks and the heartburn that goes along with the current state of our hobby. No one bought one of these coaches so they could be attacked and told that they were wrong in what they wanted to do with their own car. And no one paid their club dues expecting to be told that their opinions matter less than a small group already within the club grasping to hang on to what little power and control they have. There is more to the professional car hobby than a once a year, private show that the public and outsiders are not welcome at. It’s supposed to be than standing around and stroking each other’s egos and proclaiming how wonderful we all are as we watch a car rolled out of its trailer on the day of the show. We bought these cars because we liked them. And I believe that most of us bought these cars because we wanted to share them and enjoy them.
To me, that is what the hobby is supposed to be about. Sharing our cars and enjoying the cars and the people we run into with them. We are never going to be recognized as a legitimate part of the old car hobby if we are constantly attacking each other and spending all our time trying to prove ourselves right. The entire professional car hobby looks like children when we do that. And the actions of those few people reflect poorly on the rest of us that just want to have a good time with our cars. If we want to be recognized as legitimate, we don’t necessarily need to belong to any specific club, We just need to get out there and participate with the rest of the world. We need to take time to talk to people honestly about why we love these cars, and why they are historically important. And we need to drive them. People need to see them in their natural environment on the roads. They need to be able to approach us at a gas station and ask a quick question or two without a lot of pressure or judgment. And everyone needs to be treated with respect. Old cars, regardless of what they are, provide the perfect opportunity to talk to people. And we need to take those opportunities to do something positive with these cars. Its simple really, we just need to treat everyone with respect, regardless of their opinions. We need to take the time to answer questions without looking pained or inconvenienced. And we need to open our minds and accept anyone that has an interest in these cars. We all share an interest in these cars, nothing else should matter. It’s not about politics, or power, or money. It’s about having fun with these cars.
I took a long weekend a few weeks back and drove one of my coaches almost 9 hours one way to another state to participate in a charity event. Eighteen hours and over 1200 miles driving round trip, and 4 days total to participate in a one-day charity event. One day of driving over, one day of errands and prepping the car for the event. Then a day spent doing the event itself, and then another day driving home. And I spent almost all of that time talking to people about the car and having a great time. Everywhere I stopped, someone had a question or a comment about the car. And without fail, they were all positive comments. I shared the car with as many people as I had the chance to, and I treated every one of them with respect. Now I’m sure that most of the people I talked to will never even consider buying a professional car of their own, they at least had a positive experience with mine. I like to think that in some small way, I represented the professional car hobby in a positive manner. Those people hopefully learned something they didn’t know before about our cars. And if we are lucky, they left the interaction knowing that people that choose to drive cars like this as just regular folks like they are. We are no different, no more special or more strange or anything. We are just classic car people. And that’s what should be important here.
I believe that the professional car hobby has lost its way. I believe that there are visible people in the hobby that are too obsessed with power and structure and who is right. I think that as a whole we have lost sight of what’s really important. The cars, the friendships, and the enjoyment of our hobby is what it’s supposed to be about. There aren’t enough of us around to argue, attack and pick at each other. We need to work together to re-legitimize and revitalize this hobby and keep it viable. We also need to do it without sticking our hands out for a check first. It should not be about money or power or even who is right or wrong. Anyone with an interest in these cars, no matter what that interest is, should be welcomed and accepted. It should be about owning, driving, sharing, and enjoying these cars. It should be about the look on someone’s face when you help them fix something that’s been confounding them for weeks. It’s about the goodwill you generate when you locate and send someone the last part that they need for their car rather than hoarding it on a shelf at home so you can claim you have an extra. And its about sharing the knowledge and the information with as many people as possible so that information is not lost. That’s what its supposed to be about. And that’s why Professionalcar.org is, and will always remain, free for anyone to use. I don’t think anyone should have to pay an entry fee to get help and assistance. I don’t think that you should have to be a member of any club to be able to buy the parts you need. And I don’t believe that anyone is better than anyone else in this hobby. Clubs have their place, but they are not the beginning or the end of the hobby. The people and the cars and the fun is what makes the hobby vibrant and exciting. And it seems like that little fact has gotten lost in all the yelling and posturing over the years.
Is it such a bad thing to just be professional car enthusiasts and have a good time with our cars? Is there some compelling reason that we should not work as hard as we can to be open and accepting of others that love these cars as much we do. Is there some huge negative to just enjoying, sharing, and having a good time with our coaches. If there is, I cannot find one. The only negatives I’ve found in this hobby are the politics, the egos, the negativity, the greed and the general BS that some clubs spew like its gospel. Guess what? None of that has anything to do with the cars themselves.
So why not pull that coach out of the garage, Shine up that chrome and then drive the wheels off it instead of wasting time blowing hot air? That is why most of bought these things in the first place. Things are just better behind the wheel of an old car. That is where we need to be. The whole world is out there to explore and enjoy. And you never know what amazing people you are going to meet out on the road with your old coach.