Recently I wrote a piece for Eddie Ford's "Restored Cars" magazine on the Feral Sports Car Club, because Eddie, who is a friend and fellow local, asked me to. The article created a huge response: all the people who hated it rang up Eddie and complained, saying he should have censored it. A lot of the people who liked it emailed me and asked for further details as to how to form your own club. Half a dozen clubs were formed as a result of that article.
I followed this up by writing another article for this web site : "Why you and your mates need to form your own Car Club. And how to do it." (You can check it out in the Index page). This page has had about 40,000 hits from Australia alone, so I reckon there's a bit of interest in the subject.
Why am I banging on about this matter? Simple. Corruption.
Let me state from the outset: The majority of ordinary car club members are really nice people with whom I have no quarrel, who are sincere, and with whom I would willingly share a beer. They are often the victims of the bastards with whom I do have issues, as I will show.
Without rehashing the entire article, my basic thesis is that as car clubs get bigger, the organisation is often taken over by anal control freaks whose agenda differs from the ideals that caused the club to be formed in the first place. Add to this the power to confer limited registration on old cars at a fraction of full rego costs, and you have the basis for corruption.
Have this system continue year after year and you develop a culture of entitlement by the control freaks who engender their own little coterie of hangers on, and who, no doubt, believe that they are the holders of truth. I think the Greeks called this Hubris.
A case in point. At a car club in Melbourne, around the bay area, a bloke who was new to the old car game, but enthusiastic, approached a car club and was directed to the President.
The President asked this chap why he wanted to join. The bloke, whom I shall call John, said that he lived in the area, had bought and old car, and was interested in getting it on club rego, and joining in activities.
The President asked John what he did for a living, and John replied that he was a cabinet maker and shop fitter. The President then told him that after he had made some new bookshelves for the club, he would get his red plates. John was taken aback by this, but, not knowing how he could get club rego any other way, he complied. He got his red plates, but was treated as if he had leprosy by the clique that was the club.
He's since formed his own car club with his mates.
My own experiences, and the motivation for forming the Ferals with my friends, also had to do with corruption.
I belonged to a club that was, and still is, delusional.
The club believed that it embodied the upper-class spirit of Brooklands; that is "The Right Crowd, and No Crowding!" It was a snob's paradise, but they held competitive events that for a while I found appealing.
It had a strict list of eligible cars, most of which were arcane Euro makes that were as extinct as the dodo, or super expensive luxury cars. They were obsessed with racing history, but only if it was European. They were pig ignorant of 1920's Australian motorsport, let alone anything trans-atlantic.
They were ageing when I joined them in the late 1980's, old when I left them in the mid 2000's, they are now slowly teetering on the edge of the grave, but unable and unwilling to change. They believe that if they relaxed their strict eligibility rules, they would be swamped by lower class American cars.....and their owners.
Apart from the arcane list of eligible cars, to protect them from the hoi polloi, they had complex lists of "acceptible" modifications. An "original car" had no modifications. Certain modifications, like a modern gearbox , or diff earned demerit points to a percentage limit, and was classified as a "Special". Veteran cars, irrespective of make were eligible.
All well and good. Rules are rules........or so you think.
My last days in the club was as a member of the committee. A person with a 1916 Dodge Speedster was accepted, and his money taken. This bloke was a genuine enthusiast who had devoted enormous time and money to make outback salt racing a goer. His Dodge, however was loathed. Yes, it did have a modern gearbox, but other than that was original. It should have been accepted as a Veteran Special under the rules.
No. The committee turned itself inside out arguing against it, and at the same time arguing that the president's Pre-war historic racing car, with a Holden Red Motor Diff, was not a Special, but an Original. They even put forward that a Vauxhall 30/98 fake, with not a single 30/98 part was an original, because they liked the (rich) bloke.
They tried, but failed, to get a totally fake Argentinian Bugatti replica admitted into pre-war event, even though not a single component was made before 2000. Meanwhile the Dodge was rejected, and its owner, plus another committee man and I, left the club.
It was a classic case where the Rules were used selectively to punish those that the powers disliked, and were waived to benefit those the powers favoured: corruption.
"Fuck'em," I thought, "We'll form our own club." Which was the start of it all.
The sad bit is that a small number of the members of the club who actually participate in events are relatively pleasant people. However the "garage" members, with their collections of expensive cars, who never turn up, have the numbers, and maintain the delusion.
The next item was sent to me, unsolicited, by someone I didn't know from Sydney. On his request I have withheld his name.
I was astounded to read your report on the activities of your former club. Have we met? You seemed to have been a member of my former club, which was taken over by Anals just before I left it. Prior to this I was on the committee as treasurer.
I took on this job because no one else would, and I did it well. I am a Finance graduate, was a Certified Financial Planner and had had vast experience as treasurer in other clubs. My wife and I were also enthusiastic workers for the club and I also raised thousands of dollars by gaining sponsorship and running rallies etc.. I therefore resented it when the secretary helped himself to a cash advance of $200 which he dipped into for expenses as he saw fit - without receipts - and then expected replenishment.
The Anals also demanded cheques for worthy causes - including gifts to the Mayor's wife (in recognition for this couple eating at our rally dinner (paid for by the members). I resigned as the constitution was clearly being breached, and ceased my active work after seven years. I would be an ordinary member from now on.
Embarrassing the executive is dangerous. Four months later My CRS (red-plate equivalent) car was spotted 2.7kms by road from my home in the car-park of my local Country Club. Without warning I received a letter from the President demanding my resignation under threat of expulsion. I declined, expecting to face the committee for my sins. Without being given a chance to face my accusers, I received another letter expelling me. No further explanation was given. I f only I had confined my criminal activities to slaying the first-born of every member I might have been shown mercy, but driving my own car without permission (not required under the RTA guidelines) was unforgivable. I appealed to the membership and a special meeting was held. I was told I could address the meeting for 3 minutes in my defence!
My accuser told the meeting that the Police had phoned them twice, complaining about my driving. On the planet where I live, the Police do not make complaints to the public, it is the other way round. (I had also been told by the local police that this was untrue). The RTA were cited as concerned, but my enquiries to them had met with no comment at all. They are public servants! The Council of Motor Clubs were quoted as being concerned - no evidence was provided. A non-existent lobby group seeking to ban concessional registration was claimed as being given ammunition by me. Other lies were told. Every time I - or someone supporting me - attempted to say something relevant, we were over-ruled or threatened by the President, who had appointed himself prosecutor and judge. The onus was entirely on me to disprove anything my accusers had said.
Still, the meeting was a special one and notice of the motion had been sent to all members. The constitution allowed for proxy votes (up to 4 per member), postal votes, and a 75% vote was needed to approve my expulsion. Half the attendees I had never seen before (and have not been seen since). The President had a wad of proxy votes (that he had obtained beforehand). He counted the votes and threatened anyone who came near him whilst he did so. No postal votes were counted and the decision not to do so was with-held from the meeting. (I found out about it eight months later). The motion received 60% of the votes counted, but the President deemed this to be sufficient. I left the meeting.
The executive then tried unsuccessfully to get the RTA and or Police to have me hand in my numberplates from my three CRS vehicles. They contacted other nearby clubs to have me black-listed from joining and banned from their activities - with limited success. I joined another Sydney based club to cover myself, although a lawyer had advised me that - on six separate grounds - my alleged expulsion was illegal and would never be upheld by a court. In the mean-time I applied to form another Club to which Anals would not be admitted.
The new club has been going for nearly five years. Membership is free. There are no expenses. We communicate by email There are 20 members (40 if you count partners). Running the entire club is less work than being a simple member of the previous club. I cannot believe that the other club had to be so complicated and the activities so removed from the stated aims and objectives. We do not police the driving of members; they simply sign a constitution stating that they will comply with the Club constitution. We meet weekly for short rides and monthly for long ones. We hold a weekend away every year. Members attending other clubs' rallies need only let me know ahead of time. All members are entitled to access the CRS system.
Meanwhile, the Anals at my former club have not been idle. The "rules" which formerly only existed inside the heads of the executive have now been put on paper. Members need to apply to test drive their vehicles. They must keep and maintain log-books, carry ID, and wear badges at all events. They also have to sign running sheets. None of these is a legal requirement. The club spends $1000.00 pa on public risk insurance against God knows what for.
They put out a monthly magazine (which the public can read on-line for free), but it contains no information that the members do not already know.
The question is WHY?
Name Withheld by Request.
What I've just presented here will no doubt cause more fury amongst the anal set. Yandoit Andy, seen on the right alighting from the Crossley to applause from St Keith of Logan, was recently berated, at length, in the local town by a member of the local polishers, stating that the Ferals were ruining it for other car clubs, and that the other car clubs were going to band together and "Get the Ferals!"
Apparently our crime is to prefer a weathered appearance to glossy two-pack paintwork, and not having indicators (which are not required by law anyway). I suspect that our real "crime" is pointing out that the anal emperor has no clothes, and that there is an alternative.
The New Club Permit Scheme in Victoria
Victoria is introducing a scheme similar to the one in S.A, with 45 and 90 day logbooks.
I must admit I was a little ambivalent about the new scheme, because we had no trouble working under the old scheme, and could use our cars for more than 90 days if we wished to.
Some of the more anal clubs in the Federation were against the change because of this statement by VicRoads:
"Under the new scheme, permit holders will no longer be restricted to club sanctioned activities when using their vehicles. Vehicles will be able to be used at any time for any purpose. However they will be restricted to a total of 90 days use a year."
If you are tempted to think that this puts you beyond the reach of the anal control freaks, think again. New VicRoad rules give the clubs some additional powers vague enough to be abused.
For a start, the renewal of a permit is still in the hands of the club, but they also gain power by this little pearler:
" 4. The Club will promptly notify VicRoads if it becomes aware of, or reasonably suspects-
a] a pattern of incorrect use of a club permit log book by one of its members.."
So, they can harass you on a suspicion. They can also issue you with rectification of a "suspected safety issue" and dob you in to VicRoads if you do not comply, to their satisfaction within 14 days.
Remember, if you are rubbed out by VicRoads due to a dodgy complaint by your club, you may have trouble regaining a permit, even if you change clubs.
So what can you do about it?
The answer to all of this is very simple: IF YOU ARE UNHAPPY WITH THE WAY YOUR CLUB TREATS YOU: FORM YOUR OWN CLUB, HAND IN YOUR PLATES, AND RE-REGISTER WITH THE NEW CLUB.
It's very easy, in fact we've just formed another club, for members and friends of the Ferals, to take into account bikes, cars, trucks and busses that do not fit into the reasonably strict eligibility criteria of the Ferals.
If you have any queries, or if you have tales of clubs behaving badly, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.