Imagine this : you have been a member of a car club for years, admitted on the basis of the car you drive. You have paid your rather hefty annual fees. You have participated in events and paid your entry fees to those events. You have even volunteered to organise major events in that club's calendar. You enter an event, and through good judgement/skill/luck you win the event. Then, after you are declared the winner, up pops someone who says: "No, you should not win the event because you participated in an inferior, common car, and that someone else, who did not do as well should get the prize, because their car was superior." And then, a whole range of people who did not attend the event, and haven't attended events in years, jump into print in support of this clown.
It couldn't happen could it? But it has, and it has often in the past in a club I often jokingly refer to as "The Club that is often mistaken for the Victorian Senior Citizens Club", but which , in reality is the Vintage Sports Car Club, Victorian Branch.
This is a club that is dysfunctional with an appalling record of treatment of its members by a toxic faction within the club, and it's currently in turmoil again. The end of this turmoil is entirely predictable.
The Australian VSCC was established in 1945 on the model of the English club, which was, according to their website, formed on the following principles:
"The Vintage Sports Car Club was founded in 1934 by a group of young men following a proposition in the now defunct magazine "The Light Car" that a 'club for the not so rich' be formed. The main concern was that the heyday of historic motoring was coming to an end.
The original ethos still stands in that the VSCC is about actively enjoying our motoring heritage.
The membership spans a wide variety of people from all walks of life, and is currently topping an all time high of 7,500 members. The movement has a strong population of young, female and overseas members. The entire membership is extremely social which contributes to an atmosphere where an interest in the cars supersedes any concern for personal wealth or status." (emphasis is mine)
The Victorian VSCC probably started this way, but in the 1970's was captured by a group of appalling snobs, and 40 years later is still held ransom by that ageing cabal.
In the 1980's they tried to codify their prejudices by producing a list of "Eligible Cars" which they treat like Moses' stone tablets, and wrongly believe is, likewise, immutably set in stone. Woe be to anyone who defies "The List"!
Although they claim to be the upholders of the "True Spirit", they actually changed the way the club operated. They admitted as "sportscars" cars that were stodgy sedans, or non-sporting touring cars which had only one thing in common, they were expensive. Their particular hatred was American cars, which they labelled "Black Iron", but was not limited to that. They brayed about "proper cars" and loved the snob's Brooklands chant: "the right crowd and no crowding".
The club is now old. The average age is above 70. Very few of the old farts even attend events, and though there has been a trickle of young (50ish) members, the writing is on the wall because they have a problem. In the past they generated a lot of income, and now own clubrooms in expensive Parkville, and they did this by exploiting the tax act. They are listed as a sporting group, like a football club, which is tax exempt. If they lose this exemption, they are in financial trouble. They will lose this exemption if they do not have competitive events, and to do this they need new (young) members. The Committee have finally realised this, and belatedly have moved to open the club up to all vintage cars, not just the list.
This writer was a member 20 year's ago, and was suddenly told 10 years ago that his Hudson was not eligible. I gathered all the information about price in the 1920's, plus racing history, and with a group of others convinced the Committee to amend the List to include Hudson, Oakland, Lasalle and Morris.
As a point of interest, the Committee came to me and asked me to join them as Competition Secretary a veritable poacher/gamekeeper scenario, or as the then President said to me "I'd rather have you in the tent pissing out." I served for 4 years till another eligibility issue finally made me realise that the situation was structurally hopeless, and I left the club. Ironically, the current President who is trying to push through the changes, was the member whose Morris was included. It's personal.
The current Snob's Cabal is led by a noted Worthy but who leads it does not really matter, the tactics are always the same: generate enough poison and vitriol, insult the person concerned indirectly, and they will think, "Why should I suffer this bullshit?" and they piss off. It's worked again. The person has left, not only the club, but he and his entire committee have resigned from organising one of the few major hillclimbs the club still runs.
The Snob's Cabal don't really care. As the Worthy says, "Events are only one of the purposes and activities of the Club." This attitude, centred firmly in Lala Land, will bring down the club, but I believe that that is what they would prefer anyway, rather than be associated with "common cars", and their common owners.
I shall quote here an ironic letter from one of the more realistic members, which I think sums up some of the history of this appalling behaviour:
VSCC Exclusion Policies
The Vintage Sports Car Club was conceived by our founding fathers as an exclusive club. Vintage and PVT cars were excluded unless on the eligibility list and women were not allowed at annual dinners. Our current problem is that these rules have been watered down and the club has become less exclusive. It is no accident that number of eligible cars at competitive events has gradually fallen since women were tolerated at VSCC social functions.
We are not naturally antagonistic to male owners of unlisted vintage cars who contribute to the club and come to events to swell the numbers, provided they promise not to win. There would have been no issue with J*** and M*** C** enjoying the challenge of a wonderfully conceived Alpine Rally in a vintage car which is clearly excluded by the founder's list, had they not humbled the rest of the competitors. Mind you, more than half of the Alpine entrants, all in listed eligible cars which should have won decided to no longer contest the rally on the Sunday because it was raining a bit.
The problem with people getting into strife by winning is not new. I vividly remember a club meeting 25 years ago when it was discovered that Jack M*** driving the Essex Special had accumulated enough points to win the Vickery Trophy. What to do? Luckily the car was fitted with a more modern gearbox with a top gear ratio of 1:1 which gave it an unfair advantage. This gave the excuse to multiply Jack's points by a fudge factor to let a proper car win the Vickery; problem solved. Jack was not sighted again. A fudge factor should have been applied to the Oakland to prevent it winning the Alpine Rally; it had its hood up, behaviour which should attract a penalty in the VSCC.
The rules for exclusion of specials are also usefully flexible and I recall an owner of a Vauxhall Special being let know he was not welcome because his car had a reproduction chassis. He too has never been seen again, but there are other cars with replacement chassis active in the club and my advice to them is "don't win anything otherwise you will be severely fudged":
When competing in an Alex Bryce Two Day Rally in the 1980s in my MGTB, (1939 manufacture but not a listed car, it has push rods) I was quietly taken aside by a venerated club member and advised that the car could be mistaken for a post war MGTC. It would be good if I put it away and bought a decent car from the list. I was not actually excluded, possibly because I was Club President at the time, but it was sound advice.
A mad keen young friend gave the club a week of his time to drive the recovery vehicle for the VSCC 2000 Tasmanian Alpine Trial. He was cornered by a well known club member who demanded to know his name, which was sadly not Anglo Saxon. He was told in an aggressive manner not only was he not welcome in the club, but not welcome in Australia. He took the hint and did not join the VSCC. I conclude that for at least some of us VSCC members, persons with a non Anglo Saxon background, perhaps including the Irish, and other undesirables should be quite rightly excluded from the club. Our self image is at stake
The point is that the more people and cars we exclude from the VSCC, the more exclusive we become.
You can see the total mess that the English VSCC has got itself into by welcoming all vintage cars. I urge the committee to return to and strictly enforce the original eligibility list and to give serious consideration to also excluding from the VSCC all touts, urgers, tossers, wowsers, women, vegetarians, greenies, one legged window dressers, Collingwood supporters, architects, rabbit trappers, rat bags, lawyers, optimists, revisionists, progressives and owners of push rod MGs.
Unless we take decisive action the VSCC is in grave danger of surviving beyond the year 2023.
Yours Emotionally J****