At this time of year, when the appearance of the first primroses and new petrol ration books instill a desire to get out on the road, the question of whether or not to join a club presents itself to new followers of the Sport. From letters we receive, much confusion seems to exist in the minds of such persons as to which clubs will best suit individual requirements and what advantages are to be gained from membership.
Motor clubs can be divided broadly into three main groups. First, there are the big organisations which are responsible for running important competition events, such as the British Racing Drivers’ Club, Irish Motor Racing Club, Jersey M. and L.C.C., Junior Car Club, Midland A.C., Bugatti Owners’ Club, Motor Cycling Club, North-West London M.C., Ulster Automobile Club, and others. In addition, the important Scottish organisations must not be overlooked — Royal Scottish Automobile Club as controlling body in conjunction with the R.A.C., Scottish Sporting Car Club, and Scottish Racing Drivers’ Club, nor the Royal Irish Automobile Club. These Clubs do invaluable work by organising our important National competition events, under the control of the R.A.C., which itself is holding a Rally and Veteran Car Run this year. The B.R.D.C. looks after the interests of British racing men generally and membership is restricted. The J.C.C. has concentrated chiefly on social events since the war, but is going to assist with the Jersey Club’s big race on May 8th. The Midland A.C. is responsible for the famous Shelsley Walsh speed hill climbs, but also offers its members lectures and social facilities. The B.O.C. used to be a specialist one-make club, but has blossomed out into a leading club which owns the Prescott speed hill-climb course, although it also offers its members rallies, trials and social functions in addition. The M.C.C. held the classic “Exeter,” “Lands’ End” and “Edinburgh” trials for many years before the war and its Secretary, “Jackie” Masters, has already held a rally and Buxton trial since the war and is resuming the “Land’s End” this Easter. The N.W. London M.C. holds classics like the “Gloucester” trial and the Ulster A.C. important races in Ireland.
Membership of such clubs, apart from the ethics of supporting organisations without which the Sport could not exist, enables you to participate in your own club’s important events as entrant or official, and in such lesser events as are held; spectator admission at reduced rates to special members’ enclosures usually follows and some clubs are affiliated to the R.A.C., thus embracing its patrol service, “Get You Home” scheme, etc.
Next we come to the “local” clubs, whose usual aim is to organise competition events, mostly trials, but including some good sprint meetings. Such clubs vary greatly in size and scope. Amongst the more prominent are Berkharnsted M.C., Brighton and Hove M.C. (responsible for the Brighton Speed Trials), Bristol M.C. and L.C.C., Cambridge University A.C. (which ran the Gransden races last year), Chiltern C.C., Great West M.C., Hagley and District L.C.C., Hants and Berks M.C., Harrow C.C., Herts County A.C., Kentish Border C.C., Lancashire and Cheshire A.C., Liverpool M.C., Margate and District M.C., Middlesex County A.C., Midland Motoring Enthusiasts’ Club, Mid-Surrey A.C,, North London E.C.C., Scarborough and District M.C., Southampton C.C., Southsea M.C., West Kent M.C., West of England M.C., Worthing and District M.C., Yorkshire S.C.C., and others too numerous to mention.
Some of these clubs, either by reason of the large area they cover or the important events they hold, could almost be put in the previous category. You should certainly join the one most conveniently situated to you. This is the way to meet enthusiasts in your district, and practically all such clubs hold trials and other events that are suited to the ordinary enthusiast. Apart from events open only to their own members, they also hold “closed invitation” contests, to which up to five other clubs can be invited. This results in larger entries and increased competition, and return invitations can be looked for to events held by the invited clubs. Usually membership and entry fees to clubs in this group are distinctly moderate. The only way they can be abused is when owners of competition cars join a large number of clubs at the beginning of each season so as to be able to run in as many events as possible, these keen types not even knowing the secretaries’ names but turning up solely to compete in a small event, which they probably dominate. Consolation can be sought that at least another membership and entry fee has been paid into the bank! Another aspect to be watched concerns clubs invited to an invitation event. If the organiser, instead of asking clubs from surrounding districts, or those known to enjoy an event of the kind in question, asks larger clubs in the hope of thereby obtaining for his members return invitations to important fixtures he may find that, not only do very few outside entries come in, but that the invited clubs do not proffer return invitations, so that a good event is needlessly restricted, with no subsequent advantages. Here it may be said that the big events are open to anyone holding a Competition Licence, and some are of International status, in which foreign drivers can compete. In these cases, one would expect to find reduced entry fees for members of the organising club — this was not the case with Prescott or Shelsley Walsh last year.
So we come to the last club group, those bodies with a specialised mission in life. There are one-make clubs for owners of Bugatti, Bentley, Frazer-Nash, M.G., Austin Seven, Jaguar, SunbeamTalbot, Citroen and other cars. There is the very successful Vintage Sports-Car Club, for owners of cars built between 1920 and 1930, with a strong section for those using carriages of the 1905-1915 period — its position complicated by a recent decision to admit “desirable” modern cars. The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain and Ireland exists to foster serious preservation and exercise of cars built before the Kaiser war, with especial emphasis on horseless carriages built prior to 1905 (their regulations say “prior to Dec. 31st, 1904,” but this is an error common in determining the age-eligibility of old cars; obviously, prior to Jan. 1st, 1905 is intended). The more-recent Vintage Motorcycle Club has like aims and also fosters veterans, and there are the British Racing Mechanics’ Social Club, a club for home-brewed racing cars, the Civil Service organisation (which has tens of thousands of members and runs to a country club and a permanent office in the Haymarket, where motor-minded servants of the State buy cheap oil and sparking plugs), and a club for disabled drivers. There are also the Sporting Owner-Drivers’ Club, an enthusiasts’ club operating from Stockport, and a club for people building 500-c.c. racing cars, while the secretaries of the B.R.D.C. and J.C.C. run a club in Mayfair for motoring types. It is not possible to list the addresses of all these clubs, but we will gladly forward letters, or advise readers of additional “local” clubs, on request. Although motoring sport relies on healthy club life and the more members all the clubs enrol the better, our advice to those new to the game is to join a live “local” club for the first season, and perhaps one of the specialist clubs in addition. This should provide admission to a sufficient number of competitions unless you have purchased a car expressly to compete in such events, in which case membership of one of the larger organisations may serve you better. The point of joining a specialist club, if your car or interests render you eligible, is that their events should be particularly suited to your ilass of vehicle, apart from which you enjoy mutual aid, admiration and exchange of spares in the case of one-make membership; even if you never attend meetings, you have the satisfaction of encouraging a club that relies on the support of those owning a particular make or class of car for its existence and, in any case, most of these clubs issue a worthwhile magazine, such as “Bugantics” of the Bugatti Owners’ Club, the “Bulletin” of the V.S.C.C., the “Journal” of the V.C.C., “Iota” of the 500-c.c. Club, etc.
Clubs today are in a healthier position than ever they were. Whereas the smaller clubs used to have less than a hundred members, the V.S.C.C., for instance, now has over 600, the big clubs over a thousand paid-up members, and the J.C.C. has assets exceeding £10,000. All this is but a sign of the increasing enthusiasm which exists for the Sport — enthusiasm, curiously enough, which seemed to take root during the war, when the Sport was dormant. It is indeed an excellent state of affairs. Unavoidably, changes have tended to come about. In several cases secretaries have had to be put on a wage-earning basis, drawing salaries from club funds, and club committees must decide whether in such cases this constitutes a full-time job or whether the secretary can continue to embrace other business activities and still serve his members. Small clubs which have expanded by reason of holding successful major events must not overlook their older members, who take no active part in these more recent activities. Greater efforts should be made to issue club literature on time and every effort should be made to space out fixtures so that they do not clash with those of other clubs. Advertising matter should not be sent out with club publications, as was done recently. Badges should be re-issued as soon as possible — but members should not be encouraged to litter the front of their cars with masses of these things. The badge applicable to the event in which you are competing, or to the car in use at the moment, can justifiably be worn; or a few selected badges of your better-liked clubs. (When buttonhole badges are again universally available, a row of these mounted on a filler-cap bar enables the whole issue to be displayed in unobtrusive manner.) If these matters are attended to, and you pay your subscriptions regularly, motorclub life in this country will go from strength to strength. And if, for any reason, you are leaving this country, remember that similar clubs, with similar aims, events, advantages and journals, exist in America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and elsewhere.