Yet, the carmmunity is restless. Several cruises came about as back as February. The Twin Cities Auto Show was supposed to signal the beginning of the mental thaw of the carmmunity. Enthusiasts and owners scramble to get vehicles out of storage for the eventual rites of spring.
That itch became evident this past Sunday. The thaw enabled the rain to come down instead of snow. Rain that dissuaded a car meet to meet, but of two cruises, a business meeting of a club and a group-sponsored meet and eat at a local center for enthusiasm. The day before brought a slow warm-up with one of the clubs cruising in their finest machines, while I tackled a piece of southeastern Minnesota in a newsworthy machine.
When the stars align, magic happens. It did in this carmmunity. And, the stars came out.
This almost did not happen. It was not on my radar until a buddy messaged me to come to MNBMW's event at Imola Motorsports in Plymouth, Minnesota. It was a combination garage opener, showcase of Imola's new location, a car meet and a BBQ. The cars inside of Imola were amazing, though I became familiar with some of these over time. The McLaren P1 remains one of a few astounding vehicles in the world – and it was there. As was a Porsche 918 owned by a gentleman who has multiple examples of this car. There was a Porsche 959, a focal point of an era that gave the Stuttgart company the license to bend the rules.
When I walked through the garage, I greeted – or, was greeted – by so many people I met just a year ago. Enthusiasts, participants, photographers, Kevin Tan…yes, Kevin Tan! He is the proprietor of Imola and has carved out something extraordinary for the enthusiast community at his new location in Plymouth.
Tan is not Richard Rawlings or any of the guys you meet on the Velocity Channel. He is quiet, astute, enthusiastic and is loving every minute of the success he continues to make at his shop. To have a member of the Minnesota Wild – to be specific, Defenseman Marco Scandella – come to an event on a free day on the schedule – and bring his Nissan GT-R that the shop has been working on – speaks to the reputation Tan has made for himself and Imola. If you're a car guy – and own a European car – Tan is a good guy to know.
Then, there's my buddy Jeff. We met as he asked me to move the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG off of the grid for a cruise MNBMW and several groups were doing in September. He turned out to be a real great gentleman – a leader born from his Marines days – and helping to shape MNBMW as it is: A club for enthusiasts that love the brand and their machines.
It's funny how that damn $163,000 Merc shows up in conversations months after the fact…several times at Imola that day.
Jeff has been working in China on a contract. He was leaving the next day back to his jobsite. It may seem appropriate for an enthusiast of the brand to have such a job. The marketers at BMW North America love this kind of stuff. However, I see nothing unusual. We both have extraordinary careers in our own right. Jeff is a good guy to know, I thank him publicly for inviting me to this event.
The MNBMW event was a crossroads of so many carmmunities I walk through now daily. My friends at MN Nissan Infiniti, the SouthWest Sunday Cruise crew, the Central Crown and Polar Run folks – some photographers, such as Dynamic Photoworks and the great Alex Bellus. Like I said, the stars aligned at Imola that Sunday afternoon.
This is not about namedropping. This was cause for celebration. It signaled a year in the making. A year that transformed me from an observer out of the automotive media corps to carmmunity participant. It feels like I am walking with one foot in the media world and the other among the enthusiasts. It may seem awkward, but it has become natural now.
The truth is that I am not alone. Many of us in the media/industry have our enthusiastic outlets. We race, attend car shows, engage with enthusiasts, snap many photos and live to tell every moment as possible. Yet, there has to be a spark that maintains the enthusiast inside of us from the media gallery. Or, from the cubicle at a OEM's office somewhere.
The fact that I dove into this pool of enthusiasts is a significant event. Yet, I found a home among them. This was never in my history prior to 2011. Why now? And, why in the hell did it take so damn long?
The past year brought many lessons to this work. It was an educational experience. I am no expert, but I do learn a lot from those who know their vehicles well enough to understand what needs to be done to go faster, ride better, handle exceptionally and so forth. They are advocates for their vehicles and portals to new levels of understanding of the work you see here.
So, I am thankful. I could name everybody, but I already mentioned a few already. If you read this blog and have seen the transformation of this participant in a carmmunity where collaboration holds a higher value than chauvanism. Where humor supersedes hate. And, that everyone is a participant no matter what they drive. Again, I say "thank you" for a wonderful year!
Spring is here. Gets the cars and trucks out of the garage. Feel the air warm up. Look for a cruise, a meet…something to get your motor running.
For the newbies – it's time to dive into the pool. The water will be great, I promise!
C'mon, car community, let's do this!
All photos by Randy Stern