Commentary: About This Summer of Carmmunity

Madfurther 2
Photo by Randy Stern

This was a summer full of carmmunity.

Actually, it began in the spring. Since April, I was able to visit a plethora of car meets, cruises and other car-related activities. They ranged from the 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance to impromptu casual meets at any given parking lot. The result is seeing a varying array of vehicles, owners, fans and venues that fuel the passion for the automobile.

Young and old – both in human age and model year – they have found carmmunity. You could point to genres attracting certain generations and income levels, but you will find crossover. It is perfectly OK for an older person to enjoy a sports tuner, as it would a young person with his classic or antique.

In fact, we should encourage the latter…but this is not exactly what this commentary is about.

Recently, I wanted to help frame my review of the 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack by gauging public reaction to it. I wanted to see if the Chally has that draw and allure that its predecessors had both in the old E-body and latter LX-based form. To do so, I presented it to various car meets held across the Twin Cities.

As I found out, some of these meets simply did not happen. Some reasons were legitimate, such as the weather threats we had during the week. Others had to do with venue and/or sponsor issues. Not to mention the lack of communication regarding the cancellation of these events.

Most of these meets are held on private property. A good number of these events have permission from property owners or from nearby businesses to host these meets. Others are a result of a grassroots effort to get together cars, their owners and their friends for a hangout. What was seen was a mix of success and failure.

The problem with meets on private property is the uneasy relationship with those who want to show off their rides, the property owners who are concerned about bad behavior and the authorities who could be called to resolve any issues that flare up. This imbalance is what makes these meets change over on a weekly basis.

A successful meet has the encouragement of the property owners and/or hosting business. As long as the business is recoup by the participants, they are fine with continuing the event. Also, the participants will most likely obey the laws on the property and surrounding community in order to sustain the meet. This point alone is how you true make the meet worth the trek for those who want to participate from afar.

Yet, there seems to be a problem when participants fail to respect property rules and the law. This has been played out many times this year at various venues. One such venue has been reduced to the closure of the patio area, police presence and a minimal turnout by a hardcore few. In truth, this event had been going on for a few years with minimal problems until last year. When you do get people doing burnouts and/or being disrespectful of property, surrounding community and your fellow auto folk, you have put at risk something you enjoy in repute.

When things do go well – and everyone plays nicely – it becomes a good place to connect with other enthusiasts. A meet becomes an opportunity for a newbie to ask good questions about how to maintain, restore or juice up his or her classic. The people that are regulars at a meet are resources to you. Somewhere amongst those cars are places to get that one piece of your ride restored, the place to get maintenance, insurance and club memberships.

All you have to do is ask. All you have to do is to show honest interest. All you have to do is to check your ego back on the street. And, don’t do burnouts on the way out.

Don't be an asshole. Respect the crowd and their cars, as you should in return. Respect the property and patronize nearby businesses. You will get what you put into the situation.

Granted, I end up not following my own rules. I am a shy person by nature, so new situations start off uncomfortably. Once I know the venue and some key people, I warm up. Also, I sometimes sense that I am the old fella in someone else's space. I am also a journalist/blogger/whatever you want to call me today. Yet, because I wear the hat of the automotive media corps does not mean I am aloof. My curiosity brings me to these meets. It is the experience that feeds into the greater story.

My lessons are your lessons. The experience should be positive always. As car people, we share a passion that surpasses genres, eras, national origins, brands and driving competency levels. We should be able to enjoy our passion with reverence, maturity and an open mind.

That is how you become carmmunity.

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