Staaaggg…I drive a Staaaggg.
-and other musings from the president.

Hell hath truly frozen over, the head of the GTA drives a Stag. Yes, times they be a changing, faster rather than slower. As such our club has to keep the hammer down and the overdrive on. So get ready, change is in the air.

First the hard truths. The club as many of the longtimers have known it has long since passed on. It didn’t happen quickly but subtly over time. Gone are the days of large numbers of friends piling into their cars for a night at the GTA club meeting. It simply doesn’t happen anymore. While we can sit back and point fingers at who, what, why and where. The bottom line is, it just doesn’t happen. The legacy structure that has served for 40 years is now an anachronism serving a tentative role as gatekeeper to some functions that less than 1% of the membership attends. Gone are massive club drives, gone are the large presences at British car days.

These are facts, not speculation or hearsay.

Today’s clubs around the world are suffering the stings of an internet enabled world. No longer are clubs and newsletters the driving force in our car hobbies. The ‘go to’ medium is now online support forums for technical questions where knowledge can be pooled, indexed and categorized not just for now but for future
generations. How can we assist members and even nonmembers in maintaining their cars and preserving the knowledge of the aging members that we have? What will be our digital legacy that can be used by future generations when all of us are food for worms?

So where is the road ahead? Not all news is grim. Two years ago Jim Orr and Hermann Schaller brought the club out of potential fiscal crisis and decline and this past year Jeff Rountree has made strides at reviving declining membership by bringing some level of flexibility to meeting locations and reaching out to members.

My hope is to grab a piece of the internet world and make it our little corner, our meeting place where we can plan and organize and spend our ‘facetime’ hanging out with the guys and gals that make up the group. We have some excellent talent and wonderful and I do mean wonderful members in our club but getting that talent to a meeting to answer tech questions or just to hang out is a throwback to a bygone era, especially given when someone can hit a web forum or even Google most things today and have an answer in minutes.

When people actually have a chance to get out of the house, do they want to hang out in a dodgey pub with pricey bad food and listen to Robert’s Rules of Order? Woohoo! Sign me up. The club will not survive many more years with this model. Why would it? Where is the club value?

Knowledge is value, having friends to party with once a month and chatting about cars has value. Getting our cars together for outings has value. Discussing treasury balances, upcoming and past events for an hour? Not so much. A discourse on Ashford’s pants doesn’t have value. Okay maybe Ashford’s pants could be a social topic, but if the treasury balance is a social topic we have bigger problems.

The GTA has difficult challenges but thankfully there are solutions.

We MUST make better use of technology and find members that have time to pop into forums and offer support. I honestly think it will happen on its own accord. I certainly can and do participate on other forums. I’d like to hang out and chat with GTA members that have the time as well. I may even approach clubs in other countries about participating via some sort of inter-club sharing. We are working to get a forum up and running this year. Prototypes are already in place for testing. If you are a longtimer and remember the glory days of the BBS, then the forum will be a place for you…you’ll just be using an iPad instead of a 2,400 baud modem. One project I want to spearhead is scanning the entire library of newsletters that Sir Bob Ragan has accumulated and making them available on our website. Again legacy knowledge that can be as informative as it is entertaining, exclusive to GTA members.

I am also looking into a ‘garage night’ style of meeting where instead of going somewhere and running Robert’s Rules, we hang out in someone’s garage, talk cars, bring carry in’s or order pizza. Kind of like a Chilli Cookoff environment. This style of club environment works quite well with smaller clubs and with present turnout as our guide, our large club acts like a small one mostly due to regional spread. Garage nights are also conducive to bringing in folks that haven’t been attending due to distance. Nothing gets an enthusiast out of the house like getting to see someone’s garage space. These aren’t ‘wrenching’ nights more of a let’s talk about all things car related night and a little bit of camaraderie.

In closing, if you’ve even read this column, you are in the 1% membership participation, and if you don’t show up to meetings, think about that. Not from a guilt trip perspective, but from an honest appraisal. You can’t talk back to a newsletter or answer questions. (Well you could but I’d suggest seeing a doc
about that.) Would you like to participate in a forum and get back some of that GTA community feeling? I do.

Let’s keep moving!

Tony Graham