Black Classics Car Club encourages willingness to give back – Robb Report

Automotive culture shines in Los Angeles, where the arterial network of roads connects an endless expanse of diverse neighborhoods. When the auto industry emerged from the oil crisis and the malaise of the 1970s, cars started to go cool again, forming a stronger force than ever in urban circles. At Fremont High School in South LA, shop teacher Bruce Gray rode that wave and became a kingpin for impressionable kids who had motor oil in their veins.

“There were so many people who took the automotive technology course,” recalls Mark Thomas, a 1984 Fremont graduate. always stayed in touch.” Some sort of critical social mass, it seemed, was inevitable. “It became, ‘We’re all going to come together,’ he says, despite the forces tearing individuals apart.

The car connection has forged a universal sense of community and all that goes with it; witness the familiar tropes of teen car culture established across different demographics – everything from american graffiti for Boyz in the Hood. In this case, Gray and his students have transcended high school, evolving into a social network that began at his nearby store, A&G Gray Auto Repair in South Central LA, and expanded far beyond obtaining of the diploma.

Founded more than three decades ago, the club now has around thirty members but continues to grow with a new generation of participants.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Classics Car Club.

“We just had a thing for cars and helping each other out,” recalls Fred Steger, who was one of Gray’s students. After years of unstructured meetings and outings, the Black Classics Car Club was co-founded in 1986 by Steger and Gray. “The next thing you know, he started growing and growing,” Steger says.

Thomas, who is the club’s historian, studied engineering in undergraduate and graduate schools after his time in Fremont, before moving to Detroit to work for General Motors before returning to Los Angeles five years later. late. It was back home that he reconnected with his old crew, whose automotive interests focused largely on Chevrolet models like the so-called Tri Five Chevys, the evocative coupes, sedans and wagons made in the 1980s. 1955, 1956 and 1957. Also well represented in the group of around 30 members are Camaros, Novas, Chevelles and pickup trucks. Ironically, Thomas’ exposure to GM hasn’t dampened his passion for the Blue Oval: in addition to a Chevy Nova and a 3100 truck, he also enjoys owning a 1967 Ford Mustang.

A 1955 Chevy Bel Air belonging to a member of the Black Classics Car Club.

A 1955 Chevy Bel Air awaits admirers.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Classics Car Club.

Members were originally drawn to cars that were sleek, easy to work with, and easy to customize. And within the club emerged almost every area of ​​expertise that involved building, rebuilding or modifying the relatively simple classic cars of the pre-computer era. “We have a guy who is a big mechanic and can fix anything; we have a guy who is really good at fabrication and sheet metal; we have an electrician; we have another who had a radio shop and another who works in a tire shop,” says Thomas. “It turned out to be a lot cheaper because we didn’t have to take our cars to a store. Someone in our club does everything. Steger adds that the only thing not covered by club members is the chrome and interior upholstery.

A 1966 Shelby GT350 on display at Black Classics Car Club.

A member’s 1966 Shelby GT350 on display at one of the club’s monthly gatherings.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Classics Car Club.

The Black Classics Car Club has evolved from the days when Run-DMC and Aerosmith topped the charts. In high school, the children put their manual labor to the test by doing street races. Nowadays, members only meet on the third Sunday of each month (because many of them work on Saturdays). There are also road trips, the schedule of which is planned months in advance with destinations such as Palm Springs, San Diego and Zion National Park in Utah. And every February the group votes on its leaders – although there seems to be an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to the arrangement, as Steger has continuously served as chairman since the club was formed. for three decades. since.

A 1941 Cadillac owned by Black Classics Car Club member Larry Green.

The 1941 Cadillac owned by member Larry Green.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Classics Car Club.

The club is also more than ever keen to give back to the community, using its members and their meticulously maintained vehicles as an opportunity to help those around them. From toy drives and free lunches to donations given to convalescent homes, Black Classics Car Club members have turned their passion into a boon to those around them. And the road rallies bolstered the group’s resilience in difficult times, bringing together up to 52 cars for those trips.

Members of the Black Classics Car Club.

The club meets on the third Sunday of each month.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Classics Car Club.

The annual trip to Laughlin is referred to as the club’s “super bowl” and is considered the long-distance gauntlet through which all member cars must pass to be worthy of admission. In the event of a breakdown, the group will work together to find a solution, even if it requires the last effort of towing the vehicle to a friend’s store in Bullhead City, Arizona. Such is the solidarity and camaraderie at your fingertips.

A Black Classics Car Club member's prized custom on display at a monthly gathering.

Members are generally attracted to cars that are sleek, easy to work with and easy to customize.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Classics Car Club.

In an effort to maintain the organization’s relevance for future generations, the founders extended the age of the cars to 1987, as some of the old-timer-owned mid-century classics are generally no longer accessible to young beginners in Pastime. “We brought it back so we could attract young people who can afford Malibuses and Grand Nationals and cars like that,” Steger says. He says an unfortunate byproduct of modern times is the demise of the classes that originally brought this group together.

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Vehicles on display from the Black Classics Car Club.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Classics Car Club.

“There are no more workshop classes where children could use their hands; they are no longer there,” says Steger. Yet, on the other hand, Thomas is optimistic about what lies ahead. “Several clubs are hosting events with each other now, and that makes it even better for the community as we have a chance to make a bigger impact collectively. The future is bright.”

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