On Feb. 26, 1944, 69 years ago, a group of sports car enthusiasts met at the Boston, Mass. home of Chapin Wallour to form a club dedicated to the preservation of sports cars. Today, the Sports Car Club of America annually boasts 60,000 members and hosts motorsports events around the country.
While the vintage market was covered by existing car clubs focused on the “preservation of veteran motor cars, a worthy objective,” the seven founding members gathered that night with an eye on the then-current generation of sports cars. It was specifically identified in the minutes from that first meeting – the SCCA was to concentrate on cars made after 1914.
First, though, the question arose – what was the definition of sports car? It was decided that evening to include “any quality car which was built primarily for sports motoring as opposed to mere transportation. In other words, any car which rates higher than average in construction and engineering, and which, preferably, has open body work.” Pretty much the same definition Jalopnik uses, right?
The first meeting of the SCCA was a bit more exclusive than today’s members would recognize. Seven people, all guys, all fairly well off. The list of cars owned by founding members Everett Dickinson, John Duby, Arnold Engborg, Theodore Robertson, George Schulz, Robert Townsend, and Chapin Wallour sound like museum pieces today: a Duesenberg “J” double cowl Phaeton, a Lancia Lambda 5th Series Roadster, a Kissel Speedster, Stutz DV 32 Sports Tourer, Mercer series 4 Raceabout, Isotte Fraschini type 8A Castagna Convertible Coupe, a Rolls Royce Phantom I Ascot Phaeton, and on. Not a single BMW, Ford or Mazda in the bunch!
This wasn’t by coincidence. The constitution drawn up by Ted Robertson stated that membership in the Club shall be restricted to owners of sports cars, sponsored by one current member, seconded by another, and elected by unanimous vote of the officers. Then, that new member must pay the yearly dues within 30 days – three dollars.
These gentlemen took the “sports car” in Sports Car Club of America very seriously. Of the 592 words in the first constitution, more than one-third dealt with dismissal from the club! Some of the apparently treasonous actions included selling a sports car without first advertising the car for sale with the Club, or buying a sports car that another member, essentially, called “dibs” on first. Being “obviously at fault” in an accident involving another member was grounds for dismissal, as was voluntarily disposing of your last remaining sports car. Of course it was bad if you broke up your own sports car – but equally as punishable was permitting someone else to destroy a sports car, or even having knowledge of someone just possibly breaking up a sports car without telling an officer.
The founding members were true fanatics when it came to their cars.
Clearly, a lot has changed in the 69 years of the SCCA. The founders wouldn’t have recognized our thousands of female members – and the notion of Lisa Noble as the Chairman of the Board of Directors would have most certainly blown the mind of original President Robertson. Today, SCCA accepts all members, regardless of whether or not they own a sports car.
Not everything has changed, of course. The passion shines through in each member today, as it did 69 years ago. The care that SCCA members take for each other remains. The pride that today’s members have in the Club lives on.
From the humble origins of seven enthusiasts gathered on a cold Boston evening to today’s international contingent who feel the same, the original spirit of the club continues.
Happy Birthday, Sports Car Club of America – here’s to the next 69 years!