Like your Chevy? Join the club
Thousands of enthusiasts around the globe swap stories, info about their favorite brand
The enthusiasm for Chevrolet is a case study in brand loyalty, best exemplified by the thousands -- yes, thousands, according to General Motors -- of Chevy car clubs across the world.
The Chevy Astro van has a fan club in Japan, where the vehicle enjoys an almost cult status. There's also a Chevrolet Club Philippines and one in Saudi Arabia.
Closer to home, there's the Vin-tage Chevrolet Club of America, the Chevy Club of North America, the National Impala Association and the American Camaro Association. And that doesn't even begin to include the local clubs.
So what is it about this marque?
"There's just something about falling in love, almost, and then sharing the camaraderie with people who love the same thing," says Tom Merring, the president of the Jersey Late Greats, a New Jersey club dedicated to Chevys from 1958 to 1972. "Car club folks are a different breed. They all have their own nuances about them. They all have their own demeanor. But they all love that car."
Nobody knows for sure how many Chevy car clubs exist. "We're still finding them," says Scott Settlemire, manager of specialty vehicles and specialty events for GM.
"With the fifth-generation Camaro coming back into the market there's even more [clubs] coming on the Web. There's more than 200 Camaro clubs alone, and there are literally thousands of clubs across the world," Settlemire says.
"Just prior to bankruptcy, we actually were working to support a lot of these clubs. We're going to start down that road again because we feel it's important to do that. There are some amazing clubs out there, and these clubs raise a lot of money for charity and do great things in the community."
Settlemire hits on the one word that binds the clubs: legacy.
"It's amazing the number of enthusiasts we have who have passed the brand along to their family, friends and neighbors," he says. "Some people consider these cars an extended member of the family. Like a legacy."
That's exactly how Merring fell in love with Chevys.
"Dad had a Chevy," he says. "I was a kid. I was 4. It was 1960. Dad had a '51 Ford, and he traded it in for a '60 Chevy Bel Air. Shiny, black, with those wings on it ... when I think about it now it reminds me of the Batmobile. Ten years later, in 1970, he went and bought another Chevy, and that Bel Air had just 75,000 miles on it and he sold it for 75 bucks. I was like 'Dad, you're kidding me? I'll give you $75 for it!' But I was still three years away from driving and he didn't want it sitting around for that long."
Merring says that when he went with his father to the dealership when he traded in the 1960 Bel Air for a new car, he wandered around the showroom.
"I saw this Corvette there and I got inside and sat in it," he says. "It was like, wow, I have to have one of these someday."
And he does -- a 1971 Corvette 454 to go along with five other Chevys in his driveway.
Pinky Randall is certainly one of those legacy people as well.
"I've been a Chevy nut my whole life," Randall says. "Emphasis on 'nut.'"
Randall, 84, is a 50-year member of the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year in Flint, Mich. He lives in Houghton Lake, Mich., and takes great pride in noting that he was the 37th member when the club was formed; it now has more than 8,000 members.
Randall got his first Chevy in 1946 when he was 19 -- a 1936 two-door Master that he bought from a neighbor. Since then, he says, he has owned about 165 Chevys. He owns a dozen vintage models now, including a rare mint-condition 1914 Light Six.
"We just got it restored about a year ago," Randall says. "I'm really proud of that one."
In large part, the restoration came about with help from his friends in the club, and there are similar stories across the world.
"The neat thing about belonging to any car club is just having the knowledge and experience and know-how of all these members," says Bud Worley, a member of the Northwest Classic Chevy Club in the Seattle area. He's the proud owner of a Chevy Nomad. "We'll have a car parts swap, and it's all very beneficial."
That's how Mike and Charlene Jaszczak rebuilt their 1955 Chevy. The couple, members of the Chevy's Best Car Club of Minneapolis-St. Paul, bought the two-door sedan in 2000 and rebuilt it from top to bottom.
"We tore the whole thing apart and did everything but the paint and the upholstery," Mike says. "The car came from California, so it was in pretty fair shape. It was originally a Bell Telephone car, and one thing that was unique about it was it came with a padded dash, which was unheard of back then."
The project started in 2003. Two years later the Jaszczaks had a brand new '55, "and we use it, too," Mike says. "We average about 6,000 miles a summer."
Merring says he hopes the car clubs last forever, though he fears enthusiasm is waning among young people.
"I'm 55 and I'm one of the younger ones in our club," he says. "You don't see a lot of younger generation getting involved in the hobby. One thing is the financial aspect, or maybe cars don't interest them anymore, but I hope they realize it's worth it. There's nothing like it."