I'm between cars at the moment. More precisely, my wife and I share a car. It's a rugged, race-bred machine borne of the Paris-Dakar rally, with a performance pedigree forged in the crucible of international motorsports competition. If you think that's an excessively hyperbolic way to describe the Mitsubishi Outlander, I'll have you know that my Outlander has an aluminum roof, for a lower center of gravity. You know what else has an aluminum roof? Lots of race cars, that's what.
We bought the Outlander because my wife demanded a rear differential that can be locked by the driver and magnesium paddle shifters mounted to the steering column (she says wheel-mounted paddles get her crossed up when she's dialing in rapid countersteer during Scandinavian flicks). I just wanted something with Bluetooth, so I could play Bluetooth Awkward Comment Roulette every time I make a phone call in the car. "Hi, it's Ez. So - oh, OK. Yes. You talked to Fred, and you hate him more than ever. By the way, he's in the car with me."
I think the Outlander is underrated, as far as crossovers go, but it's not a vehicle that inspires passionate devotion. This was confirmed when I wanted to install slightly wider, lower-profile tires. I wasn't sure how the new rubber would affect the ride, so I went online to see what the members of the Outlander owners' clubs had to say. Not much, it turns out, because there doesn't appear to be such a thing as an Outlander owners' club.
At least, not in this country. I did find a Web site called Out-Club.ru, but it's written in Russian. So I'm not entirely sure - it's either a Russian Outlander club or a club for out-of-the-closet Russians, or, possibly, a combination of the two.
It was sad to realize that, as much as I love cars, there's no car club for me. Car clubs are your ticket to track days, repair advice, and hard-to-find parts. And it's just nice to know that there's a like-minded band of maniacs to lend support and encouragement, no matter how esoteric your interests. I'm talking to you, Reatta Division of the Buick Club of America.
I used to be a member of the BMW Car Club of America, back when I had my M3. It might sound kind of dorky, but I was proud of my standing as a BMWCCA member. I enjoyed reading the club magazine and learning about all the cool track events that my car was ineligible to participate in because it was a stupid convertible. I loved the members-only twenty percent discount on parts, even if the dealership would always try to avoid honoring it. ("Uh . . . that discount applies only to parts other than the ones you happen to need.") I loved how we'd all dress up like ninjas and use Silly String to write "BMW Rules, Mercedes Droolz!" on the windows of local Benz dealerships. Did that last one really happen, you ask? Good question. My years in the BMWCCA are sort of a blur.
It was through the BMW club that I started to absorb the BMW code words. For instance, no BMW nerd would ever say, "I have a 1998 M3." You'd say you have an E36 M3. Indeed, car clubs are a refuge for the auto geek, a place where you can flaunt your knowledge of arcane trivia and production build codes without fear of ostracism. Which is liberating, because you can't assume that someone will know what you're talking about just because they're into cars.
For instance, if you introduce a BMW guy to a Corvette guy at a party, they might well find each other unintelligible. The BMW guy says he has an E34 with the M60 and the Corvette guy says he has a C5 Z06 with the LS6, and neither one has the faintest idea what the other is talking about. In fact, I just confused myself. But within the realm of the car club, a BMW fiend can mention the word "Nikasil" without first launching into a discourse on the history of metallurgy, cylinder linings, and the sulfur content of the U.S. fuel supply - any one of which would kill a party quicker than playing Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt."
My friend Dennis runs the regional Ferrari club, and he says that the various organizations tend to reflect the national cultures of their chosen brands. "Porsche and BMW club events," he says, "start at precisely the announced time; entrants must have the proper stamp on their paperwork; violate a rule, and you'll be tossed out of the track. Ferrari club events run on 'Italian time,' starting only after everyone has finished their espressos. Jaguar club events involve a lot of drinking, particularly when the driving portions are canceled because the cars need a bit of work. And Corvette club events all seem to include parking lots, T-shirts, and talking about how the Vette kicks German and Japanese butts." It sounds like I'd enjoy the Jaguar events.
Based on my perusals of the Ferrari club newsletter, I can tell you that Ferrari events might not be quite as fun and glamorous as you'd assume. For instance, if you think that owning a Ferrari means that you give rides to Miss Italia USA beauty contestants while eating Tuscan pappardelle pasta with roasted Sonoma free-range rabbit, I'll have you know that you're wrong. You'll need to sign up for those events separately. It all seems such fun that it almost makes me want to buy a really crappy Mondial, just so I can eat pasta and talk about aftermarket timing belts and 30,000-mile services.
Or I could start a club devoted to the car I already have. I could call it the Society of Outlander Reverence and Enthusiasm (SORE). No, that's not great. How about the Mitsubishi Outlander Appreciation Network (MOAN)? No, no good. I've got it: the Local Outlander Support, Education, and Recreation Society. Perfect. Are you a LOSER? Well, join the club.
Written by: Ezra Dyer Illustrated by: Tim Marrs