Cars

Supercar clubs offer alternative to ownership

HIGH-SPEED CLUB: Membership has its privileges, like the chance to drive this McLaren MP4-12C supercar.
HIGH-SPEED CLUB: Membership has its privileges, like the chance to drive this McLaren MP4-12C supercar. PHOTO: GEORGE KENNEDY

I am standing in a large glass showroom bathed in afternoon light. Grease-drenched tools rest on worktables, yet the massive glass windows on all sides are graced with elegant cream-colored curtains and regal lettering. The room is filled with the cars you put on a wish list while daydreaming in your cubicle: Shelby Cobra, ’68 Bronco, Ford GT40, Maserati, Aston Martin, and more.

Just a moment before, I was on a Manhattan sidewalk, a block over from the Lincoln Tunnel. How had I landed in this car heaven? I had just set foot in the Manhattan Classic Car Club (MCCC), one of the most successful car clubs in the world. We all know vintage and exotic cars are prohibitively expensive. But what if you could drive someone else’s exotic car, taking advantage of all the benefits of such an experience but without the headaches.

Let’s get one thing straight: This is not a rental service. It is a club, and membership is by approval. According to the MCCC’s membership director and head of marketing, Adam Miller, this distinction has helped the MCCC stay in business while countless supercar rental businesses have opened and closed their doors.

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“It started out with seven or eight cars,” said Miller, leaning against a 1966 Ford GT40, “now we have about 35 cars.”

The Classic Car Club started in London in 1995; the NYC location opened in 2005, and now has 300 members. Once a member, you can enjoy seat time in a Porsche 911, a 1968 Dodge Charger, a 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder, and a modern Chevrolet Corvette Z06, to name just a few. (Annual memberships range from $4,500 to $13,000.)

“We poll our members,” explained Miller. “We’ve had about 150 cars cycle through since 2005. We sell many before we put too many miles on them, which would hurt their resale value. We shy away from cars that will be mechanical nightmares.”

Since 10,000 to 20,000 miles could be put on these vehicles per year, maintenance is thorough. Because the club has members rather than one-time customers, there is an expectation that the cars are driven hard, but not abused. Even so, it is far more advantageous to purchase a resto-mod, which is a classic car with modern internals like shocks, brakes, and safety equipment. The GT40 that Miller was leaning against was a reproduction built by a South African company. It is new, but it is so accurate that it qualifies as one of the classics–—the perfect fit for the MCCC collection.

The MCCC is the currently the biggest club in the game, but Michael DiGorgio is hoping to bring the concept to the Bay State. He founded the Boston Motorsports Club (BMC) when he was fed up with his day job, opting to do something that he was truly passionate about. Currently, his collection includes a McLaren MP4-12C and Fisker Karma. DiGorgio knows not to add to that collection too fast, as there is an apparent sweet spot.

“Before starting the BMC, I talked to both successful clubs and businesses that have closed their doors,” said DiGiorgio, “and the big differences come down to maintaining a six-to-one member-to-car ratio.”

DiGiorgio’s first car was the McLaren; a daily drivable supercar that is both easy to drive and a visual showstopper. The Karma is unique in that it is one of the first environmentally savvy exotics. Also, Fisker recently closed its doors, ensuring that the Karma will become even more rare as the years go on. The selection of cars will grow, which is one of the key advantages to membership versus ownership—more cars.

“With a club, you don’t have to worry about the headaches of owning, maintaining, and storing an exotic car,” said DiGiorgio, “If you own an exotic, you are not going to park it on the street, and in New England it’s hard to justify that Ferrari sitting in your garage for four to five months. We can deliver the car to your office or vacation home; the logistics are immensely easier when you do it through a club.”

Even if you already own an exotic car, you can benefit from a club. The BMC provides a service where you can offer your supercar for use by the rest of the club, and receive complementary membership, access to the rest of the cars, and free maintenance and storage for your car.

“If you have a car that you don’t drive every day,” explained DiGiorgio, “it is a way to earn some revenue and drive some other cars. It really is a win-win.”

The club model allows more people who are passionate about cars to get behind the wheel of cars that were once financially out of their reach.

“It’s about rationalizing an emotional desire,” DiGiorgio said. Both he and the MCCC have a mutual goal: fostering the automotive community. If you ask Miller, he’d tell you the best service they offer is not the seat time behind classic supercars. It is the opportunity to share your passion with others who are equally smitten.

For more information on classic car clubs, check their websites: Boston Motorsport Club: http://www.thebostonmsc.com and Manhattan CCC: http://classiccarclubmanhattan.com.

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