20 Oct 2009, 12:48pm
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San Antonio Car Clubs

Automobile fanaticism runs deep in San Antonio.  There are at least thirty different car clubs in the city, from the Ford Model A to the Nissan Z and all points in between.  There are enough car shows for at least one every weekend of the year.  Some are specific to one manufacturer or even model type, others are general invite.  In the cause of full disclosure I should admit I am heavily involved in organizing two of them, one in the spring and the other in the fall.  Each focuses on entirely different parts of the spectrum, Ford Model Ts and military vehicles, and yet even here there is overlap, in the form of World War One ambulances.

 By and large it is a masculine preoccupation.  There are most welcome exceptions, with skills to put the best to shame, but when all is said and done, it’s a guy thing.  Male enthusiasms are invariably inexplicable, mainly because they are essentially illogical.  Why do some get so involved in stamp collecting?  What’s the big deal about football?  Can’t it be said with some certainty who won the Civil War and what happened at the Alamo?  And why are you still playing with trains at your age?  What’s wrong with you?  Nothing, actually.  We each seem to have some activity that floats our boat, or perhaps more appropriately in this context, a key that starts our engines.

 The first gasoline powered horseless carriage arrived in San Antonio in 1901, two years after the first electric.  It was a one cylinder Haynes-Apperson, acquired by a local banker, J.D. Anderson, the head cashier of the City National bank on Commerce Street.  The first car sold here was at the Crothers & Birdsong bicycle store at 214 ½ East Houston, which soon became the city’s first car agency, selling Curved Dash Oldsmobiles.  Automobile racing soon took over from bicycle racing as a main attraction at the annual San Antonio International Fair at what is now Riverside Park.  The ¾ oval was considerably improved in 1909 with the addition of high banks, much to the delight of the tens of thousands of spectators.  Higher speeds and the occasional accident at what was now called the San Antonio Speedway certainly made for a thrilling spectacle.

 The first car club in San Antonio was formed in October of 1903.  It was called, not unnaturally, the San Antonio Automobile Club.  It had a fine club house on land now occupied by the International Airport.  Comprised as it was of some of San Antonio’s foremost and, it must be said, wealthiest citizens – cars cost more than most houses and there was no such thing as buying on credit – the club had purposes far beyond simple enjoyment of the latest wonder of the age.  One of its main aims was to campaign for improved roads, both within and between city limits.  Results came slowly.  In 1913, local car enthusiast David Culp, a member of some one hundred automobile associations, called for volunteers to bring their own picks and shovels to work on the main road between San Antonio and Austin.  In 1916 this route became the first in Texas to receive Federal funds and, once improved, at sixteen feet wide with a gravel surface, was touted as the best in the state.

 Today’s clubs focus on the simpler pleasures to be had behind the wheel.  I have been part of two, the “Mopar Muscle Car Club of San Antonio” and the “T Fords of Texas,” though I have taken part in many events held by others.  There is even the Alamo Area Council of Car Clubs, which organizes two major activities annually, the “La Bahia Run” in the spring and a similar “Ride to the Hills” in the fall.  Both events co-ordinate hundreds of classic cars of all types to sequentially visit towns on the way to Goliad in the spring and Kerrville in the fall, as a day long multi-faceted rolling car show to attract visitors to local fundraising and social activities.  It’s an amazing event to take part in or just to sit, say in the shaded square of Floresville, and watch, as literally hundreds of classic cars come and go.

 For details about the many activities of the car club council and also a comprehensive list of local car clubs visit:



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