2 June 2007

Fast Friends

On the road with the merry band of hot rodders known as the Jokers Bay Area Car Club.

It’s been said that we will never again have friends like the ones we had when we were 12 years old. That very well may be true, but you’d have a hard time convincing John Lawson and the other members of the Jokers Bay Area Car Club – an ensemble of mostly San Francisco-area rodders.

The Jokers are living proof of one of the great attractions of club life: the ability to indulge your interest with like-minded people in whatever kind of collector car you crave and occasionally go on the road together. All you need is an excuse – and for the Jokers, that was provided by a Goodguys Southwest Nationals Event in Scottsdale, Arizona.

We tagged along with a group of about 30 mostly Chevy smallblock- powered pre-war rods as they caravaned to Scottsdale from leader John Lawson’s hot rod shop in Fresno, California.

Sticking together is a theme that permeates the club’s road trips. Whether it’s a flat tire or a blown transmission, if one member has as problem, everyone pitches in to help.

But brotherly love doesn’t stop the Jokers from having a good laugh at each other’s expense or winding up the other guy just for the fun of it.

When we asked Larry Hutchinson, out of whose ’35 Chevy Cabriolet we were shooting photographs, to please pull ahead of the car in front of us, he responded by telling us that “Dickie DeVilbiss doesn’t like to be passed.” Then in the next breath he said: “Let’s see how many times we can pass him.” Sure enough, each time we drove past DeVilbiss, he paid us back in kind.

Going across the desert offered plenty of opportunities for wide-open running, as well as frequent stops for coffee, donuts, burgers and general tomfoolery. We overnighted in Blythe, California, before heading into Scottsdale on the second day.

The Goodguys show was held at the vast West World complex, where we encountered more than 2,000 rods, customs, classics and muscle cars as well as a huge swap meet, exhibits and more.

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THE UN-ORGANIZATION

The Jokers Bay Area Car Club is decisively unstructured and that’s entirely by choice. But even the least organized organization requires a bit of planning in order to successfully execute a 30-strong caravan motoring 600 miles over two days. While meals and lodging can be boiled down to “Do whatever you feel like,” the club did due diligence when it came to emergencies. Every participant was given a list of all the other participants, including cell phone numbers. Leader John Lawson also provided a support truck that carried fuel, tools and a variety of spare parts. The truck also pulled a two-car trailer just in case any of the rods couldn’t proceed under their own power.

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IN THE BEGINNING

The Jokers Bay Area Car Club was founded in 1959 in Mill Valley, California, as the Jokers of Marin. They created their own logo consisting of a jester at the wheel of a dragster. Still, the club had no structure to speak of. They first gathered at a local gas station and later got together in a club member’s rec room. But as the demands of college, career and family took over, the club faded, only to be reformed 20 years later, becoming the Jokers Bay Area Car Club. Admission is free, quip current members, but getting out will cost you $25,000.

That’s about as rude as it gets in Garrett’s book.
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To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Summer 2007 issue of Hagerty magazine.

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