(Editor’s be aware: In the course of the month of February, the ClassicCars.com Journal will current a collection of tales exploring automotive golf equipment and what they provide to the collector automotive group. Tom Bechtel, ClassicCars.com’s director of operations, kicks off the collection right this moment, sharing his expertise as a member of the Pantera Homeowners Membership of America. You probably have a automotive membership story to share, see the be aware on the finish of Tom’s story.)

I’ve been lucky to be a part of some actually nice automotive golf equipment over time. There may be almost a membership for each conceivable make and mannequin. Automotive exhibits, half sourcing, historical past, camaraderie, insider information, rallies, racing, or just lending a serving to hand, all of us have completely different causes for becoming a member of. Nonetheless, ultimately, it’s the uncooked ardour that leads you to seek out intrigue in all or any of those areas. In different phrases, true ardour is the frequent denominator.

Having a ardour for rear-engine sports activities vehicles, it was solely pure for me to workforce up with different automotive lovers. One of many extra pleasurable golf equipment I’ve been a part of is the Pantera Homeowners Membership of America, higher referred to as POCA. With chapters in cities throughout the nation, POCA has been working since 1973.

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    Tom’s 1972 De Tomaso Pantera featured in Mustangand Fords Magainze in 2005

It was the early ’80s and I used to be a younger school grad after I joined POCA. I used to be one of many few members within the membership and not using a Pantera of my very own. The opposite membership members would scratch their heads…who was this child with no automotive? However I had a imaginative and prescient. In my spare time I used to be going to earn my avenue cred, present up at each occasion, hang around at garages, and bury myself in all issues De Tomaso. I knew it was solely a matter of time till I might wind up with a automotive (even on my modest finances). Little did I do know that I might ultimately restore 4 Panteras, with the final one turning right into a present automotive contender.

Tom's Pantera in Ford and Mustang magazine
2005 Ford and Mustang article

The membership had month-to-month conferences the place we might talk about upcoming occasions, assembly places, storage speak, new-member initiation and take a look at all of the member’s vehicles. There can be newsletters, membership drives, rallies, visits to restoration retailers, an occasional dignitary and “all members on deck” to assist restore one other member’s automotive.

It was the annual POCA Vegas rally and conference that members couldn’t wait to attend. Its fame proceeded it, and it didn’t fail to ship. I had been to it many occasions, however the 1986 occasion is my most memorable.

First, there was the Pomona meet up with the Los Angeles Chapter to do an “organized” cruise to Vegas. It was organized, simply not the group I anticipated – spotters, radar detectors, chase vehicles, meal stops, checkpoints and all the things however a pace restrict. Marketed as a enjoyable rally? Not!

POCA Pantera's lined up in LA for the 1986 cruise to Vegas
POCA Pantera’s lined up in LA for the 1986 cruise to Vegas
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I used to be in heaven. It was an electrifying, gritty time inside a finicky beast recognized for driving scorching, having spongy brakes and mysterious electrical gremlins… I used to be by no means certain that the automotive would even get there. I all the time packed extra spare elements than I did baggage for the four-day keep in LV. It was all a part of “the expertise.” In some way, yearly, we all the time made it. What an indescribable thrill.

The Pantera Tom drove in 1986 Vegas cruise
The Pantera Tom drove in 1986 Vegas cruise

This explicit 12 months, I found the I-15 pace limits the exhausting method. CHIP plane on the state line had been tipped we have been on our method. With no sunroof, nobody was wanting up! I acquired a ticket, however not as dangerous as a number of the different members flying down the street in triple digits. Not less than I used to be in a position to proceed on.

We rolled into Vegas within the afternoon from throughout the nation – roughly 300 vehicles. Driving up Las Vegas Boulevard (aka The Strip) with the echo of these twin exhausts bouncing off the casinos – what a sound. Our vacation spot was the Plaza on Fremont Avenue. Regardless of the lengthy, scorching journey, I used to be actually shaking from the adrenaline.

What proceeded was equally pretty much as good because the vacation spot cruise – a stocked 24/7 hospitality room, vendor reveals, Q&A panels, an enormous reception dinner with an in-doors present automotive exhibit, a devoted band, numerous goody baggage, a automotive present that closed down Fremont Avenue and the crowning of Miss Pantera. Even with all these points of interest, one of the best half was hanging out within the car parking zone with homeowners and their vehicles. I all the time discovered one thing to be taught extra about, see one thing I hadn’t seen earlier than, and make new mates.

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20-somthing-year-old Tom with his first Pantera parked on Freemont Street
20-somthing-year-old Tom along with his first Pantera parked on Freemont Avenue
Pantera Club newsletter
POCA’s April 1994 publication

I left Vegas drained and with a everlasting smile, anticipating subsequent 12 months, however because the years handed, Fremont Avenue acquired a roof put over it, the Plaza acquired reworked and the fireplace marshal stated no extra fueled vehicles within the lodge. Issues simply weren’t the identical. The start of the tip for the POCA Las Vegas rally was set in movement.

I’ll always remember the sooner Vegas days. The golf equipment of right this moment nonetheless give me a rush in a roundabout way. All of it goes again to the intrigue you discover when you will have true ardour. In the event you’ve acquired it, you’ll discover that particular membership connectivity… regardless of which membership you take pleasure in.

Tom Bechtel, Director of Operations at ClassicCars.com

Our Automotive Membership collection, operating all through the month of February, will proceed to discover completely different automotive golf equipment, what they’ve to supply and the reminiscences members have made.

Do you will have a automotive membership story you’d wish to share? Simply go to this hyperlink, fill within the data and submit your story to be thought-about for publication in our Automotive Membership Sequence.

Tales exploring quite a few automotive golf equipment across the globe and their influence on the collector automotive market.


Tom Bechtel

Tom Bechtel’s skilled background is in international enterprise operations, and he has labored in quite a few nations. It was that extra publicity that ignited his private curiosity in all issues automotive. Tom has been concerned in “vehicles of curiosity” by way of accumulating, repairing, restoring, shopping for and promoting. You’ll discover him on the entrance strains at ClassicCars.com, AutoHunter and The Journal, or at an public sale, automotive present, racetrack, exhibition, displaying his son “the automotive ropes” or serving to with a pal’s automotive.