Car Clubs Foster Lifelong Friendships

During the springtime, the scene is a familiar one in Shreveport-Bossier City.
Classic cars — everything from Chevy Novas to Ford Mustangs — are lined up in mostly-neat rows, some with their hoods popped.

Couples stroll hand-in-hand and admire the venerable vintage vehicles, pausing often to eyeball them more attentively. Men walk around, snapping pictures as they go. A group of people lounges on folding chairs arranged in a large circle, their occasional bouts of laughter punctuating the evening air.

cars06This is the first night of the 43rd Annual Street Rod Reunion, one of the signature events of the 90-member strong Red River Street Rod Association, and a popular one at that. It’s nestled in the shadows of Boomtown Casino in Bossier City, and it’s a car guy’s — or gal’s — dream.

“It helps promote enthusiasm for vehicles 30 years or older,” said Andrew Branning, the social media coordinator and a vocal member of the hotrod group. His dad got him going with classic cars long ago when they lived in northeast Ohio.

cars07“He had me wrenching on cars just because we had to,” said Branning, who joined the group about eight years ago and owns a 1965 Impala. “You get to enjoy your hobby and give back to charity at the same time. Everything is for a cause.”

Branning estimates the organization donated around $16,000 to the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission last year, and this year he thinks that number will be nearly the same. In addition to raising money for charity, the group — like most car clubs — holds regular meetings, plans outings and gets together for various annual events.

Branning and other members, such as secretary Tony Hudgins, love it. For them, it’s not just about the cars, but the nostalgia and camaraderie as well.

“I grew up in North Carolina. Everybody had a hotrod. My father had a hotrod,” said Hudgins, who owns a 1932 Ford Three-Window High-Boy, otherwise known as a Little Deuce Coupe like in the famous Beach Boys song. “In that part of the country, about all there was to do was fix up cars and chase girls.”

In early 2014, an accident initially left him a paraplegic.

“I thought I would never move again,” said Hudgins, who two years later is still recovering but can walk. Red River Street Rod folks showed up at the hospital on day one and have worked on his car and driven it to shows for him ever since. “All my friends from the car club have just been wonderful. They’ve really supported me.”

cars03Henry Price, the secretary and treasurer of the 30-year-old Bayou Car and Truck Club, also lauds the social benefits of being part of such a club. Plus, he likes how old cars look.

“People want to feel a part of something,” he said, noting his group has an annual show outside the Mooretown Branch of Shreve Memorial Library where proceeds help purchase books and other items for local children. “These are a group of good people who I trust. It’s about spending quality time with people you can depend on and people who can depend on you. It’s not getting together just to get together. It’s about forming lifetime bonds.”

In this case, everybody owns a really cool car.

“I’m a visual artist,” Price said. “I’ve always been intrigued with the overall design and shape of older cars. I just think they have a lot of character. It’s seeing something as a work of art.”

Though car club membership can often skew male, many women own classic cars, too.

One is Tina Armenio-Boyter, of Benton, who has been in love with Chevy Corvettes for as long as she can remember. Three years ago, she went down to Red River Chevrolet in Bossier City and traded in three vehicles for a brand-new 2013 model: a 1980 Corvette, a 1978 Chevy Eldorado and — yes, really — a pristine 1914 Ford Model T.

cars01Her white Corvette with black and red interior never has a speck of dust on it and, like most Corvettes, has never been driven in the rain.

“I saw her when I walked onto the showroom floor. I went and looked inside, and I said, ‘this is her.’ Then I found a penny in there, and I said, ‘that’s good luck. This is her.’”

Now she’s one of the 110-some members of River Cities Corvette Club, which was started back in 1993. Actually, she used to be a member, but got out of it for many years. She’s glad to be back.

“(The members) are beautiful people inside and out. They have road trips you can take where everybody drives behind each other, just a train of Corvettes,” said Armenio-Boyter. “I just go to meetings and sit there and BS with them. We’re good friends. We go way back. They’re really nice folks, down to earth people. Salt of the earth.”

She loves car shows where members trot out some of the older Corvettes.

“I’ve always been infatuated with cars. I guess I’ve got a little tomboy in me,” said Armenio-Boyter, who has always worked on her own vehicles up until this last one, which has too much high-tech machinery under the hood. “They don’t make cars like they used to.”

Corvette-crazy Diane Waldon is the president of Armenio-Boyter’s club, and she sports a 2002 millennium yellow model with torch red interior.

cars02“That’s my little bit of sunshine. It’s a pretty thing,” said Waldon, who has owned a number of Corvettes over the years. “I’ve loved these things my whole life. Whenever you buy a Corvette, you get a family with it. People still wave when they pass each other driving down the road. And people like to show these cars, so we go and show them. We go and eat together. We go cruise. It’s a lot of fun.”

There’s more than one Corvette club in the area, and another is Southern Knights Corvette Club, headed up by Stuart Dubin. It’s a newer club — it got its start in 2012 — and has about 30 members.

Dubin has a 1975 Chevy Corvette convertible, and though it isn’t his primary vehicle, he still tries to drive it every day.

“When I was growing up, I fell in love with these things,” said Dubin. “I used to say, ‘I’ve got to get me one of those.’”

He compares Corvette ownership to Harley-Davidson ownership, where when you buy one, you’re buying into a lifestyle. He wants others to share his passion, and that’s why he spends so much time working on club business. The group meets once a month and plans a lot of fundraisers for charities such as the local Food Bank, not to mention at least one big car show a year.

Not only do people like collectible cars because they look good and because owning one can allow them to be part of a group, but because they can sometimes outperform competitors.

cars04That’s what Andrew Godfrey, a member of the Stang Lyfe Charity Car Club, which is dedicated to Ford Mustangs, says.

“They’re inexpensive to work on and they can be pretty fast,” he said, gushing about his 2014 Ford Mustang GT, white with saddle tan interior. He’s owned Mustangs ever since he started driving, a brand-loyal lineage common in the car world.

Performance is also key for members of the Trail Lizards Jeep Club, which has been around for about five years.

“(The club) is built to be a tool for people who have Jeeps to have fun with their Jeeps and not have to worry about tearing them up,” said President Kevin Waldrop, who can’t say enough good things about his family-oriented club. He estimates there are about 80 member Jeeps involved with the group, which has over 250 total members.

Oftentimes, members go on trips together to drive off-road in places such as Texas, Arkansas and south Louisiana. A lot of what the group does is charity driven. He thinks Jeeps are popular because they’re unique and easy to accessorize, and that people join the club so they can actually use them off-road and get them dirty.

He admits sometimes his hobby can be somewhat expensive.

“I’ve just enjoyed the Jeeps,” Waldrop said. “You know what Jeep stands for though, right? ‘Just Empty Every Pocket.’ But it’s worth it. It’s a lot of fun.”