President’s Corner – Summer 2017
by Neil Gambony
Why should I join the BMW CCA?
By Jeff Caldwell
Why should I join the BMW CCA? I recently received my Ten Year pin from the BMW CCA. It’s hard to believe I only joined the club ten years ago, as I am currently in the final year of a five year stint as NJ Chapter President. Crazy! I have been a BMW fan for as long as I can remember. Like many of you, I have owned more BMWs over the years than I can count. Some great, others not so much, but they all were part of my journey with the only car that has ever really captured my attention. So why did I wait until my 30’s to join this fantastic club? Simple. I didn’t know the BMW CCA existed! You might be wondering what this has to do with the title of my article, as I am certainly a member now! I ask you to please indulge me for a few more paragraphs and everything will make sense. I hope…
Admittedly, I spent a number of years without a BMW in the driveway. My E21 died shortly after college and as a young person working hard I didn’t have the resources to afford one. I thought about an E30, but even then (mid 90’s) they were too expensive for a somewhat broke mid 20’s guy to manage. After a couple of stints with some unsatisfying non- BMWs, I finally was able to snag a 1999 E46 323i sedan. It was an automatic with high miles, but the passion was back and I was in love all over again. I felt like this was the greatest car in the world. Truth be told it was the greatest car in the world for me at that time. After the E46 transmission gave up I found a 1994 E36 325i sedan. Fun car and certainly the beginning of my love for E36s. Even though I adored the E36 I found myself wanting something sportier and perhaps with a little more power. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Enter the greatest car I never should have sold. A 2007 Titanium Silver Z4M coupe with red interior. She was a beauty. The car had loads of power, handled great and was SO much fun to drive. When I picked up the M Coupe there was a brochure for the BMW CCA in the folder with the owner’s manual. There’s a BMW club? There are other people like me who love these cars as much as I do? Wow! So I sent in the paperwork and the rest is history. The cool part of the BMW CCA is that even if you don’t own or drive a BMW you can still be a member. I wish I knew that back in the 90’s when I spent more time sitting in dealership showrooms dreaming than I really should have. The club would have been a great way to stay plugged in to the BMW world and hang out with like-minded people. I simply had no idea.
So, why did I tell you this story? Several reasons, but the main one being to highlight how difficult it is for the BMW CCA to reach potential new members. I am a prime example. If the club can’t reach someone like me, then what chance do we have to reach the more casually interested driver or enthusiast? Well, in 2017 it’s a bit easier than it was in the 90’s. First of all, there’s the internet. That’s a big one. However, despite the internet and social media there are still people who don’t know the club exists. You really need to be looking for it to find it. Nonetheless, there are some encouraging signs and club membership over all chapters nationally is either growing or stable. Might not sound like much, but in this age of declining engagement with clubs and volunteer organizations it’s a good thing. Still, we can and must do more to ensure the club’s health and growth in the future.
A couple weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending BimmerFest East, which by the way is held in Englishtown, NJ at Raceway Park. It’s the largest gathering of BMWs on the East Coast and really has something for everyone. There was everything from drift cars and show cars to race cars and plenty in between. If it’s BMW and you can dream it, it was there. The NJ Chapter and its dedicated staff of volunteers hosted the Autocross as well as staffing a BMW CCA booth to recruit and sign up new members. The booth was organized and championed by our own Bob Isbitski, a long time NJ Chapter member. Thank you Bob and all of the other Chapter members who spent their valuable free time over the weekend on behalf of the BMW CCA. You guys are amazing! While at BimmerFest I spent some time in the NJ Chapter booth and spoke to members and non-members alike. Something really struck me from my time there. The most common questions I got were “Why should I join the BMW CCA?” or “What do I get with my membership?”. Seems a pretty simple question to answer, right? You’d be surprised. I found that I was met with a great deal of skepticism. You’d think that people at an event celebrating BMWs would want to be part of the largest single marque car club in the world. You’d think it’s a no brainer. It’s not. I found myself often times struggling to convince someone that the $48 annual dues are worth it. You get Roundel for a year (best BMW publication out there). You get $500 – $1500 off the next BMW you lease or buy. You get access to the largest BMW enthusiast network in the world. You get access to all of the NJ Chapter events, both social and driving, and those of any other chapter. Maybe someday you get a cool Ten Year pin. Ok, I didn’t use that one, but you get the idea. I was clutching at straws for a moment and then it dawned on me.
You come for the cars and stay for the people. Yes, it’s a cliché. However, in this case it’s true. The single best part of the BMW CCA is the people and relationships you form as part of it. If you are a member and have not been to an event I encourage you to come out. Many of my best friends are part of the BMW CCA. I met them through club events, driver schools, autocrosses and racing. These are some of the finest, nicest, and most generous people you’ll ever meet. Several years ago my wife’s E46 convertible top broke. I happened to be talking to my friend Ralph Angersbach (long time club member) on the phone and he says “I’ll come up tomorrow evening and we’ll fix it”. Just like that. It’s a 45 minute drive for him each way and I never asked for help. He just offered. Trust me when I tell you, this happens all the time. There’s always someone in the club to help, always someone to lend a hand if you need it.
That’s how I should have been selling the club. It’s not about the Roundels that will fade or the rebate on the new car that will be deposited and forgotten. It’s about the life-long relationships and friends that will be here long after the shine on our new M4s is gone. That’s why you should join the BMW CCA. Thank you for your membership and support of the NJ Chapter and the BMW CCA. Thank you for making our great club even better. Please come out and join us for an event. Tell your friends to join. Heck, tell a stranger with a BMW to join. Let’s all make sure this club is prosperous well into the 21st century. We can’t do it without you all, our biggest cheerleaders. Thanks again. Hope you had a great summer.