As if classic cars and kustoms didn’t have enough history in of itself, car clubs bring another aspect of excitement to the culture. For many individuals, the film American Graffiti was an intriguing and mesmerizing look into a past lifetime. Being given a slight glimpse into the Pharaohs CC, there was always that wonder towards what that lifestyle would be like on a tangible scale. Car clubs weren’t always the way the majority are today–peaceful and altruistic.
Car clubs have been around since the automobile was made available to the general public. The individual’s interpretation of how to make factory productions better looking or how to make their machines faster and stronger were always top priorities. Groups of builders and drivers would stake out the availability of back roads before drag strips were created. The existence of clubs has kept the pursuit of building and restructuring cars popular up until today.
Throughout the 50s and 60s car clubs became immensely popular for building faster and one-off looking cars. The process involved chopping, channeling, and splicing different parts to make a wild creation. With NASCAR and the Southern California Timing Association gaining a tremendous fan following, street racing also arose during that time. With street racing came territory. Builders flocked together to create the meanest of the mean street machines in order to race down the local strip. With the desire of speed also came the importance of being flashy and standing out from the normal appearance of everyone else’s cars.
Clubs would hold local events flaunting their custom creations around their neighborhoods while other clubs would join in to flaunt off their own. With blood boiling about whose was better and whose was faster tempers would flair into violent outbursts. One notorious example of the territorial battles happened in Artesia, California, March 1959. While hosting a meeting with 16 members the Dutchmen CC suffered a brutal attack by the Townsmen CC’s alleged 30 members. The rumble took place at the Moose Lodge Hall on E. Artesia Blvd, March 25th. One of the members, Neil Mahan, received a serious brain injury from a gunshot wound that eventually lead to his early demise during the attack. The assault happened in retaliation to an earlier altercation where a Dutchman attacked one of the Townsmen with a railroad spike
For months the investigation went on. The outcome ended up in the arrest of 13 Townsmen members and the confession of Townsmen member, Eddie Padilla, for shooting Mahan. Mahan passed on April 3rd. Padilla was charged for manslaughter and sentenced 1-10 years. By the end of June all accused members received their sentences. The police received a roster of all Townsmen members in order to prevent any further violent acts associated with car clubs. This experience was thought to be the end of the Long Beach car club scene.
While the spirit of territory has simmered down to less volatile tempers, the car club scene still pursues the gain of respect through building outstanding hot rods and kustoms. While still having the separate desires of what’s cool and what’s not, there is still an outspoken opinion between groups. Whether or not chopped and dropped is the way to go or billet everything is a group’s forte, opinions on greasers versus gold chainers will always be polar opposites.
Despite differences between the culture of different clubs, there will always be one thing in common, the love that each has for their cars. Whether claiming territory and instilling regional pride or just organizing cruises and benefits–car clubs will always have an extensive impact on the builders of today, those of the future, and the task of spearheading the preservation of the classic car.