Meet the car club cruisin' through Flagstaff

Photo courtesy of the Route 66 Car Club of Flagstaff.

Established in 1983, the Route 66 Car Club is open to all car enthusiasts. While it began with members' shared interest in just one car, the Chevrolet Corvair, the club now has members who own all types of vehicles ranging from older classics to tractors. As of 2010, the car club is recognized as a nonprofit organization.

The car club is based on four main ideas, which cruise director Julie Metzner calls the four Cs. The four Cs are cars, community, charity and chuckles.

“Cars: we encourage our members in the acquisition, preservation, restoration, exhibiting and touring of our vehicles,” Metzner said. “Community: support through active participation in local events. Charity: participate and contribute to charitable events and causes. Chuckles: having fun with fellow members, family and friends in the car community. Fun is what it's all about.”

Members of the club join for different reasons, but all share the same love for cars. Sean Evans, the archivist for NAU's Cline Library Special Collections, said he joined the club because he wanted to be a part of the downtown car show. The show is an annual event put on by the car club where classic car owners can exhibit their vehicles.

Evans said the car shows are good opportunities for the club members to connect and meet other car enthusiasts who want to join the club. However, he said putting on the car shows requires a lot of hard work. The club must obtain permits, parking registrations, judges for shows and prizes for winners.

Once the car shows are up and running, Evans said all the hard work seems worth it.

“You get to enjoy the hopefully nice weather, hang out with friends old and new, make new friends, look at other peoples’ cars, see who wins awards and trophies, and become involved with or learn about the charitable entities each show supports,” Evans said.

The local car shows aim to support local interests and charities, which to Evans is enough of a reason to attend. Evans said there is usually good food and unique cars to enjoy.

Evans said the shows' fun energy encouraged his involvement with the club. After owning his second white Subaru station wagon, Evans said he bought a Chrysler PT Cruiser that, after fixing up, is now the car he drives in shows.

“Everybody has a hobby or an irrational outlet,” Evans said. “If you have to drive, you might as well have an interesting ride and enjoy the time you spend in your car. Cars are also a great time machine. People often have cars that reflect favorite things: times, events, places and periods in their lives.”

Metzner agreed that the car club is a great place for enthusiasts to meet and connect with people of similar interests. She said she joined the club after purchasing a 1962 Oldsmobile F-85 Cutlass, which is known as the car with the snow leopard tail around town. Metzner's car is in its original state and she said would like to restore it to the same condition as when it was new.

Metzner said she views her car as a mini time capsule because of the physical aspects of the car: the metal dash, the knobs and push buttons on the AM radio, and the windows that she still has to crank the handle to roll up and down. She said it's difficult to find parts for her car but the search is worth it. She loves the hunt for parts, which is something that other members can relate to.

“What keeps me interested in the club is the people, their stories of finding their cars, stories of restoration, repairs, purchases and sales of their vehicles,” Metzner said. “Most of all, it is the friendships that build new adventures in the cruises we go on and things we do.”

Alongside their car show, another event the car club participates in is the Route 66 Fun Run, which is put on by the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. The event takes place over two days on the first weekend in May and follows Route 66 from Kingman to Golden Shores along the Colorado River. However, the event is canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

Evans said the Route 66 Fun Run typically puts more than 800 cars on the road and helps the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona support the communities that run along Route 66, like Flagstaff.

“Their endowment supports the processing, digitization and access to all 12 or so of our Route 66-based collections in [NAU's Special Collections and Archives]," Evans said. "The Association also promotes and advocates for the preservation of Route 66, which kind of reflects that synthesis of Route 66 and the role it plays in our communities in northern Arizona.”

Other events the car club participates in include parades, such as the annual Flagstaff Independence Day parade and the Holiday Parade of Lights and Friday night cruises, where they drive around to explore other locations in northern Arizona. The club typically meets on Fridays, however, meetings have been indefinitely canceled due to COVID-19.

Along with their many social events, the club also participates in charity functions. Metzner said some of the charity events they have participated in include helping local food banks and attending the grand opening of High Country Humane. In 2019, the club also raised $5,000 that was divided between five local charities in Flagstaff. Metzner said the car club does what it can to help the community and give back.

“We helped in a program similar to Make-A-Wish, to assist in a lifelong dream of a terminal patient,” Metzner said. “His wish was to ride in a 1966 Mustang on Route 66. Our members gathered together to meet this gentleman and give him a tour of Route 66 through Flagstaff. He did get to ride in that mustang on Route 66 and very much enjoyed all the other cars that went along on his cruise.”

While putting on events, helping charities and giving back to the community in other ways can make being part of the car club rewarding, Evans said he especially enjoys the presence of other car enthusiasts. He said the club is a group of nice people who also own really fancy cars.

Being a member of the club comes with the chance to see so many different car types, including some of Evans' favorites. He said one of the great aspects of the car club is the enthusiasm everyone has about their favorite cars.

“My favorite cars are MOPAR, Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge muscle cars of the 1960s and ‘70s,” Evans said. “The great thing about the club though is that everyone’s enthusiasm for their favorite cars is very contagious. ... You grow to learn and appreciate so many different makes and models. The other interesting thing is that the cars themselves have sometimes wonderful stories and histories. The fun thing is this group just likes cars.”

The club welcomes everyone with all types of vehicles. Metzner described the wide range of vehicles from the 1920s to present, Jeeps to station wagons, two doors to four doors and some with no doors, and even a tractor and a camper.