Photo: Alex Davies
Since 2005, visitors to Manhattan’s SoHo neighbourhood have been stopping to gaze through the windows of 250 Hudson Street. They take in Porsches, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis, classic Mustangs and Jaguars.It is the home of Classic Car Club Manhattan, whose 300 members pay thousands of dollars a year to drive dozens of classic, luxury, and exotic automobiles.
At the invitation of Director Michael Prichinello, I spent a few amazing days as a member of the private club. Here’s how it went.
The club usually has 40 to 45 cars, which it regularly buys and sells to change up the selection. The most popular choices include the Ferrari 458 Italia, Porsche Cayman S, and Ford Bronco.
Some cars are freely given by automakers who want car lovers with money to spend to try out their new rides. Others the club buys: It is currently test driving a McLaren 12C Spider (after hosting its New York debut).
Photo: Alex Davies
How It WorksThe Classic Car Club opened in London in 1995, and added the Manhattan branch in 2005. There are plans for expansion all over the world, with proposed locations in Miami, Los Angeles, Dubai, Hong Kong, India, China, and Singapore.
Members tend to be in the mid-30s to mid-40s, and are mostly men. The Classic Car Club has had its share of celebrities join up, including Robert Downey Jr., Tracy Morgan, and Tumblr CEO David Karp. Jay-Z never used his membership, Bookings Manager and Event Coordinator Jeannette Klein says.
There are three levels of annual membership: silver, gold, and platinum, for $4,500, $8,000, and $13,000, respectively. All members have access to all of the cars, and reservations (the word “rental” is never used) are based on a points system. Platinum members get the most points, and can have the cars delivered to them at home.
Points are based on how popular the vehicle is, how long the member takes the car for, and the timing of the reservation. A February week-long drive in the 2006 BMW M5 may eat up fewer points than a July weekend in the 2012 Mercedes SLS AMG.
To take a car, a member simply needs to call ahead of time, and say when he will pick it up and return it. At the club, a staff member lines up the vehicle (which often involves moving three or four other cars around the limited space).
They note the mileage, fuel level (members are expected to return the car with the same amount of gas in the tank), and check the car for damage. They review the idiosyncrasies of the vehicle: how to put the Jaguar E-Type in reverse, where the headlights switch is on the 1966 Mustang, etc.
Then the member is handed the keys and is free to go.
Photo: Alex Davies
The Social AspectUnlike renting an exotic or luxury ride from Gotham Dream Cars, which anyone can do, Classic Car Club members are part of a set, privileged group. That creates a “strong social aspect” that Klein says is what drew many of the 300 members to join.
The club hosts regular happy hours, and has a lounge members can access 24/7. The bar is stocked with liquors provided by sponsors like Bulldog Gin, Espolon Tequila, and Whistlepig Straight Rye Whiskey.
The garage, stacked with classic cars, is regularly used for events: BMW debuted the I3 and I8 concept cars there; Oliver Stone used it as a location for “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” And Microsoft launched the Kin mobile phone there, bringing in the Black Keys and Passion Pit to play, with Robert Plant and Liv Tyler in attendance.
Members hit the road together, too. For rally drives, the club selects a scenic location an hour or two away. Each member takes a car, and they stop periodically to switch. In an eight-member rally, each driver will get behind the wheel of all eight cars.
Then they return to the club to unwind. “We drive, and then drink,” explains Klein.
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