Car lovers all over the Chippewa Valley are a rare breed.
A Passion - Not a Hobby
president of Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club talks the future of Midwest car collectors
A car might be just a car to some people, something to get them to work, to home, and to places in-between, but to the president of the Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club, Alex Martinez, cars are everything. Martinez, of Eau Claire, saw improvements that could be made to help the car scene thrive. What he changed has not only refined the car culture but has created a community of its very own. We asked Alex a few questions to get a better look into what this car community is all about, and how this passion came to life.
Volume One: When did the Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club start? What sparked the idea?
Alex Martinez: I had noticed a lot of disrespect in the automotive community, mostly from people bickering about different makes and models. It was disappointing. I had always had a passion for cars, but it seemed that the community was never inviting or treated people fairly. That was the moment I realized that I wanted to create this group. It was meant to be a place where enthusiasts could get together and share a mutual respect for the things we loved: cars. After a few weeks of brainstorming and preparing the club, I unveiled the Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club on Dec. 6, 2013, to the local Eau Claire enthusiasts. A little over three years later, we are one of the largest automotive groups in the Midwest.
What is it about cars that make people want to get together, talk about them, and even collect them?
I believe that almost every individual takes part in something that allows them to express their personality in some artistic form. Whether it’s painting, writing, shooting film, or gardening, these are all forms of artistic expression. The automotive community is the same way. Many individuals express themselves and how they see the world in the cars they own. Each car can have a story, with its own special connection to the owner, the same way a painter has to his first work of art.
Are there certain kinds of cars that the club focuses on more than others?
Short answer? No. Our focus is and always has been to be a welcoming group for car enthusiasts of any kind to come share their passion. We tend to have a strong influence in the 18- to 30-year-old range with both male and female enthusiasts. We have members that are upwards of 75 and as young as 16. We have members that own exotics and old school rat-rods. The spectrum for what is in our group is pretty expansive.
Do any members have big collections? How long have they been collecting them?
Yes, we have some members that have various car collections. Some of the more experienced collectors in our group have been hoarding – ahem – I mean collecting cars for over three decades.
Why do you like getting to talk to people who are just as passionate about cars as you are?
Bringing people together is a passion of mine. To be able to bring that into another hobby of mine is a pretty spectacular thing. Car enthusiasts love talking to each other about vehicles. To some, those talks begin to extend past cars and eventually form friendships. These friendships can create new opportunities for people. I’ve even witnessed a marriage or two happen because of WCEC.
What kinds of events do you have?
The amazing team behind WCEC is what truly makes these events possible. We host automotive meet and greets, which are free to attend events that get people together to simply talk cars. We also host car shows, which are usually paid entry events for those who wish to participate and include trophies, giveaways, and more. We host partnered events with statewide Autocross organizers and even have started hosting our first ever road rally.
What is the general spirit behind the club? Why do people join?
I feel the spirit of the club is to always share your passion. Nowadays, I feel many join because they’ve heard of it from word of mouth or know about the events we host. We currently have an Facebook forum that hosts anyone and everyone who is interested in cars. We believe that the club can provide almost every opportunity needed for an enthusiast to grow.
What’s the future of the group?
That’s a question we ask ourselves every day. The club has not slowed down in terms of growth, and we are continuously trying to find new and engaging ways to bring car enthusiasts together. You will see our focus start aiming towards integrating large-scale automotive events similar to those of Car Craft, Automotion Classic Car Show, and more. In time, we will become the premiere automotive event hosts in Wisconsin. We also want to find new and engaging ways we can give back to the communities that we all live in. We currently host non-perishable food drives, school item drives, and much more. I think that is something we can continue to make better so others who are less fortunate than us can indirectly benefit from our own success.