A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FOUR CYLINDER CLUB OF AMERICA
It was a revolution. Americans had never before seen so many foreign makes of cars in their country. It was post-World War II and American soldiers stationed abroad, primarily in England, fell in love with the cars commonly in use there. In contrast to the typical heavy, chrome laden, six or eight cylinder American cars, these foreign cars were mostly four cylinder vehicles, light, nimble, and fun to drive. Many troops brought examples of these cars back with them upon their return home. And the love affair with these unique vehicles grew exponentially.
Prior to World War II, most of the foreign cars that made their way to our shores were luxury models such as Rolls Royce and Bentley. Yes, a few hardy entrepreneurs ventured to sell more modest foreign cars in the United States, but they were by far the exception. Among them was Light Car Motors in Los Angeles, where Austin and Fiat sedans were sold in the 1930s and early 1940s. But, lacking a network of parts and service depots, these cars did not sell well and made barely a dent in the American market.
With our soldiers leading the way, and fueled by a need to rebuild post World War II ravaged economies abroad, foreign cars were actively exported to numerous countries. One of the new markets to receive these cars was the United States of America. Austin, MG, Hillman, Singer, Fiat, Simca, Porsche, Volkswagen, Jaguar, English Ford, and others established networks of dealerships, supported by parts and service facilities to assure buyers that the cars they bought could be repaired and maintained.
These distinctive cars attracted an equally distinctive type of individual. The people drawn to the new breed of foreign car, tended to be nonconformists, adventurers, experimenters. And, with their enthusiasm, came a need to share their passions with other with a similar bent. Looking abroad for inspiration, they organized competitive events, such as road races, rallies, autocrosses, time trials, and gymkhanas. And to provide a foundation for social interaction and event organization hundreds of clubs and organizations were quickly formed.
Among the many organizations created at this time was the Four Cylinder Club of America. (Click the “Next” button in the slide show below to see some early group photos and early membership lists. CLICK ON THE PHOTO ITSELF TO SEE A LARGER, MORE READABLE IMAGE.)
Founded by British immigrant, John Foster in Glendale, California, the FCCA quickly grew into the largest non-racing sports car club in the Unites States. Some sources place the founding of the club in 1949, while others indicate it began in 1950. Regardless, it is clear the club was incorporated as a State of California nonprofit organization on July 19, 1951. Initially, the club consisted of a single entity, anchored in Glendale. But attendance at club meetings and events grew so quickly that a single club was not big enough to accommodate the throngs of enthusiasts. So, the Club decided to form chapters. Each chapter agreed to abide by the FCCA’s bylaws and to the directives issued from the National Headquarters. At one point, there were chapters in ten states spanning the distance from the west to the east coast! And, with the chapters spread over such a huge geographic area, it became necessary to divide the country up into divisions, with chapters attached to these divisions and the divisions attached to FCCA National.
In 1959, founding president, John Foster, passed the gavel to Charles Lucas, the first top leadership change in the Club’s history. The subsequent years saw a number of club presidents, with club growth peaking in the 1960s. Moving through the sixties and into the seventies and eighties, the size of the FCCA declined. During this time, the primary advantage of association with the FCCA was its liability insurance plan, which allowed clubs to receive coverage for activities, including non-wheel-to-wheel competitive events, for a very reasonable fee. In 1985, the FCCA’s insurance carrier withdrew its coverage and no other insurance provider would cover chapters outside of California. While this might have appeared to have been a devastating blow to the Club, by this time the only chapters outside of California were those in Arizona and New Mexico.
Through the 1980s and into the 1990s chapters continued to fall away. Some believe the 1970s and 1980s oil embargoes hurt attendance at the FCCA’s most popular events, rallies. In 1996, FCCA leaders decided to cease being an active club. But, that was not the end of the FCCA. Randy York, a member of one of FCCA’s last chapters, the United Five-Ten Owners Club, kept the corporate entity of the FCCA alive and today it is the vehicle through which a Datsun 510 enthusiasts club publishes its Dime Quarterly magazine. In addition, a core of Glendale Chapter “old timers” holds periodic reunions.
So, on paper and in spirit, the FCCA soldiers on. This web site is intended to add another dimension to the life of the legendary Four Cylinder Club of America. Of course, the above history only skims the surface of the rich and multifaceted story of the FCCA. To learn more, stay tuned to this web site. Here, we will make available stories, photos, newsletters, brochures, event programs, snippets and other fun stuff delving into the many events, personalities, developments, and projects of the FCCA’s approximately 47-year history as an active club. So, bookmark this site, join our forum, participate, and help us document the history of one of the most significant sports car clubs in the history of the United States.