Cars, Coffee, COVID-19: How the Kent Car Club’s growth during the pandemic caused a split in the club

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The underground scene of the Kent Car Club is growing under continued COVID-19 lockdowns and regulations, but different priorities have led to newer members breaking off from the main club.

The club started back in 2016, with about 10-15 cars showing up to the Sunday “Cars and Coffee” meetings. But in the past year, attendance has doubled.

“This year, we had huge growth,” said Tyler Napolitano, a club member since 2016. “I think the growth has a lot to do with COVID-19 and the big events canceled and everybody looking for something to do.”

With the club’s growing popularity came a few problems. Some of the newer members started breaking long-standing rules set by the club’s leadership in the past year. 

“Our club is more about the people and not the cars,” said Will Eisenberger, the club’s current president. “I want everyone to be safe and everyone to understand that this is about the people. We’re here to have a fun time and hangout, not to see who has the fastest car.”

Recently, former Kent Car Club members split off from the club to create their own smaller clubs to protest strict no burnouts and no excessive engine revving rules.

“They would come to our meets, and they would do 60 mph in the lot,” Eisenberger said. “On their Facebook, they would post, ‘we’re not Kent Car Club where they just sit around and do nothing.’”

Recently the club had to change locations due to complaints about excessive revving. The club works hard to maintain a good relationship with the businesses that allow meets, but administrators and club presidents sometimes struggle to enforce the club’s rules. Kendra Beiswenger, an administrator from the club, said there is difficulty keeping one or two people from ruining the fun for the group.

“It’s not like we can physically stop them from doing it,” Beiswenger said. “It’s kind of a sticky situation, to be honest.”

One of the commonly held beliefs within the Kent Car Club is that being in the club isn’t about who has the fastest or the loudest car. Instead, it’s about building an active and open community, centered around car culture.

“Without the car club, I wouldn’t have as many friends as I do today,” Beiswenger said. “Being a girl in the car scene is definitely hard, but I’ve met so many great people who care about me and will actually teach me stuff about my car.”

Despite the recent drama, the club plans to continue meeting on Sundays at 5 p.m., though a new location hasn’t been decided yet.

Zachary Shepherd covers technology. Contact him at [email protected]