In short, a group of people who appreciate and admire unique, small automobiles, who wish to see them preserved and who also enjoy driving these cars for their own (and the admiring public's) pleasure. The motto of the Arcane Auto Society is, "Say, what kind of car is that?", a question heard repeatedly by club members. It's also the inspiration for the name of our group and a rough guideline for membership requirement in the Arcane Auto Society.

History: Around 1980, three San Franciscans had independently acquired three odd automobiles: Paul Cowden, a 1958 Fiat 600 Multipla; Greg Cowden, a 1962 Citroën Deux Cheveux (2CV); and Tom DeJohn, a 1969 Subaru 360 coupe. A sea slug, a duck, and a shoe. After significant mechanical and sufficient cosmetic restoration of these three arcane autos, the suggestion was made in the summer of 1982 to actually attempt to drive our oddities someplace besides around town. Like over the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the wine country in Napa County for a Sunday picnic.

The results were gratifying. Since none of the cars could exceed 50 mph, except downhill, we became the freeway right-lane parade. The admiration and amusement of the motoring public as we headed north was very heartwarming. We felt proud of our arcane machinery. At one of our first stops that Sunday in 1982 at a roadside produce stand, the proprietor handed us our motto, nearly intact, when he queried, "Say, what kind of Volkswagens are those?" "Volkswagens?" we retorted, "Not a Volkswagen in the bunch!"

Soon the word spread. There was this new car club of people who actually liked to drive their odd, old mini cars just for fun. Many new members joined us because their marque-named group never did anything active and existed only to produce a newsletter. Here was a group of adventurers who enjoyed traveling in their delightful dinkies and in sharing an occasional Sunday or weekend with other free-spirited auto enthusiasts.

To date we have done day trips to Santa Cruz, the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad in Felton, the Sacramento Train Museum, the wine country, and the Russian River area, with weekenders to various lakes, the Pinnacles National Monument, and Las Vegas, to name but a few. Our newsletters are infrequent and erratic, announcing only the next run or overnighter with perhaps a bit on the previous event. Our only official meeting is held around mid-February each year inside the garage at Cowden Automotive in San Francisco. It's a potluck business meeting and social held indoors due to uncertain weather. Films are shown, brunch shared, wine drunk, parts swapped and dues collected. No official hierarchy exists, but an election is held to determine who will be stuck to reign as Most Benign Despot by unanimous acquiescence for the following year. The February (or thereabouts) organizational meeting is the best chance for members to bring and display all of their rolling stock and to test drive a fellow member's car around the block a few times for fun.

Over the years we have grown to an official membership of about 70 and are proud to have included in our group, Fiat 500s and 600s, DKWs, Citroën 2CVs, Crosleys, Mayflowers, Auto Unions, Isettas, Borgwards, Subaru 360s, Peels, Messerschmitts, Amphicars, Facel Vegas, Siatas, King Midgets, Rileys, Austin A-60s, Renault 4-CVs, Tatras, Topolinos, Goggomobiles, Hillmans, Reliant Robin 3-Wheelers, and the like. Members' cars range from pristine to rough, daily drivers, and works in progress. And no one is ever laughed at for owning a car that is not complete, original, or otherwise "correct." As long as a car can be driven in, it's eligible for Arcane Auto Society membership.

Doug McConnell and Bay Area Backroads rides with the Arcane Auto Society to Fraizer Lake

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