In March, car enthusiasts at Wayne State University began turning the rooftop of Parking Structure 2 into something of an impromptu auto show.
The first-ever on-campus meetup of the Wayne State MotorCity Car Club, the gathering attracted an array of foreign and domestic automobiles, with nearly 40 vehicles lining the rooftop as the downtown Detroit skyline jutted up in the background. Engines revved. Music blared. Meanwhile, car owners and enthusiasts alike socialized, enjoyed free food, and marveled at one another’s four-wheel wonders.
Although the club usually held its meetings on Belle Isle, the scene on campus was so impressive that it won the affection of perhaps the university’s most influential self-described car nut: Provost Keith Whitfield, himself the owner of a 1966 Chevy El Camino, a 1969 Chevy Blazer, and a hulking yellow 1971 Chevy Suburban so festooned with university flags and stickers that it’s become known among campus car fans as “the Wayne State truck.”
Whitfield was moved enough, in fact, that he personally agreed to throw his support behind the car club and urged them to start meeting on campus.
“Cars are an integral part of the DNA of Detroit and, by extension, Wayne State University,” explained Whitfield. “The students involved with the car club are passionate Warriors and add a wonderful opportunity for student engagement on our campus. I’m a car guy myself so I enjoy joining their events when I can. They are yet another shining reminder of who we are as a campus, as a community and as a city. Both the students are their cars are Warrior Strong.”
To the students who make the car club go, such an endorsement underscores what their group is all about.
“The car club bonds everybody, the whole car community,” said College of Liberal Arts and Sciences student Tuhin Faiz, vice president of the car club. “It brings people you may not expect to be together really close. The main purpose of our group is to spread the car culture throughout Wayne State, and have everybody come out and experience.”
Thanks in part to the provost’s urging, the car club has found a place on campus. But the club itself has existed since 2016, when the car lovers who form its core first began gathering monthly near the James Scott Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle to share their passion for hot wheels and horsepower.
Park officials eventually prohibited the car club from holding its meetings there — leading to the fortuitous rooftop gathering that drew Whitfield — but the club has managed to blossom despite having to move. While the original roster included only a handful of car enthusiasts, the club now boasts about 300 members and includes Wayne State students, alumni and friends.
The growth is due in part to the leadership’s tireless efforts to promote the organization. Entering into the 2017-18 school year, club President Syed Usman, a College of Engineering student, and VP Faiz kicked off a membership drive and marketing campaign that saw them wallpapering the Student Center Building, State Hall and the David Adamany Undergraduate Library with countless flyers that encouraged students to learn more about the car club.
The club sponsors both large meetups like the ones at the campus parking lot as well as smaller, Facebook-oriented gatherings that end in convoys of club members cruising along Jefferson or Woodward avenues. (The club actively discourages reckless behavior such as drunk driving and illegal drag racing.)
The group is planning to hold its next campus meeting on July 21 in Parking Lot No. 22 from 4 to 10 p.m. More than 150 cars are expected to show up.
“We don’t care what you drive; if you want to experience the car culture with us, feel free to join,” said Faiz. “There’s a lot of members that attended our car events but they didn’t have a car so we helped them out; we just picked them up and carpooled to the car event. You don’t even have to have a car to be a part of this.”