Why the UVKA?

First off, the UVKA isn't really a club, it's more a state of mind.
 
But how did it come to be? It's really an accident and it's kind of a long story. I love vintage racing karts. I love finding them, restoring them, and having the opportunity to run them at the track. It's almost like kinetic art and a slice of niche Americana all rolled into one. I've also made some great friends in the hobby, and it's fun to hang out, help each other find parts and meet up at the track to run our karts. A little friendly dicing is cool, but it's about as serious as a ping pong game in the basement. It's all about the karts: finding all the period goodies, ressurecting, restoring, or refurbishing a little piece of history that in many cases hasn't been on a track in 40+ years; and then after all the hard work, getting to drive it at speed, and seeing all the other cool vintage karts too. The sights, the sounds, the scents- the getting to make the machines from a bygone era live again for an afternoon.  
 
For me, the two biggest buzzkills on the deal as outlined in the above paragraph have been: on-track ego (i.e. folks who are into the hobby for real competition and glory, usually via the slippery slope of ever-lessening the vintage aspects of their kart in order to find more performance at levels that didn't exist in the era of their kart), and; the day-to-day workings of formal organization- with the resultant club politics, dues, arguments, endless tugs of war about purpose and rules, organizational identity crisis, and most importantly: no percievable enhancement or value to my own vintage karting experience. 
 
I was involved with organizing 10 formal 2-day meets between 2001 and 2007- complete with "demonstration" heats and classes. It was one of those deals where I found I was working hard to try to make every meet bigger than the last one, dealing with club politics, bad on-track behavior by the racer guys, a number of folks who, despite being given a clear outline of what we considered vintage, would show up with karts that flagrantly went against the spirit of the deal in order to be the fastest out there and "win." After the last fiasco in spring of '07, I was suffering from accute burnout and was ready to hang a for sale sign on all my stuff. I was feeling discouraged because I still really dug the karts, but all the surrounding crap had nearly killed it for me. After spending a couple of months looking at my garage full of stuff and talking with my vintage kart friends but not going to any meets, I thought, "There's got to be a better way."
 
I did a lot of thinking- what did I want from the hobby? Well, I still just wanted to find, restore, and run vintage karts and hang out with my vintage kart friends who had the same sensibilities about vintage karting that I did. We liked the vintage part of the whole deal, and it was about the karts and the friends. It turned out that nothing on my checklist required a club, or needing to win a race, or much formality at all. Heck, if we lived in an era where I could just find an empty parking lot for a group of us to run around on, that would have done the trick.   
 
So that hatched the idea of setting up a playday and just emailing those friends to see if they wanted to come play with their vintage karts as well. The goal was quality of the vintage karting experience over the quantity of people involved. So I called the track that we had held our formal meets at and explained what I wanted to do. I had looked at their calendar, picked a Saturday that was at least 2 weeks away from their monthly club race and proposed the idea to open the practice day  to vintage karts, and we'd run alternating sessions with the modern guys. In exchange, they'd get some extra money for the club coffers from vintage karters paying the non-member practice fee. It was a win-win, right? I sent emails to the vintage karters I knew in my area that were on the same page in terms of keeping the karts reasonably period correct (a MC101 on a wide hoop A-bone was well within the spirit, yet they "got" the whole deal about tires and clutches), wanting a chance to drive at speed and maybe play race a bit, but had no interest in driving to "win."
 
That first playday, I believe 6 of us showed up. It was a far cry from the 65 or so at the last meet I was involved in. But that playday was absolutely the most fun I'd ever had since I got involved in vintage karting 8 years earlier. No hassles because we all had the same basic vibe and the best part is that it was so much cheaper than the typical entry fee for a meet- only $20! When it wasn't our session on the track, we were all hanging out, shooting the breeze, wrenching on each other's karts and having a lotta laughs.
 
I had finally unlocked the secret combination to my version of vintage karting nirvana.
 
Over time, the playdays have steadily grown and a year or so ago I realized that there was a core of about 20 guys who came to all of them (we've averaged about 3 playdays a year since that first one in 2007, and the last one we had about 40 karts) and I guess by default, that made us a "club." Since it was all about old and new friends just hanging out, everyone was equal. So as a laugh, I came up with the whole "UVKA: no dues, no meetings, and everyone's a president" thing.  I made up a batch of "UVKA President" buttons (complete with the "mascot" that appears on the home page) and hand them out at the playdays to anyone who wants one.
 
Since the playdays were just word of mouth/email invite affairs at the time, my off the cuff acronym was "Underground Vintage Karting Association." But I kinda quickly realized that it could be misconstrued as a political statement, when it really wasn't, hence the retooling of the acronym.
 
As the Nor Cal playdays have grown, a good number of folks who attend are also regulars at the formal meets and some belong to the Vintage Kart Association. But they understand what the playdays are all about and see the value in them as well. The UVKA concept is not intended to be the only way to do vintage karting, just another way in order to accommodate those who aren't interested in the action at the meets, might not want to be part of a club, or they go to the meets but also welcome an occasional change of pace. 
 
Since the word has gotten out a bit about the good thing the Nor Cal group has going on, I've gotten a few calls from vintage karters around the country who are suffering from the same uneasiness that I did. They just want to play with their vintage karts and hang out with their buddies and cut out the hassles and headaches and politics. So they call or email and want to know what is involved in setting up a playday of their own.
 
This site exists simply to relay the details on how I've gone about setting up playdays, the things I've learned after doing them for a few years, the tweaks and changes over time- and hopefully the answers to most of your questions so you too can enjoy vintage karting at its simplest: start your own "chapter" of the UVKA by hanging out with your buddies at the local track while you play with your vintage karts.
 
Lloyd Flippencotte
October 9, 2009
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