GroupWorks Club Spotlight: Sun City West Automotive/Restoration Club

If ever a club was not just a club, but a community, it’s the Automotive/Restoration Club in Sun City West, Arizona. And, actually, with 700-plus members, a 6,000-square-foot, self-financed workshop (with a new, paint-and-prep room on the way) and a seemingly endless number of passion projects and outreach efforts, it’s not even just a community, but a whole wide world. Complete with vehicle lifts and an upholstery area. 

“We can restore anything,” says Tom Jones, the 72-year-old club president.

Based in, and comprised of residents of, the Sun City West community for adults age 55 and older, the club uses GroupWorks to help keep its members connected to its far-flung efforts. Founded in 2011, the club hosts cruise nights and car shows, produces entries and entrants for the Great Race classic-car rally, publishes a monthly newsletter (called Rusty Nuts), serves the greater community through its ARC Angels auto-education team, and, as its name suggests, gives rise to stunning restorations. Of cars, diecast miniatures, even a 1947 Wurlitzer jukebox.

As Jones says, club members can restore anything. Even dreams.  

In 2013, the club made local headlines when its members partnered with the area Make-a-Wish foundation to grant a cancer-stricken teen’s desire to drive his family’s not-road-worthy 1972 Chevrolet Cheyenne pick-up.

“The radiator was broken, the carburetor was broken. All four tires are flat,” says Herb Clark, 72, the engine behind the club’s inception, and a past president. “During the summer, in 100-degree heat, our people went through it, and got it working really well.”

Both Clark and Jones cite the truck story as key moment in the club’s history, if not their own stories.

Prior to their retirements, and respective moves to Sun City West, neither man worked in garages: Clark was in the commercial-office furniture business in St. Louis (where he still lives half the year); Jones was in management in the trucking industry in California and, later, Oregon. Still, oil was in their blood: Clark bought a Corvette when he first came into his own financially; as a high-schooler in the early 1960s, Jones scraped together the cash from his job at his uncle’s barber shop (he swept the floors) to buy a 1932 Ford. He’s been restoring it ever since. (“I’m a little slower than most people,” Jones says.)

At Sun City West, Clark joined the Metal Club. He was in that group’s building one morning when a disagreement broke out among two members about the direction of the Metal Club. One thing led to another, and per Clark’s telling, a question was raised: “Why don’t we do restoration of cars?”

Clark says he researched how to establish a club at Sun City West: He needed 75 signatures, so he got them. As the planned community could only provide meeting space, the new club needed $500,000 to build its own shop, so it got it, via pledges and monthly donations. (The building, the John S. Chaney Restoration Center, is named after Jones’ late father-in-law, one of the club’s earliest members.) Then the Internal Revenue Service intervened — in a good way: Early on, when the club was filing its taxes, Jones says, IRS workers saw the restoration work it was producing for charities, and suggested the club apply for non-profit status.

GroupWorks has played a role in the club’s development, too. “A lot of our members are ‘snowbirds’ — they’re only around Sun City West three-to-six months each year,” Clark says. “GroupWorks is the only tool of its kind that allows us to fully communicate with our members.”

As Clark explains it, GroupWorks’ members section serves as the club’s paperless, yet private directory, the events section keeps people up-to-date on the latest happenings, and the post section offers members, many of whom are not on Facebook, a Facebook-like tool.

“I love it,” Clark says.

Clark also loves the club’s philanthropic focus. Cars are restored as auction-fodder, and donations are made to local charities  Restoration projects are also undertaken in partnership with local high-school students. “We had the vision to include youth in our projects,” Jones says, “so that they could carry on the hobby.”

“That was the spark for me,” Clark says. “Before that, I was playing senior baseball, and playing softball on a senior softball team, and [I thought] that’s how I’ll go out: running to first base someday,” says Clark. “But this club just took everything.”  

No, this club isn’t just a club, it’s a mission.