In the film Glengarry Glen Ross, Al Pacino’s salesman character unfolds a glossy pamphlet of real estate and starts into a breathless spiel. Despite the fact that Pacino knows this is a worthless Florida property, he pitches it as something his hapless customer/target cannot resist. I’ll try my best to match his exemplary performance on this absurd idea.
Life changing opportunities don’t come that often. You can’t take anything with you in the end, so when a chance to improve our lives and the lives of all of our colleagues, you have to reach for it. A tightly knit community like us Autopians is far stronger together than apart, but lacking a physical space to make that happen lessens our chances of deepening those bonds. There might be a solution.
About two hours from the Detroit metro area, there’s a race track called Grattan Raceway (Mercedes Streeter and Mark Tucker mentioned it a little while back). The two-mile, ten-turn course includes a 3,200-foot straight; staff members and commenters that are familiar speak rather highly of it. Just outside of Grand Rapids, it appears to be in lovely rural surroundings:
The property features all sorts of treats for motorsports enthusiasts like a 1.25-mile motorcross track with a 40-rider starting gate. A swimming pool and ponds for fishing are just some of the amenities that it has to offer. As luck would have it, the current owners are apparently looking to pass the torch onto a new buyer.
Can you say Autopian Utopia? Gearhead paradise? As I said, opportunities like this are rare. Automobile driving clubs are not a new thing. A good example is the Inde Motorsports Ranch in the high desert of Arizona.
Besides the track, there’s garages for your cars, small ‘casitas’ for you to stay in, plus the ability to arrive by your own private aircraft.
The Ranch is billed as having “first class facilities,” but our “Autopia” should be the compound that will show the world what first class REALLY looks like.
Now, the Ranch is located in a place where the weather is always rather decent, but it’s an hour outside of Tucson and quite far from where any editors reside. Our racetrack, Grattan, is only a few hours drive from the Motor City, a place where The Autopian no longer has someone readily available for the frequent launches from the Big Three at a moment’s notice. There’s also a big midwestern contingent of our readers within Friday night driving distance that could enjoy this paradise in all seasons (sure, Inde offers year round enjoyment, but you can’t ice and snow racing there, can you?). Let’s buy it!
Better yet, what if, at the far end of the track, we built Phase 1 of the ultimate automotive oasis? Looking a bit like a moon base, the different round “silos” each serve the individual needs of enthusiasts looking for time away from the Real World.
Whoa! Can we take a closer look?
What the hell are we looking at? Maybe it’s better to explain how a typical Saturday might play out for you as a member of this exclusive club. You could start your weekend by flying in and landing your small plane on that long straight with guidance from the air control tower. That’s the big advantage of a long straightaway; legally it could be used as runway before and after races (or smuggling in contraband from Colombia to help pay for this place, but I didn’t just say that). Pop your bags into a complimentary side-by-side or Changli to get to the main building.
You enter through the side lobby to drop your things off in one of the fourteen guest rooms in the two-story tower (with a helipad on the roof), then come back to the round dining hall and bar. The central kitchen is covered in rusted metal walls to honor our founder David Tracy, while the cut-flat pelt of an old Yugo pays tribute to Jason Torchinsky. Maybe there’s an RC car race about to happen on the floor below (it’s technically the “basement”, but there’s windows all around the perimeter so it won’t feel like it), or you can relax at the swimming pool next to it.
In the center, trivia nights can take place in an outdoor patio area with reflecting pool; the prominent Autopian logo glows underneath in color changing light dramatically after dark. Covered walkways take you to the other facilities like the Wrenching Center with seven bays and the giant event space/meeting hall where cars can be brought into, or Jason can make a presentation on the history of automotive lighting while dressed as his alter ego, Blinky The Indicator God, with oversized late-seventies GM turn signal stalk in hand. He’ll wear that costume for Blinkycon Festival Of Car Lights 2024, where we’ll drink Blinker Fluid (sort of like Long Island Iced Tea but with green coloring) and S.W.’s band will play; it’s going to be off the hook. Here Jason is modeling the costume and recreating the cover art of Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone album:
Above the meeting hall is an apartment for visiting staff or VIPs, though Jason and David will still likely end up sleeping on the floor of the same room. At the far end of the complex, a smaller tower contains the Autopian Midwest offices, and the penthouse above that is 2 bedroom / 2 bath where the caretaker/full-time resident would call home. I might have convinced a certain staff member to be said caretaker with the garage below that can hold up to eight or nine cars, which would be enough for most sane people but the caretaker needs to keep cars elsewhere in Autopia as well.
Here you can see that outside the offices, where the Eternal Flame Of Dead German Cars burns for machines that have finally proved to be too much for staff members, with flames shooting from a Check Engine Light shape. This is actually a nice, warm gathering point during winter months after a day of tearing up the property on snowmobiles. There’s also a driveway and carport for staff or the caretaker (speaking of “check engine” lights that won’t completely go off, there’s a certain staffer’s E61 in the driveway).
Notice that there’s plenty of balcony and roof space for viewing of races across the whole track. There’s paved parking for guests that staff members appear to be filling with their own cars. Or buses. Additional garages already exist across the property, and more could easily be built to house member’s toys.
What will something like this cost? Do we care? A few top level “Connoly Leather” memberships should pay for it in a couple of years! In a world where grown men travel to Vegas for fantasy football “drafts” or pay thousands to play golf on That One Course, does a dopey utopia for car people seem that crazy? Well, yeah, it kind of does. But we can always dream, right?
Can we at least plan Blinkycon?