Earlier this year Cobb Ware stood in the middle of a deserted salvage yard. He surveyed the scene in front of him—abandoned cars with grass and weeds growing up around the tires, discarded machinery and parts strewn about, and old motors leaking oil. But it was here, on what he described as “the least desirable real estate in Mississippi,” that Cobb thought was the perfect spot to build his dream.
“The Motor Club was something I’ve always wanted to do. A self-service garage is an idea I’ve been kicking around since college,” he tells me. Now he’s going on fifty years old and The Motor Club is finally a reality.
The driving force behind the garage was finding a way to put an end to people being a guest in someone else’s auto shop. No more borrowing tools or leaving your car at a friend’s shop. “You have your own place,” Cobb explains. “Everybody needs a place to call their own. And The Motor Club is that place.”
Cobb enlisted Dave Dear, his friend since grade school, for help transforming this scrap yard into a garage that would draw automobile enthusiasts from all over Jackson. The pair worked for three months cleaning up and converting the building into a useable facility. When it was done, they filled the building with their tools and decorated it with memorabilia and a few couches. After pooling a lifetime’s collection of auto paraphernalia, they only had to purchase a car lift to complete their shop.
With The Motor Club Dave and Cobb have exploited a niche in the Jackson car culture. Dave says the two constantly had friends in their shops, using and borrowing tools or leaving their cars for long periods of time. Additionally, most suburban neighborhoods won’t let residents park non-running cars or trailers in the street or the yard. “These are not problems for our members,” Cobb says. He quickly adds, “With The Motor Club you’ll never be a guest in someone else’s shop. You’ve got your own place here.”
Dave goes on, “This is not just long-term storage for your extra vehicle. It’s a place where you can tinker with it when you have time. And you can work on anything from polishing the wheels to a full restoration. Another benefit of membership is the deep pool of shared knowledge across club members. For instance, if you’re rebuilding a transmission but don’t know much about it, there’s a good chance someone else will and can help you.”
In May, The Motor Club opened its doors to the gearheads and auto enthusiasts of the Jackson metro area. Cobb sums up the club, saying, “It’s a lounge, a restoration center, a paint shop, and more. I wanted to create an all-inclusive environment, something that could be all things to all people and all under one roof. If you’re working on anything with a motor--cars, bikes, whatever, it’s for you.”
The Motor Club is located just north of West County Line Road in north Jackson. And for $295 per month members receive full access to all amenities. That includes secure indoor parking, a lift service shop in their short-term work building, an extended service building set up for body work and painting, outdoor storage for trailers and boats, and a lounge area for relaxing with other members.
The Motor Club prides itself on filling a variety of different needs. Even someone like Cobb who’s always had his own shop, needs a spot like The Motor Club. He explains, “I’ve always needed a place for my trailer. But there’s also a camaraderie that a place like The Club brings. It’s a place to hang out with like minds. It’s really no different than a deer camp or a golf club.” The social environment is a huge component of the appeal and TMC hosts monthly gatherings, including cookouts and movie nights to bring members together.
The Motor Club is a completely self-service operation. Members come and go anytime they please and the area is fenced and fully secure. Cobb clarifies, “You’re paying for rental space that you can access 24 hours a day. You can come out late at night. If you work all day and prefer to come out for a few hours after dinner, it’s here. At any given time, you’ll find someone at the club. Either working on a project, cleaning something, driving something, welding, building, or maybe just watching TV.”
Greg Wolff, Madison resident and Motor Club member, is a self-described computer geekandhas known Cobb since 1998. Greg has a shop at his home, but his six other cars keep it filled. He recently bought a 1969 Corvette in need of paint and interior work. The Motor Club, with their lift and paint room--resources he lacks at home--is a perfect place to work on his new car.
Plus, at The Motor Club he can always count on an extra pair of hands to pitch in. “There’s always someone there to help out with tasks that are hard to do at home by yourself,” he says.
“Beyond that, it’s a place to hang out with other car people. The Club is a good way to meet people with similar interests. You can go to shows and cruise-ins, but most of those are just collectors, not people who work on and build cars.”
Member Jack Cameron is a vice president of sales for an automotive parts company. He was born and raised in Jackson and moved back to the area a few years ago. Jack now lives in a gated community with a yard that lacks space for the cars and campers that go along with his hobby.
He finds himself at The Motor Club just about every weekend, whether he’s dropping off parts or just tinkering around. He uses the club to store a camper and to work on a handful of other projects in progress including a vintage scooter, a 1959 car and 1923 Ford hot rod. For him a quick trip to the club has a way of turning into a much longer visit. Recently, Jack stopped in to drop off some parts and ended up working on his scooter for about 4 hours, listening to music and working by himself.
After a few months in business, Dave and Cobb are still tinkering with the model. Cobb is excited about how far they have come and where they can go from here. “Everything we predicted would happen, happened. Every expectation has been exceeded.”
“Going forward,” Dave says, “We’re looking to smooth out operation, to be more cost efficient and to make sure our decisions benefit everyone in the club.” One thing he’s sure about, “There’s nothing like it in Mississippi. The club really speaks for itself. And people either get it or they don’t.”