Lookin’ for an oasis filled w/ bold cars in NYC? Of course u were — but take a deep breath ’cause u are about to meet CLASSIC CAR CLUB, a PVT club where design experience meets a passion for wheels.
Founded in 2005 in London, CCC made it to New York w/ a little help from Marc Thorpe’s ideas.
As a member himself, Thorpe designed the place in a way that makes u feel like u left town nd is now livin’ a whole new adventure next to classic cars. In our stop there, we just had to sit down & chat w/ Marc himself & Michael Prichinello, one of the guys who took CCC to the US in the first place.
Marc Thorpe’s told us all about his inspo for the club, check it out👇.
Your design studio is very multidisciplinary, connecting all kinds of design, from architecture to products and retail. Why is that?
Everything, everything & everything is architecture. There’s no difference for me between a building, a piece of furniture or a small product. It’s all the same. It’s just a shift in scale.
It also harks back to the tradition of studying in Italy, which is where I’m mostly rooted. My training is Italian and has a more European approach, which is when you study architecture and translate your studies into different fields or fast design. Using Gianfranco Ferre as an example of a fashion designer who studied architecture as well, that’s where I got into it with that sort of approach of doing everything.
What’s your usual flow when creating designs?
You’re not designing a building. You’re not designing the product. You’re not designing furniture. You’re telling a story. That’s what you’re doing. So you have to find a narrative collaboratively. What I mean by collaboratively is not just the connection to the clients, it’s a question of being open to contexts, the environment, and history. Part of the storytelling process is also the material. You have to be able to digest it, synthesize it and then translate and manifest it into a work of design.
Classic Car Club looks like a whole other universe right next door to non-stop city. What was the inspiration for creating this place?
The concept is an oasis, considering that it’s on the water. Living in New York City is interesting, you’re surrounded by water, but most people don’t focus or pay attention to the fact that you’re surrounded by it. In Venice, you’re surrounded by water. It’s very present. Here, you’ve got tons of water, but you’re not there.
U could also talk about that the design approach was the ultimate speakeasy. It has roots back in the U.S. during prohibition w/ little bars that were underground and secret societies where people would go to. This location almost dictated a very private, secret location where people could come to if they knew about it, if they have access to it.
Did you already have a thing for cars or has it come up during the project?
We also designed the original club in Soho & I was very much of a car person since I was younger. My first inspirations as a designer were ppl like Tonino, w/ his style house Lamborghini, and in Pininfarina style house of Ferrari. So that was what got me in the direction of studying design. Then when CCC first opened up, it was the cars that drew me in. It was just mutual.
U used a lot of leather furniture in this project. What does it have to do w/ the club?
In the club we wanted to go with very robust materials, natural ones, such as steel, concrete, wood & leather. Honest materials. Strong materials. While the club was being designed, I was spending a lot of time in Central and South America, so there was a big influence in terms of what’s happening architecturally there. So I started focusing on the natural qualities and honesty of the materials.
A lot of the materials that you’ll find in the club are also used in the production of cars, especially the classics. So that’s really where a lot of that inspiration came from. It’s a fusion of a lot of different things coming together.
Do u also use materials like lthr in other projects?
Yes, absolutely. It’s really about context, such as where you are, who you are with and what the project represents. The durability to leather communicates time as well. W/ the Car Club, we wanted it to add extra layers of history and stories to it that make it feel richer. Something similar to when you go see a cold classic car, you see the leather in a Ferrari that’s from the 1960s. It communicates a story in history and gives it character.
When talking about storytelling & character, we def think ‘bout them. The club is an experience that joins wheel fanatics and makes u wanna stay for more & more rides.
That being said, the headquarters owner in NY, Michael Prichinello, shared some interesting words about the place and its history, from his inspiration to his experience. 📣
CCC opened in London in 1995. What made u be apart of it in NY w/ Zac Moseley and Phil Kavanagh?
It was started by Phil and his brother. They started this club that was just based on putting ordinary people in extraordinary cars.
Phil grew up around post war London & they’d beat his great mustangs & stuff that the American soldiers left behind. It just kind of struck him. He always wanted to be a part of the car culture in America. He was looking for someone to help from a marketing perspective and a friend that we both had in common introduced me as the marketing guy. I was 29 at the time. I just always loved cars. But I hadn’t ever lived that passion yet.
What drew me to it was the democratization of a good time. If you love cars, there are different ways of enjoying them. Some people collect them and lock them away. I look at cars like an escape vehicle. It’s very hard to escape the gravity of New York City. Then the idea of being able to offer extraordinary cars to people and make their lives more adventurous just clicked with me instantly and I could be a part of it.
& who is the community that comes here?
The community at the Classic Car Club is wildly diverse. Typically, you would go to a private club or a particular social hot spot and usually those rooms look very similar.
If u come here @ night, let’s say on a Thursday night, u will see young men & women, you’ll see older people. You see all ranges of culture, gays, straights, everything, ever since the first night we opened. Ppl from different walks of life come together because they share one thing: an interest in cars. The members get to know each other, do business together and start to do their trips and rallies and it becomes this extended NY network.
What is the best thing about vintage cars?
The most fascinating thing about vintage cars is that they’re machines. You have to treat it like it’s a chainsaw and a printing press all at the same time. It will kill you if you don’t respect it. If u respect it, u have such a fantastic connection to a machine. You feel like you’re controlling it. For me, driving a classic sports car tells you a little bit about yourself, what you’re capable of. It’s a sport. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
Also, the thing about classic cars is they’re gorgeous. They’re not constrained by a tremendous amount of safety requirements like modern cars are. I enjoy it when you arrive somewhere, a gas station, whatever, and you just made somebody’s day, especially kids. So whenever I’m in one of our cars & there are kids around, I’d take the key out of the ignition and go, “get in!” Then I start it up for them and everything. I had an experience like that, which is probably why I’m here.
What makes a classic car be a Classic Club car?
When we first started in 2005, Zac and I thought, “OK, well, there are all these cars that should be in our fleet, but where do we draw the line?” The first fleet was dictated by all the cars that Zac and I had as posters in our bedroom as kids. Then we went on and bought all those cars because we thought these are the ones that made us passionate. Since 2005, we’ve learned about a rough number of about 375 cars in the fleet. We’re always buying. The fleet is always changing, it’s a living museum.
Do you think the interior details of the car are important to the driving experience?
The tactile experience of driving a car is really important. It’s the first thing when we get a new car. It’s always the place where you have a connection to the car. When you’re sitting in it… Do you feel special? I like to sell a car that begs someone to fall in love with it. We had an old Mercedes and the floor mats were made out of like rattan, bamboo and the seats were made of this gorgeous leather that you don’t run into anymore & all that feels special.
Quick question to wrap it up: what is that one unique thing you get from joining Classic Car Club?
The one unique thing I get it from joining the car club is a rush. You know, I could come here and have a burger, certainly, but I could also rally through the Dolomites, I could join a motorcycle race team. I could be on the automotive race team. And I get to do it with a couple of thousand members who have the same interests as me. And those interests are just to sometimes get off of this island and go do something physical and extreme and live a life. That’s not an Instagram account. It’s real. It’s a real activity. It’s real. It’s not a photo in a pose, but it is real. You learn a lot. You learn a lot about yourself. You remember the car. Of course, we will push you as far as you want to go.