Joanne and Brando Pistorius at the outset of their round-trip journey from Tampa, Florida, to the 2010 RI Convention in Montréal,Québec, Canada in their 1930 Packard. Photo courtesy Joanne Pistorius
Rotarian Joanne Pistorius found a stylish way to travel to the 2010 RI Convention in Montréal, Québec, Canada, in June.
Pistorius, a member of the Rotary Club of Tampa Hyde Park, Florida, USA, and her husband, Brando, drove their vintage 1930 Packard from Tampa to Montréal as part of a three-week, 4,000-mile round-trip journey in late June and early July.
"So many people we met did not know what Rotary International does, and we were able to share that with them," says Pistorius, president of the North American chapter of the Antique, Classic, and Historic Automobile World Fellowship of Rotarians. "It was an exceptional PR opportunity and a chance to stop off at Rotary clubs along the way for a meal and a make-up, and to talk about the fellowship.
"We met some of the friendliest people on earth and saw the most beautiful parts of America," she adds. "The great thing about doing a Rotary make-up is you are treated like royalty wherever you go."
Pistorius's husband has been fixing up antique cars since his youth in South Africa. After the couple met and married in Tampa 10 years ago, they started their own real estate company and traveled extensively to antique car shows as a hobby. When the real estate market went soft, the couple turned Brando's habit of buying, restoring, and selling a "project" car each year into a more substantial income generator.
A couple of years ago, Pistorius discovered the automobile fellowship and was recruited to reorganize the North American chapter. She dreamed up the idea of driving the Packard to the convention to promote Rotary and the fellowship.
Rotary club visits
"Some of our antique car friends thought the idea was crazy," Pistorius notes. "But cars are meant to be driven. This car drove so fantastically for an older car. There's a reason it was the car of choice for Al Capone."
The summer heat, which exceeded 100 degrees in Florida, proved a major challenge. The couple rigged up frozen water bottles and a small fan blowing across an ice chest for relief. "It looks like a prototype air conditioner from the Flintstones," Pistorius wrote in a blog about the trip.
The couple stopped at seven Rotary clubs in all: the Rotary clubs of Hilton Head Island, Hilton Head Island-Van Landingham, and Georgetown, South Carolina; Princess Anne at Town Center (Virginia Beach), Virginia; Camden-Wyoming and Smyrna-Clayton, Delaware; and Middleburgh, New York. Press releases were sent out to local media, generating publicity for the clubs.
In Montréal, Pistorius helped at the fellowship's booth and attended several events. The car was a showstopper. "It got a lot of attention," she recalls. "Afterward, we would hear from people who said, 'I took this picture of this great car at the convention,' and it would be our Packard."
On their return trip, the couple attended the Antique Automobile Club of America's show in Louisville, Kentucky. A chance encounter with the club's president in Virginia Beach had earned them an invitation. "We did a lot of PR for Rotary at the car show too," Pistorius says.
The North American chapter is planning to have members from all over the United States drive their cars to the 2011 RI Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana . Pistorius says there are also tentative plans to have an antique car be part of the fellowship's booth.
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