Tuesday night, 9 p.m. Hundreds of college students were on top of the parking structure, walking around countless cars no longer confined to marked parking spots. The security guard drove up, lights flashing. Three people walk casually nearby glancing over as the security guard opens the door and emerges from his car with… an enthusiastic “How you all doing tonight? Having a good time?”
This was not a reckless nighttime takeover event—quite the opposite. This was the “Finale Meet” for Rev@UCI, an automotive enthusiast club at University of California Irvine. The club hosts meets Tuesday nights throughout the academic year in various locations, often seeing hundreds of cars and attendees, and acting as a welcome respite for students from their studies and work. If you were looking for an indication that car culture is alive and well, this is more strong proof.
Perhaps the biggest testament to that statement is that this meet isn’t just for students. Each week, many of the attendees are the same ones we have seen at cars & coffee meets, SoCal Vintage, Legends of the Autobahn, and elsewhere. This might not have been by design, but it’s certainly mutually appreciated.
“Our club is intended to be inclusive to everyone,” Club President Thomas Wong explains. As a senior in college, Wong knows cars and knows BMWs, currently driving a Z3 M Coupe he acquired shortly after selling his E36 M3. Prior to that, he had an F31 Touring.“While we have more than 220 student members, the meets include locals, friends, friends of friends, alumni, and their friends. We have the meets to create community within UC Irvine and the surrounding area to build and find new relationships and friendships.”
He’s not just repeating a mission statement. I’ve been going to this meet periodically for a couple of years and have met a lot of new friends. It’s also been great to see genuine interest in cars from so many people. Last week, I took my 2002 tii and had three people tell me they had never seen one in real life. I was initially shocked and then realized the first 02 I ever saw was in my junior year in college, too.
Not all of the students and young alumni are seeing some cars for the first time. I’ve actually learned a few things from people at these meets, including, that it seems the taillight lenses on my 1973 2002tii are from a 1969 car. This is a car I’ve had at countless club and community events, but I learned that at Rev@UCI!
While recent graduates Jean Choi and Chris Lee were thrilled to see the 02, they each have an E46 M3 and both enjoy plenty of track time (autocross and actual track time) and know much more than I do about the innards of most cars. I met this awesome couple at one of my first Rev meets a couple of years back, when Choi was a club officer.
“I credit my love for cars hugely to PlayStation 2 Gran Turismo 4 and then to the UC Irvine Rev club for bringing it out of the screen into real life,” Choi says. “Some people ask, ‘You guys just… park your cars together… nothing else?’ when hearing about these meets. But the true charm of these student car club meets comes from the people you meet. These are the people who go to the car wash with you, who teach you how to drive manual, drag you to track events, save you off the side of the road, and get more excited than you do when you finally go buy that car you wanted, regardless of the make, model, or price. These people… absolutely priceless.”
She and Lee both take their cars to the track, although Jean is still putting her Corvette through its paces while looking forward to “the coveted E46 M3 track experience.” (Just to stir it up, Choi also said she is faster than Lee. Okay, no she didn’t—maybe.)
Another attendee often spotted at the track is 25-year-old Clement Kwong. He tries to make it out consistently, often bringing an E30 M3 to Rev@UCI, and regularly recruits new BMW CCA members there, too!
“It’s definitely a target event for me each week,” Kwong confirms. “It’s a good break from my law school studies to get out and socialize while you’re getting some food and talking cars. We rarely see E30 M3s there, so it’s nice to be able to share these cars that the students might not have come across very often. And at this meet, you don’t get haters. You feel comfortable bringing anything. You see Camaros, exotics, JDM RHD cars, modified Teslas, cars very much in process, even base level Honda Civics. There is no stigma there.”
Kwong has invited many people to the event including Moe Afani, a frequent Bring a Trailer seller. Afani first attended a meet in October and rarely misses one now. “Rev@UCI is an event specifically arranged by the young enthusiasts who share a passion for automotive engineering and fun in this region,” Afani says. “Everyone is so enthusiastic to one another and remains respectful and responsible. That’s what keeps this event growing each week. It’s also one of the only events I’ve been a part of where the hosting property encourages and welcomes us.”
That didn’t happen by accident, but it is humbling and inspiring that the college club has figured out what a lot of other meets have yet to solve—how to get acceptance, let alone support, from the host property. “When we first started in 2019, we would occasionally run into issues where we would be kicked out of the property without question,” Club President Wong recounts. “Many businesses might not always understand the complete situation, especially when seeing a group of modified cars and crowds around them. I figured I’d be proactive with Diamond Jamboree—our main location. I noticed they had a social media presence so whenever we hosted our events there, I would tag them and thank them.
“They started mentioning us in their own posts, leading me to personally thank them and praise their facility. Club Vice President Harman Sahai and I would stay late picking up any trash to make sure the property was left better than we found it. We have actually since met with their marketing department to share more insight into what we do. Now their property security guard comes up to help make sure it’s a safe environment rather than close it down.”
That might be one reason Jarrod Coleman brings his beautiful M2 to the meets. He has photographed countless meets and events, including work for BMW NA and the BMW Performance Center, but appreciates the safe, relaxed environment at Rev@UCI. “It’s always refreshing to come to these weeknight events,” Coleman says. “After a long day of work, it’s a great chance to have a nice chill evening meet that you can rely on for a good time with people you consider friends and almost family. The evening gives a different vibe and experience than many of the morning events and meets I attend. The enthusiasm from the students specifically is great to see. Many bring their own cars but are equally as interested in everything else the others brought, too.”
Beyond these meets, the club also hosts “learn to drive a manual” days, exposure to autocross and track experiences, canyon cruises, and more. There is a strict policy of no burnouts, donuts, or any displays. I’ve been at a couple of the meets when someone will start revving their engine and attendees will run over shouting to stop. Invariably, the person does stop, and usually apologizes.
“The meets are for people to build new bridges, to connect, to learn, to relax, to enjoy, to share, and to be able to see things they have never seen before,” Wong adds. “I’ve personally received many messages after events from attendees thanking me for a great evening or for giving them a place to call home. It has really opened my eyes to see how far a car meet can really make an impact.”
I’m impressed. I know I’ve heard this in other circumstances, but if this is future of automotive enthusiasm, we’re all going to be in really good hands.—Kyle van Hoften
[Photos courtesy Kyle van Hoften.]