By Mack Hogan, staff writer
The Northeastern University Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) took to Boston Common on Sunday, Sept. 26, for the fifth annual Boston Cup classic car show.
The show featured dozens of automobiles, ranging from million-dollar hypercars such as the Ferrari LaFerrari to motoring history icons like the original Aston Martin DB5 of James Bond fame. Outside of the center ring of high-dollar exotics and classics, automotive organizations set up booths and displays. Among them were Bentley, Boston Honda Dealers and Northeastern Baja SAE.
“A Northeastern graduate is the organizer for this event,” said Kienan Mooney, a third-year computer engineering student and member of the Baja team. “One of the kids on the team, a business major, takes care of our outreach stuff and found this opportunity for us.”
Their car, a single-seater tube-framed vehicle that resembles a dune buggy, was present at the show and coated in stickers from the team’s various sponsors. And, while show attendees weren’t allowed to touch the rare and priceless vehicles in the inner circle, they were encouraged to touch and get up close with the Baja car as part of the team’s marketing strategy.
“We’re here to get sponsors and exposure,” Chris Schon, a third-year mechanical engineering major and one of the leaders of the Baja team, said. “There’s a competition in California this year and we’re trying to raise funds for that. It’s something like a 40 hour-drive.”
To avoid making the grueling trip in a Northeastern van, Baja car in tow, Schon says they’re raising money to fly to California and crate the car for cross-country shipping. While the university provides a workspace and the use of vans, funding shortcomings force the team to be a mostly sponsor-driven organization.
As evidenced by the amount of marketing on the car, so far the team has been relatively successful in recruiting companies for sponsors. Bose, an audio equipment company, and Instron, a material-testing corporation, are the team’s “platinum” sponsors. While the team attended the Boston Cup to attract more high-dollar sponsors, they’re also trying to attract new members.
“We have a freshman event here,” Schon said. “What we do is we take them in groups and we show them everything at the show.”
Senior members, he said, lead groups of freshman around to get them excited about cars and motorsports. While most car shows limit themselves to classics or new cars, rather than both, the Boston Cup’s central ring of rare classics is surrounded by a variety of new cars from local dealerships owned by Herb Chambers, the event’s sponsor.
Albert Demurs, a freshman mechanical engineering major, was one of the freshman that came as part of the Baja team’s events. As a car enthusiast, Demurs says the event is what piqued his interest in the Baja SAE team.
“I like the combination between the old and the new cars,” Demurs said. “You have a [1958 Mercedes SL300] Gullwing over there and the Continental over here,” he said, gesturing to a 2016 Bentley behind him.
As the Northeastern Baja SAE team approaches their “build-season,” a time between the months of January and March in which the club effectively creates a car from scratch, they’re trying recruit as new members as possible. Extra hands will help ensure the build is completed on time.
The team will compete for fastest driver in a qualifying event at a track in Amherst, New Hampshire. There, those in attendance will be able to gain performance driving experience. Schon said this opportunity reflects why the team mostly consists of car enthusiasts, rather than engineers. So, Schon said, the Boston Cup is naturally the place the team wants to be.
“I’m a big car guy.” Demurs said, “So when they said there was a show I was like ‘yeah, that’s for me.’”
Photo by Alex Melagrano