Members of the Carolina Automotive Club gathered outside the Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant at 2154 S. Beltline Blvd. recently for its weekly Tuesday meeting.  (Photos by Dylan Ortuno)

Car enthusiasts of all backgrounds come together to share knowledge and enjoy each other’s company at USC’s Carolina Automotive Club.

What about cars? Well, everything, really.

“It’s all about car-related stuff in Columbia,” club President Dylan Yuknis said. “We have a lot of people here that race their cars, doing (four-wheel) autocross on smaller tracks. Some people just come out to meet and talk about cars. Others modify their cars. And others just like watching races.”

Yuknis is one of the more experienced members, having been part of the club for three years now. Racing was his entry into car enthusiasm.

“I do autocross,” Yuknis said. “I’ll go up and do mountain runs or go and have fun driving through back roads.”

Member Ian Ross also got into car enthusiasm as a result of racing, though he got into a much different style.

“I got into cars after I got done (with) go-karting,” Ross said. “I did a lot of go-karting as a kid.” 

After he was done with go-karting, his passion hit the road with the arrival of a manual Toyota Tacoma with a manual handbrake.

“That was my dad’s truck,” Ross said. “I learned how to drift on that. … I basically turned my backyard into a dirt drift-track.”

Outside of racing, car modification brought some members to the club.

“Right after high school, I started modding my car,” said Curtis Bales, whose current car — including its multi-colored under lighting — shows his passion for modification.

“It’s a 2016 Honda Civic,” Bales said. “I’ve got a catless downpipe, a Mishimoto intake, and a two-step performance stage-one tune. If I’ve got my math right, I’m pushing anywhere from 230 to 250 horsepower. I’ve got some Pirelli P Zero tires on it, and that’s about it.”

Randall Raymond’s passion focused on one particular type of car.

“I’m into Japanese cars, specifically older Mazdas,” he said. “They have a special rotary engine, which is really unique to them, and I really find it fascinating.”

Members said that being around other car enthusiasts, despite their varied interests, has kept them in the club.

“It’s really an open group,” Anthony Cammarata said. “Everyone has literally any type of car you can think of, and no one has anything too crazy, ’cause we’re all broke college students.”

Benjamin Ascher said another positive of the group is that it doesn’t require members to have a car to join.

“I know a lot of people live farther away and … have to fly back and forth between here and their home,” Ascher said. “People who love cars can still come out because it’s a common hobby between all of us.”

Many members said a recent event was a particularly good one.

“My favorite memory was our mountain weekend,” Yuknis said. “We go up to the road called the Tail of the Dragon, and we kinda just cruise up there, have fun driving on the road, make memories, and just enjoy the journey.”

Members said outside of cars, friendship is a key part of the group.

“We get together and study sometimes,” Ross said. “We usually end up cutting up most of the time. But it’s always fun and good times.”

The club meets once a week, at 8 p.m., at the car-themed Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant on 2154 S. Beltline Blvd.

Carolina Automotive Club president Dylan Yuknis’s 1996 Mazda Miata with its hood popped

Carolina Automotive Club member Curtis Bales’ 2016 Honda Civic. Its tires and under lights are examples of how Bale has modified the car.

Carolina Automotive Club members’ cars parked in the Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant parking lot