Northern Illinois Regional Group #8

of the

Early Ford V-8 Club of America


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The Early Ford V-8 Club of America, an international organization, was formed in 1963 in San Leandro, California, dedicated to the restoration and preservation of 1932-1940 Fords.  In 1971 the Club expanded to include 1941-1948 Fords.  In 1982 there was full recognition of all Ford Motor Company vehicles built from 1932 through 1953, including Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, commercial vehicles, tractors, as well as other Ford powered vehicles built around the world.  Although the majority of these vehicles are powered by the legendary Ford "flathead" V-8 engine, Early Ford powered vehicles, 1932 through 1953, include 4, 6, 8 and 12 cylinder engines built by the Ford Motor Company.

There are over 9,000 Early Ford V-8 Club members and 125 active regional groups world-wide.  The Club typically holds three National Meets in the U.S. each year (Western, Central & Eastern), except every fifth year a Grand National Meet is held, usually in Dearborn, Michigan. The club publishes an award winning bi-monthly magazine, The V-8 Times, one of the best car club magazines anywhere.

History of Northern Illinois Regional Group #8

Robert Brandmiller of Crystal Lake founded the Northern Illinois Regional Group in 1967.   The charter was issued July 23, 1967, making NIRG the eighth regional group (a numbering error initially caused the charter to be #7).  NIRG was first listed in the V-8 Times magazine in the July-August 1967 issue.  It is believed that the charter members were:  Robert Brandmiller, Leonard O’Conner of West Chicago, Robert Mengler of Cicero, Eldon Chewning of Crystal Lake, Arlen Fowler of Crystal Lake, and Frank Guzzo of Chicago.  Other early members were: Ron Dopke, James Wiley, John Sarena, Leroy Deneau, George Campau, Robert Johnson, E.L. McElroy and Dr. W.C. Schuessler. 

Initial meetings were held at the Brandmiller home.  Monthly meetings were held throughout the Chicagoland area at member’s homes, business offices, etc. until settling in for one year at Northern Illinois Gas Company in Naperville where another early member, E.L. McElroy, worked.  Eventually the meetings were held at Hewlett-Packard on Howard Street in Skokie, where Ron Dopke worked, and were held there until October 1976 when the company moved to their new building in Rolling Meadows.  The club met there for almost two years, and then in August 1978 came a series of meeting places until Ray Tognarelli acquired the Bensenville Town Hall basement meeting room.  In June 1982 the club meetings were moved to the Wheeling Township Building in Arlington Heights, at the suggestion of Earl Heintz, where they are still being held.

An annual picnic and a Christmas Party were made a part of club life right at the start, and this has carried down to the present, except the Christmas Party was changed to an Installation Banquet for incoming officers.  Len O’Conner was very active in the club and was club president on various occasions.  The annual picnic was held at Jack Groot’s farm west of St. Charles from 1970 through 1980, and the club was shocked by the sudden death of Jack on May 4, 1981.  Charter member Bob Mengler passed away on August 30, 1984, and charter member Len O’Conner passed away on April 23, 1986.  We are in debt to these early members who kept the club going through the good times and the bad times. 

The first newsletter was in February 1969 and was issued by Mr. Deneau.  Early newsletters were not issued each month but as club activities dictated.  Ron Dopke was elected secretary in September 1968 and in 1969 became editor of the club newsletter until June 1978 when Diane Wrobel assumed the job.  Diane continued as editor through December 2005; Ken and Carolyn Bounds served as edtiors from January 2006 through August 2018.  Both Ron and Diane were made lifetime members in recognition of their years of service to the club.  The newsletter was renamed Road Chatter in June 1979, the same month that the Early Ford V-8 Club newsletter contest was announced.  Road Chatter has won numerous awards in the contest, including eight first place awards.  Road Chatter has also received Golden Quill Awards from the editors of Old Cars Weekly for nine years.

In 1986 the Northern Illinois Regional Group hosted the Central National Meet, "V-8ing Joy in Northern Illinois", at the Pheasant Run resort in St. Charles, Illinois.  After the sudden death of meet chairman Barry Jacksier on August 15, 1985, Marty Duling took over as chairman.  Marty was awarded a life membership in the NIRG for his outstanding efforts in organizing a successful meet.

In 2014 the Northern Illinois Regional Group hosted the Central National Meet in the heart of the Land of Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois.  The meet drew members from all over North America as the group celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the 1939 Ford and the introduction of the Mercury brand.

In addition to Ron, Diane, and Marty (deceased), Jack Groot (deceased), Bob Mengler (deceased), Chester Lawrence (deceased), Earl Heintz (deceased), Ken Bounds, Dan Pudelek, Tom O'Donnell, and Ron Blum were awarded lifetime memberships for their longtime contributions to the club.

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Last Modified: October 27, 2023