June 24, 2022
Montreal Exclusive Car Club - Interview with Sam Madi
Montreal Exclusive Car Club is Quebec’s largest exotic automotive club, with over 400 members. It was founded in 2010 by Sam Madi and two friends who weren’t seeking much more than a man cave, but it grew to become a celebrated foundation for the Montreal car community, organising track days and meetups throughout the year, and committing to an annual food and toy drive; where thousands of charitable boxes are personally delivered by Sam and his cohort on Christmas Eve in one of Montreal’s poorest boroughs.
Rose: Sam you have a great sense of humour. I love the movie dubs over your clips of luxury cars on your instagram. I had a feeling you were a bit of a rebel because I saw that you were supporting the trucker’s convoy.
S: Hell ya, of course. We went to Ottawa and had a presence there. I wanted to encourage them because I saw that the truckers were the only people who were standing up for us Canadians who had some honest questions about how things were being handled.
R: Yeah, that really restored my faith in Canadians.
S: Sorry Rose, just one second I have to step away for a minute…
I’m customising a Harley and it was supposed to get here earlier before you called so I went to check on what’s happening and it turns out they haven’t even started on it.
R: What is your background?
S: I’m from Lebanon.
R: Tell me about your club, and about the scene there. When I was living in Montreal for university I was sort of a skater girl; I didn’t know any luxury car owners that’s for sure.
S: There’s a great scene here. I started the biggest exotic car club in Quebec, we formed in 2010. Back then it was just a group of guys, we all had a passion for cars and I thought maybe instead of going to the clubs and getting ourselves into trouble, we could start something useful with this interest. So it started with three guys and now I have over 400 members.
Rose: Is there a race track that you prefer in Quebec?
Sam: Yeah, there’s a few racetracks. The most famous one we have in Quebec is the Circuit Mont-Tremblant which is really gorgeous. Then there’s the F1 that happens on the East Saint Lawrence in downtown Montreal, that’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. I do love that Mont-Tremblant track, though. You have uphills, downhills, blind corners, a nice straight… the only issue we have on that track is that now we have a sound limitation.
R: Ah yes, we have a new track here in Southern Alberta built by Tilke for Rocky Mountain Motorsports, and the sound mitigation compliance they had to deal with was pretty extreme.
S: So we started by giving rides to kids, then we’d have track days, we’d do charity events. The issue I always had with charities was that often when you give money to a foundation or charity; if you do your research and find out how much money actually goes to the people who need it, it’s pretty pathetic. So I told the guys, let’s do it together. So, on Christmas I collect money from all of my members and whoever else wants to participate. We rent a truck, and I have an arrangement with a supermarket. They provide us with a box for each family that’s $250 worth of food, and then I buy gifts for the children with the donations, and we go door to door on the day before Christmas.
R: Wow, that’s so great, and so needed. I think everybody has it in their heart to want to help their community, but the disconnect that we’re all noticing between our government and the actual people has grown so vast, that we all need to do more of that kind of thing, taking things into our own hands and working in smaller concentrations to spread that goodwill.
S: Yeah, a lot of people want to help. But you need that trigger. This is where social media helps a lot because people can see a movement start to grow and that wakes up the desire in their hearts to help, which is great. We raise on average a bit over $20,000 dollars. This year we had 58 families, something like 120 kids.
R: How do you choose the beneficiaries?
S: In Montreal there’s a foundation that works in a very poor area. That foundation’s primary work is to help families in need that don’t have money for food, clothing, paying their bills, etc. So I work with the foundation, and with the permission of the families they provide me with a list of the people who are the most in need. They include how many kids they have, how old the kids are, and the day before Christmas we go and visit them. So it’s a lot of work, but every time I do it there’s always so many people that want to come and help, it’s so amazing. I take 100% of my members’ donations and go and buy gifts with that money. That’s what is so nice about it - everyone involved can see where their donation starts and where it ends, without anybody making a commission or a cut.
R: So if somebody wants to help you with it they can find you on instagram?
S: Yeah, I’m @montreal_exclusive and they can come and help. It’s so exciting when we show up at Toys R Us with all the cash and 10 or 12 carts full of gifts. It’s amazing.
R: What originally inspired you to start the charity?
S: A buddy of mine owns a jewellery store. A couple of years ago, a bit before Christmas he came to my house and we were sitting down smoking a hookah and we were talking about life and everything and he was talking about a radio show he had been listening to, with a famous journalist from Quebec who was interviewing people who can’t pay their bills, or can’t buy food, and were struggling for various reasons, and we just thought - there’s so many of these people out there, why don’t we do something about it.
R: What neighbourhood are you talking about if I may ask?
S: Ville Saint-Pierre and Lachine. I wish we could help more, go to more neighbourhoods. In reality it’s become a lot for me to handle, so this year I got more help. We need to coordinate with the supermarket, choose what is in each one of the boxes, communicate with the foundation, coordinate with the donors and track the money carefully... so it’s a lot of work, and running my business at the same time, it can get challenging.
R: Tell me about your business.
S: I used to work in the medical field. Most of my career I was in sales - I was working for these big corporations selling medical equipment. I was getting close to an age where I wanted to do something for myself. I had begun thinking it would be nice to establish something in the automotive industry. Eventually the opportunity presented itself. My friend told me of a nice detailing shop that came up for sale on the south shore of Montreal, and I jumped. About a month later, my buddy who runs the Lamborghini Montreal dealership alerted me that their detailing department head was leaving. So I took that on as well, and instead of starting one business full force I started two at once. I went from prepping the cars for two dealers to prepping the cars for about 12 of them. My sales experience helped a lot. You have to be able to sit down with a VP, a sales rep, or a mechanic, and manage to speak everybody’s language. I’ve been developing a lot, maintaining good relationships, but we have a lot of challenges in the market today, especially when it comes to labour and employees. There’s a big shortage for everyone and of course Covid didn’t help. But one day at a time. We keep pushin’.
R: I’m glad to hear you talk about your entrepreneurial experiences because going through Covid caused a transformation in my thinking. When I started my MBA I wanted to get into a corporate gig, and have that stability and security because the world of freelance photography felt a little risky to me. But going through Covid I became disillusioned with the whole system. Not just the government but how these corporations all seem to be captured.
S: The last two years have opened our eyes to so much. Growing up I was the kind of kid, you asked me to do something, you had to give me a reason. You had to explain it to me. I hated being questioned in my thought process and I hated being told what to do. I’m stubborn like a bull.
R: What’s your favourite automaker for racing?
S: It’s a toss up between Porsche and Lamborghini. The only challenge we have with the Lambo is we’re not allowed to race them, because they’re too loud for the sound restrictions at the track.
R: Oh that’s too bad. I would go Lamborghini all day. That’s my Italian bias.
S: I’m sitting in one right now, I’m a happy camper. It’s a Huracan Evo.
R: Have you ever been in a Bugatti Veyron?
Sam: I have.
R: I found it wild hearing that they cost more to make than the MSRP.
S: That’s the case with a few exotics. It’s amazing what manufacturers are willing to do to give us these machines. Over 100 years of manufacturing, engineering, and design brought us vehicles like that… they’re constantly striving to reach perfection. I love the reaction on kid’s faces when a car like that drives by. I went to Dairy Queen with my four year old son last weekend. There were two boys there eating ice cream with their grandparents and the grandparents commented on my Huracan. They asked if it would be ok if the kids took a picture with the car. I said; “No it wouldn’t be ok, they have to sit in it, they have to start it, and they have to rev it.” So the kid gets in the car and starts it and I tell him to rev it a little bit.. and his face and eyes, the way they opened, it reminds me of when I was a kid. I know what it does - kids, they don’t care how much something costs. What they care about is the passion, the excitement, the look, the sound, the feel, that emotion that you get when you see a car like this… that’s what it’s all about, that’s pure. That’s what we live for.