Every Saturday, an otherwise unremarkable carpark in Irvine in outer Los Angeles becomes Mecca for car enthusiasts as it fills with an amazing array of rare, exotic and just plain cool vehicles.
You’d be hard pressed to find another place where week in, week out you’re guaranteed to see everything from Pebble Beach concours-winning 1950s Ferraris to classic American muscle cars to the latest McLarens and Lamborghinis.
The premise is called Cars and Coffee and the concept has been adopted around the world, including here in Australia. The recipe is simple: people who are into cars – of any make, model or era – meet every Saturday between 6am and 10am.
As the various groups of enthusiasts tell their circle of friends the reach of the group expands exponentially. This word-of-mouth approach means Cars and Coffee meets transcend specific scenes or styles of car appreciation, and the Irvine meet is a perfect demonstration of this.
Even in the week before SEMA, and as the pre-dawn weather starts to get a real bite in the US, the turnout is huge. Not wanting to miss a second of it, photographer Alastair and I make sure we’re at the carpark before 6am, as the sun creeps its way into the sky, but we’re astounded to find more than 20 cars already parked with their owners forming a decent line to get coffee or a doughnut.
Watching the flow of arrivals and departures, some people come for a few minutes, see what they need to see then head off again, while others hang around all morning, catching up with friends and talking shop to anyone who’ll listen.
The cops show up, but rather than defecting or fining anyone, they check out the cars and allow attendees plenty of latitude to make a bit of noise when the cars begin to depart, which is just as well as some of these cars make plenty of noise!
You’re unlikely to see the same set of cars two weeks in a row – hell, I couldn’t even find cars I’d seen drive in 30 minutes before when I tried to track them down.
You also can’t nail the majority of cars down to one particular style: old and new exotics, street rods, hot rods, muscle cars, art deco wonders, drag cars, sports cars, restored museum pieces, modified track beasts, street machines, NASCAR beasts – all are well represented.
And just when you need a break from the new-age tin, restored classics like a 1958 Chrysler New Yorker keep the mix turning over. On top of the plethora of homegrown classics, there are plenty of local contemporary supercars, like one rather mean Ford GT in red.
Outwardly stock, a Whipple supercharger, significantly larger than the stock unit, glistening among its space frame, implying a heavily breathed-on 5.4-litre V8.
As for favourites? Harder to pick than a broken nose. Personally, I love the super-rare ‘lightweight’ 1963 Ford Galaxie built for NASCAR homologation and packing a factory 427 cubic-inch (7.0-litre) V8; the Ferrari Superamerica; and the beautiful reproduction of a Hakosuka GT-R Skyline sitting next to a dead-stock R33 GT-R.
But I couldn’t forget BBi’s epic 400km/h hard-tuned 996 Turbo on carbonfibre wheels and slicks; or the incfedibly rare, super-fast ’63 Pontiac Catalina Super Duty.
It’s car perve heaven, all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. If you ever find yourself in the City of Angels on Saturday, set the alarm early and head to this unremarkable carpark in Irvine.