For eight years Irvine’s Cars and Coffee has been responsible for keeping Southern California’s car culture from sleeping in on Saturdays. The weekly gathering, which almost always tapered off as early as eight in the morning, attracted all walks of motoring life—from the orthodontist and the Z06 he bought last Sunday to the college kid with the S2000 on green rims. Nearly all were welcomed—so long as whatever it was didn’t have four doors—which allowed the venue’s eclectic nature to grow stronger each week.
Until last December, when the several-hundred-car meet-up just outside of Ford Motor Company’s Orange County headquarters that’d drawn as many as 5,000 spectators in its final days outgrew the modest-sized parking lot shared by neighbors Mazda and Taco Bell, and, arguably, its welcome within the city. Overcrowding along with recent urban development throughout the once-commercial area meant that exhaust drones at six in the morning and the occasional burnout were no longer welcomed—even if some were being emanated from the likes of a pack of supercars you’d likely only otherwise encounter from behind a computer screen.
Like limited-run, 550hp Ford GTs, oft-never-seen Koenigsegg Ageras, quad-turbocharged Bugatti Veyrons, even Ferrari Enzos—seldom observed together on the same Saturday but nevertheless quintessential motor fodder for Cars and Coffee frequenters year round. Try hard enough and you can trace Cars and Coffee’s origins back to the early ’80s, where a small group of car-lovers routinely met up at a Huntington Beach donut shop. Ten years later and the crowd had grown, which led to a splinter group parting ways, resulting in what was arguably the first Cars and Coffee ever, held at Crystal Cove Promenade, just south of Newport Beach. Much like what’s happened at its Irvine location, though, Crystal Cove’s welcome eventually wore thin and the group was forced to move on. Right about now is when the generous souls at Ford’s Irvine-based public relations division offered up its own lot and the rest is history.
It wasn’t all exotics that spanned the parking stalls alongside Interstate 5 for those few hours each of those 410 weekends, though. Irvine’s C&C was a mecca for all sorts of special projects that ranged from classics from Volkswagen, Porsche, and BMW, for example—some still in their original condition—to Japanese sports cars like the RX-7, Supra, and NSX that’ve since been restored after a couple of decades’ worth of thorough batterings. Car clubs of all manner across Southern California also made their presence known nearly every Saturday, as did manufacturers who touted their latest debuts and concepts, most recently of which Honda did with its 2015 Fit and Nissan its 510 successor, the IDx.
Irvine’s Cars and Coffee wasn’t the elitist driver’s movement that you might think it was, either. Its final December 20 get-together proved as much, where builds like Bob McCoy’s ’74 C10 Stepside and Joe Magliato’s entirely custom ’35 Ford-based rat rod greeted visitors at dawn’s crack. McCoy, whose first Irvine C&C visit would also be his last, admits he’d planned on going for years, a confession many would make as they flooded the corporate complex, forcing organizers to cancel what was supposed to have been the event’s final showdown the following week. Magliato, on the other hand, has been showing up for years—as far back as when the event was in its infancy and held at its original location, starting in 2003. It took him more than a decade to deliver his own automotive creation, though, but by the show’s demise he’d finally reveal his latest build-up—Mad Hammer—which is based upon a Ford cab, an Oldsmobile 455 mill, and a whole lot of fab work. And like so many other creations that’ve debuted at Cars and Coffee, it had never been so much as test-driven before that final Saturday morning.
McCoy and Magliato weren’t the only ones to want to share in that last piece of Southern California planned camaraderie, which, according to event organizers, will in all likelihood conclude someplace else—just don’t expect it to be anyplace near Irvine. Indeed it is the end of an era, but there’s certainly more than enough interest to continue the tradition. Now the only question is, who will be the one to step up and put forth the effort required to pick things up again?
Words by Aaron Bonk
Photos by Keleen Hitzel