By on April 17, 2017

Cars & Coffee; St. Pete, Florida

Ever since I was a lad, growing up maturing getting older in a community of about 1,200 souls and 90 minutes from any sort of car dealership, I’ve been fascinated by cars. Grasping every copy of a car magazine that found its way into our rural mailbox with my grubby little hands, I’d read each one cover to cover until the pages fell out. I knew what each person in our town drove; when someone showed up with new wheels, I’d invariably appear in their driveway asking if I could look at it. That wouldn’t fly today. Good thing everyone knew each other.

Thanks to this dearth of youthful car-related entertainment, 30 years later I now find myself checking out every single car show I happen to find, quenching a long simmering thirst for cool wheels.

Some shows are organized to the nth degree: wait in line, pay the cover, and be herded into a dimly lit stadium like beef cattle for the privilege of seeing the same cars that were there last year. Others are vast, expansive outdoor affairs, stretching across lush grass fields dotted with colorful cars, looking for all the world like The Friendly Giant spilled his bag of Skittles.

Cars & Coffee is a new experience for me, particularly one where private owners show off supercars that cost several multiples what I paid for my house. The image above is from this past weekend at the duPont Registry in St. Pete, Florida. The mix of cars was an absolute riot: Lambo, Lambo, Ford GT, Ferrari, Lotus, Neon, Porsche … wait, what? Neon? Well, at least it’s a highly fettled SRT4.

That’s the thing: I don’t care what type of cars are at a show. If someone is enthusiastic about their ride, then that’s cool. Gold-plated investors who pay top dollar for a collector car, driving up the price for the rest of us, only to park the thing and hermetically seal it in a garage … not so much. The type of car doesn’t matter to me either. Domestic or import, it’s all attractive to me. And, yes, Tim, I do still care about horsepower.

Thinking of that, it was well into the ‘90s before one could count the number of import-brand cars on more than two hands. I’m serious. Up until then, the automotive landscape consisted of Cavaliers and Tempos, plus the scattered Grand Am. Trucks, which were as commonplace as white powder in a record producer’s office, were mostly battered examples from the Detroit Three. My father, naturally, drove a pea-green Renault Encore.

Y’know, if anyone had the temerity to suggest back then that two of the three manufacturers that provided 98 percent of the automobiles in our town would barely make it into the next century before wobbling into bankruptcy, they would’ve been laughed off the island. To suggest one of their saviors would be Italian probably would have earned a person an extended stay at The Waterford in our capital city. But that’s a QOTD for another time.

With all that in mind, what’s your favorite type of car show? Some sort of highly organized event full of high-priced exotics? A casual Sunday-morning gathering in an empty parking lot? Or something different?

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26 Comments on “QOTD: What’s Your Favorite Type of Car Show?...”

  • avatar

    “what’s your favorite type of car show?”

    Any one with pre-’65 cars and lots of ’em.

  • avatar

    Cars & coffee must be a uniquely American or at least urban thing, I’ve never heard of anything like that happening around here, at least not organized anyway. The principle of it just seems douchey to me.

    Around here and throughout most of Ontario it’s all about “cruise nights” which happen in the same place (usually a park or large parking lot) on a weeknight every week, pretty much every town or large rural township has at least one. Mostly frequented by old men and their 30s-60s cars who unload their lawn chairs, sit around for 3 hours, then go home, but anybody is welcome to most of them, other than the ones that have a pre-79 or pre-89 rule. Young people and their weirder or more recent cars have been coming to them more frequently it seems, and they’re welcomed with open arms to most cruise nights. It seems to be a lot more about classics and just relaxing and hanging out than cars and coffees, which seem like they’re mostly questionably modified cars of all ages and people showing off.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m concerned that “Old men” includes someone who is 30.

    • 0 avatar

      What you are describing is what the average “cars and coffee” event is other than those take place on a weekend morning. Sure there are some that people bring out the expensive an exotic but there are also lots of cars that are more ordinary, or at least were ordinary back in the day.

    • 0 avatar

      When I was younger, I would regularly attend cruise nights. At the time, I was DD’ing a big old Chrysler all summer, I had lots of time, and there was a local cruise night almost every night of the week, so it was easy to drop-in on my way home from work.

      Now I’m older, married, kids. I have to go home, get the car out of the garage, round up the kids, throw them in the car and head out. The two most local cruise nights to me have shut down. By the time I get to one of the further away ones, it’s dusk and the cruise night is ending. So I don’t bother trying.

      It could just be my local experience, but I believe that the cruise night scene is in decline. The guys that organize these events are getting old and nobody younger is coming in to take their place. One of the local cruise nights that shut down was huge, but the mall wanted to “change their image” and kicked them out of their parking lot. The replacement venue wasn’t nearly as good, so people stopped coming. In the second case, new stand-alone stores got built in the middle of the parking lot, so there was effectively no “back of the lot” area that could be cordoned off for the cruise night cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I may be misunderstanding something or maybe you are. Cars and Coffee, to me anyway, is just an early Saturday Cruise In. People wake up early, bring their cars, fancy or funky, pop the hood, and talk about them. What is wrong with that?

    • 0 avatar

      Love the local Cars & Coffee Richmond. Every other Saturday at the Regency Square Mall.

      What’s beautiful about it is that it covers EVERYTHING: Exotics, Boomers in the current generation Camaro/Mustang/Challenger/Charger, AACA class restored antiques (a ’22 Model T has been the oldest driven in, so far), hot rods – both modern and restorations of 50’s and 60’s, tuner cars, retro-rods, jacked up pickups, occasional military vehicles (m35 6×6’s aren’t rare), and then there’s the truly odd stuff.

      No not Ferraris or Lamborghinis, there’s always 5-6 every weekend. I’m talking the real oddities:

      1998 Volkswagen Beetle, Noble, Qvale Mangsta, 1934 Buick sedan restored pristinely on the outside, with an LS-1 drivetrain under the hood (grumble), Land Rover Defender, Meyers Manx, Fiberfab MG kit car, and lots more.

      The local fashionable dealers are starting to show up with a model or two: Alfa Romeo, BMW and Jaguar are represented pretty much every session.

      If you love cars, there’s something here for you to like.

      Two hours 0800-1000 before the mall opens. And I’ll be there this Saturday, weather permitting. There’s usually five or six of us from the local Fiat Abarth club every weekend.

  • avatar

    concours dlemons

  • avatar

    Perhaps it’s biased since I live in its birthplace, but the ‘traditional’/’original’ Cars&Coffee format. No flyers, barely-organized, bring-what-you-gots-as-long-as-it’s-cool. Name ANY corner of automobiledom, and chances are it’ll be there at one time or another. Brass cars, T-buckets, SEMA projects, racers, manufacturer concepts, 7-figure concours winners, barn-find Citroens… I can’t see how you could beat that.

  • avatar

    Definitely local cruise ins.

    I hate classic car shows because you see a bunch of lame old people driving the same lame old cars over and over again. “Hey here’s a 1955 Chevy. It looks just like every other 1955 chevy. Isn’t that cool” no no its not.

    I hate High end car shows because they’ve become taken over by professional shops using the cars to drum up demand for their custom business.

    I hate exotic car shows because its a bunch of rich people showing poor people what they could buy at the store if they are rich. A stock Lambo is cool, yes, but a car show of stock lambos is not as cool because you have to deal with the owners.

    This leaves “The Cruise In”, and it is by far the best kind of show.

    You see, you get a rusted out datsun 280zx that some minimum wage worker has put their blood, sweat, and tears into and you can see the passion dripping from his conversation.

    You see the Jeep driven by the 32 year old that finally bought his dream car, and he saved up for the light bar.

    You get the rich 23 year old who dumped a bunch of cash into his Acura Integra and did some crazy stuff you never saw before.

    You get the old 75 year old guy who is still driving his original z28 camaro that he stuck a supercharger on in his garage.

    You get the amateur race car driver showing up in his self-built fiero with a turbocharged V8 stuffed in the back.

    And you get the 16 year old dreamers who think its cool to wear out there tires in 327 miles by “stancing” it.

    And you get the Exotic car owner who bought it because he loves cars and always dreampt of it, out there talking to other enthusiasts about cars.

    There they are, all parked there together, with other car owners. Not something like a “cars and Coffee” where, at least around here, you have to “apply” to get into and spectators outnumber owners 5 to 1, but at a real cruise in, everyone there brought there own car, and it may be 16 year old passion on a 30 year old grand am, or it might be 75 year old passion on a 40 year old camaro, but its just full of passion.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      ‘Hey here’s a 1955 Chevy. It looks just like every other 1955 chevy. Isn’t that cool” no no its not….

      explain again how the lifted Jeep Wrangler is any different than the other lifted Jeep Wrangler?

      FYI…a lot of us with tri-5 chevy’s have a lot of wrench time just like off road guys, the import tuners etc.

      • 0 avatar

        I was referring more to the idea that I’d rather see one lifted jeep wrangler, one 1955 chevy, one import tuner, and one exotic all parked next to eachother than a “1955 section” of 25 near identical cars and their drivers nowhere to be found (largely because 3/4 are owned by restoration shops)

        I fully respect the classics, but at a cruise in- or car show- I’m more interested in talking with the drivers to learn about the wrench time and how they built it, and less interested in walking down lines of similar cars.

        in fact, You’ll see me at the hershey auto swap meet. That is a fun event. You’ll also find me at pigeon forge!

        • 0 avatar

          That’s nice. Enjoy your wrenchy priesthood.

          Give me endless *stock* ’50s and early ’60s cars; it’s not just about the artifacts but also the society and its industrial base that produced them: Peak America.

          • 0 avatar

            And those stock cars are what are becoming truly rare anymore. Keerist, I’ve run into teenage boys who think Pontiac’s total production was the Firebird and GTO.

    • 0 avatar

      What you’ve described is Cars & Coffee Richmond. You show up, driving what you own.

  • avatar

    The city of Golden, CO has a monthly “cruise night” that attracts a bunch of cool cars from all over the state – oldies, classics, resto-mods, exotics, survivors, new cars, junkers, you name it. They just do a whole “American Graffiti” style cruise all through the downtown area. Perfect way to spend a nice summer night in Colorado – catch a nice dinner, drink some brews, and just watch the cars as the sun goes down.

  • avatar

    As I said above, I used to frequent local cruise nights, but I can’t work those in anymore. Also, you wind up seeing most of the same cars every week at those events.

    I like large outdoor car shows which are usually annual events. Most of them are in a nice setting like a park, which is better for walking around and getting good photos versus a parking lot. They’re on a weekend, when I can plan ahead and travel further to attend. If the weather is good they attract a large assortment of cars up through the early 1970’s.

  • avatar


    whoops, wrong site…

  • avatar

    Whatever show that BMW shows up on is the one to go to. What a cool and unique car.

  • avatar

    There is a semi local to me Great Falls Va. Cars and Coffee (re: Katies’s Cars and Coffee) that offers a plethora of great and interesting cars. This is a rather affluent area and the choice of vehicles reflect it. However, I love seeing someone’s MkI Scirocco or other comparably lower budget vehicle parked right next to literally millions of dollars of Lamborghini/Ferrari models and no one cares. That is the joy of these shows. I was speaking to an owner of a very nice Gallardo and the Scirocco pulled up and parked next to his vehicle. Both he and I had a story of driving one when we were young and then spent the next 10 minutes looking at the VW and the owner’s tasteful upgrades. Events like this bring out the joy of the car culture.

  • avatar

    Pretty much none. Tried to check out what the younger crowd do and it’s just an opportunity for the social-media savvy organizers to promote their video production companies. They care more about their Instagram accounts and “creating a dialogue” than cars or bikes.

  • avatar

    Local “vintage car shows” which can have anything from 1930s Austins to 1970s Chevette HSRs or mk2 Escorts.

    “Cruises” tend to end up a bunch of chavs in a retail park at night spinning the wheels on old Corsas and “not quite correctly insured” ruined Skylines.

  • avatar

    Autocross is like a car show where you actually get to drive the cars.

    Car shows are just dreadfully boring.

  • avatar

    The paddock at any Historic Race.

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