For many American guys, sleeping in on a Saturday is never an option if the weather is good. Yard work can wait, the grille isn’t going anywhere, and since the game doesn’t come on until mid-afternoon, those first four hours of the day are meant for one thing, and one thing only: Cars and Coffee.
What originally started as a small weekly, early-morning meet in Irvine, California has turned into a nationwide phenomenon. While the original event is now officially labeled as defunct by Road & Track, countless cities across America have jumped in to fill its place. What makes Cars and Coffee (C&C for short) so attractive is that it isn’t some car club where you have to be a member to attend, you don’t have to drive a particular type of vehicle, it is open to the public, and in most cities it is free.
When hitting the parking lot of a car-friendly coffee shop like Fuel Coffee here in Cincinnati, you’ll see all manners of individuals in the early morning hours. Everyone from cyclists on their way to the gorge, to rockabilly lead-sled rollers on their way to a barbecue are likely to swing by for a cup of joe and some quality conversation, and as the lot fills, so do the distractions. Since this is a “come one, come all” kind of event attendees are likely to see classic rally cars sitting next to $500,000 supercars, and those are just the two that are parked closest to the bathroom.
If you don’t own a car worth showing don’t worry, because you’re not the only one. There are plenty of people who go to these events as onlookers, who come for the coffee, the cars, and the camaraderie. But if that is not enough of an incentive to get your ass off the couch on any given Saturday morning, maybe these next five tips will.
1. Thou Shalt Network
While most people may attend a local C&C to browse that weekend’s vehicular line-up over a cup of caffeine, a select few come bearing ulterior motives. Since you never know who may show up at something like this, it is advisable to bring a fresh stack of business cards and a sense of purpose with you, as that gentleman who is standing next to that classic Austin Healey may be the president of the company you have always wanted to work for. So strike up a conversation, see who knows who, and if you can’t tell the difference between a spark plug and a catalytic converter don’t try and pretend, because we will know. Instead ask a lot of questions, listen intently, and try to find an angle that could put you in touch with someone like James Glickenhaus.
2. Revel in the Camaraderie
This is one of those “take it, or leave it” kind of things, because if you are an introverted individual chances are you won’t be overindulging in this department. However, there is something special about the camaraderie one finds at a weekend C&C, and surprisingly it doesn’t always have to do with automobiles. Since half of the attendees are hungover, and the other half are stone-sober teetotalers, you rarely encounter the kind of debauchery, loud music, and altercations that plague Friday night cruise-ins and race events. This is a time to have genuine conversation, explore a car in detail, and let scalding-hot caffeinated creations wash away yesterday’s tomfoolery.
3. Learn Something New
There is nothing more rewarding than coming away from an experience with a whole new outlook and a treasure-trove of information. For millions of Americans this is one of the main reasons why they attend events like Cars and Coffee, and why it has proven to be such a hit for both small and large cities. Many of the guys who go to these events know every nut and bolt on their car, which makes these weekly meets one of the largest show-and-tell events you will ever attend. Since there is no limitation on what vehicles may partake in all that the parking lot has to offer, chances are good that you will stumble upon something so obscure that you just have to ask the owner a few questions much like we did with Porsche builder Magnus Walker a while back.
4. Buy a New Project Car
Forget yard sales, heading to a local C&C is sometimes the best way to get what your heart truly desires, because there is no way you are going to be able to pick-up a 1952 Chevy panel truck at someone’s moving sale, or the local dealership for that matter. Car guys are notorious for wheeling and dealing their way through life, and sometimes getting the car you really want means getting up early on the weekend to find it. The great thing about this approach is that it takes all the risk out of Craigslist searches and you have the ability to go over the car with a group of other people, which will oftentimes lead to a far fairer selling price, as project cars typically need lots of work.
5. You Won’t Believe What You’ll Find Sometimes
Remember the look on Indiana Jones’ face when he first saw the weird little Chachapoyan fertility idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark? He really didn’t have to have this gold little statue, but for some reason he couldn’t turn away as it was too rare and too valuable to pass by. At some point you will likely experience a similar scenario at Cars and Coffee (without all of the booby traps of course), and it can be a difficult emotion to explain to someone who has never experienced an unexpected find. It kind of feels like you’ve stumbled upon a rare artifact, like a Subaru that doesn’t burn oil, and while you know that you shouldn’t touch it, there is this undeniable urge that draws you closer, as your mind tries to discern if this indeed is a genuine artifact of yesteryear, or an extremely well-done counterfeit.
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