Cars and Coffee – Irvine, CA. 13th September 2014

When I was out in Southern California earlier in the year, I made a couple of visits to the very popular weekly “Cars and Coffee” event which takes place first thing on a Saturday morning in the parking area around the Mazda US HQ building. I discovered that although the concept is similar to such gatherings in the UK, things start a lot earlier, and they don’t last very long. The first time I went, I got there around 8:30am, and most cars had already gone, so I missed most of the good stuff. I tried harder to get there earlier for a second visit, and whilst this was better, I was still clearly not early enough. So this time, I resolved to grab a coffee and croissant from my hotel at 6am when breakfast opened there, and then get on the road, and make the 40 or so mile journey down to Irvine. I arrived at 7:30am, and was dismayed to see cars already pulling out. It really does seem to be the case that people who bring their cars just don’t stay long. I have to assume that most of the attendees have not travelled that far, otherwise it really would not be worth their getting the car out! So, although I missed some cars altogether, and some others eluded the camera, as they pulled away before I got a photo – in some cases because at that time in the morning the shadows are very long indeed, and so getting decent photos is far harder than it would be were it to be a cloudy morning. But there was still plenty of interest, as this report will evidence:


Replicas of the AC Cobra would seem to be as popular in the US as they are in the UK, and there were a number of these present, all of which were extremely loud.

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Looking suitably butch was this Vanquish S.

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Lone Audi at the event was this R8. White is not a colour in which you see these cars painted very often in Europe, but it is popular (for everything!) in the Pacific South West.

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Generally regarded as a design classic was the 1963 Buick Riviera, and one look at this nicely presented example shows why. A very elegant design indeed.

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Corvettes are very popular in America, and there are over 60 years worth of production to enjoy, so no surprise to find examples of every one of the 7 generations that have been produced.

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A lovely early Camaro SS.

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The Chevelle was a full-sized model in the 1960s Chevrolet portfolio, and in SS guise constituted the Bow Tie’s contribution to the Muscle Car offerings of the era.

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The Pantera was initially conceived for the US market, so it should perhaps not be a surprise to see examples of this car at an event like this. There were three.

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This is a fabulous example of the Challenger R/T from 1970, seen here in an original purple colour. Very nice indeed.

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As with any event of this type, you are always going to get a handful of Ferrari present. The only ones that I photographed were a nice 360 Modena, a 430 Spider and a 458 Italia.

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The 124 Spider stayed in production for so long largely because of demand for it from the US market. This is a relatively late model.

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Mustangs are just as popular as the Corvette, so it was no surprised to find lots of example of this model, which  – just in case you missed it – celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

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The Thunderbird underwent a restyle for 1959, and this was the result. Not, in my opinion, as attractive as the very first cars, but still a wonderful classic to behold now.

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The Ford GT was born in the style of the original GT40, but when you see the two together, you quickly realise how much larger the more recent car is.

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Although this one has right hand drive and is almost certainly a recent import from Japan, Honda’s diminutive little sports car from the 1960s was sold in the US. This is the earlier S600 version of the car.

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Absolutely glorious was this Grifo, still on Italian plates. Had this been a UK show, I am sure that the owner would have been around to tell interested attendees about the history of the car, but that is not how this event works, so I can’t tell you anything other what you can determine from the pictures!

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US regulations required cars in the 1970s and 1980s to have headlight units which could be replaced at any local town auto store, which meant standard sized round units were de rigeur. They look a bit odd to our eyes on cars which had something else as originally designed. Certainly, I don’t think they look good on this lovely XJS Convertible.

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Two example of the new Huracan, both apparently dealer cars, were getting lots of attention and inspection. Not surprisingly, as this car has only just become available in the US market, and this would be one of the first chances people would have had to see one in the metal.

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There were also a couple of Aventadors present. a Murcielago and a Gallardo

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Lotus have continued to sell cars in the US, though regulatory change meant that they have not been able to offer the Elise for a couple of years now. Here’s one that came in whilst they were still able to offer it to US buyers.

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One of my favourite cars of the day was this an RX3 Wagon. Mazda had a series of rotary engined cars in their range in the first half of the 1970s, and the RX3 was the smallest of the trio. It was offered in a full range of Sedan, Wagon and Coupe, all of which had a conventional piston engined equivalent in the 818 range. I caught this one just in time as the owner was pulling away

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Also with a rotary engine, and more recent was this third generation RX7.

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A nice 12C Spider.

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Among a number of classic Mercedes, most of which eluded my camera was this lovely 190SL.

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One of the more unusual classics from the 1950s was this 1956 Monterey Coupe.

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Quite a surprise to see a classic “Issigonis” Mini. These cars were sold in the US for a while, but early in the model’s life. This right hand drive car is clearly a later import.

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Almost completely unknown in Europe, as it was not sold here, the brand then known as Datsun sold a small sports car in the 1960s, very much a rival to the MGB. Many assume when they see one that it was launched as a consequence of the Abingdon product and was a sort of copy, but in fact it also goes right back to 1962, so it shows that the Japanese were thinking on similar lines to MG. The very first cars come  with a 1500 engine, and this was enlarged in later models to a 1600 and then a 2000cc unit. There are quite a lot of them in Southern California, so not as rare there as you might think. A couple were present at this event.

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Skylines are popular among the modifier brigade, just as they are in the UK, and Japan, This was a pretty original looking example.

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This splendid machine had pride of place in the display, and was attracting lots of interest. Fortunately, it was one of the last cars to depart, so I was able to get some decent photos of it without the crowds.

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The Firebird was also a close relative of the Chevrolet Camaro, and so when the Camaro was restyled in 1970, the Firebird followed suit and a car looking like this was the result. It then underwent changes over the next decade, among the first of which were the impact absorbing front end rather than having an explicit chrome bumper.

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It was not just Britain which received the Holden Monaro and made a few local mods to it. The car came to the US as well, where it became the Pontiac GTO. Sales were modest.

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A much older Pontiac was this early 1950s Sedan.

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There would seem to be more 911 based cars at this event than any other individual model. Or models, if you separate the 911 into the distinct different generations of its 51 year history. There was great variety here, though most of the more recent cars were higher end Turbo and GT3 cars.

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There were examples of other Porsche models as well, including a Cayman.

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One of the older vehicles present, and one which was attracting plenty of attention was this fabulous Studebaker Truck from the 1940s.

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One of the biggest attention grabbers of the event was this, a 360, the first Subaru model that was imported into the US, and indeed the first car model that Subaru made. Not surprisingly, not that many of these were sold, by the enterprising Malcolm Bricklin, no less, as it was a lot smaller even than a VW Beetle.

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The first cars I came to when walking in from the parking garage were a nice collection of TR models. They were attracting lots of attention, so I grabbed a couple of pictures, and vowed to come back, but of course by that time, there were just empty parking spaces. the TR3b has a wonderful period California plate that you do not see very often, and I can never see enough TR6s, my favourite of the long running TR series.

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A definite surprise was this, a 1974 2500M. I did not realise that TVRs had been sold in the US, but given that the 2500M used the Triumph 2.5 P engine that was also used in the TR6 that was sold in America, I guess that the engine was US legal, so a few of these cars presumably made it to America. This would be a rare car in the UK where there majority of the world’s TVRs reside.

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Southern California is the place above all others which made the Type 2 “Bus” popular, with the surfing brigade really taking to it, so no surprise to see a couple of nice examples here. An early model was joined by one of the later “Bay Window” vans.

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What is depicted here is only a subset of what was present, so this was a diverting start to the morning, and indeed my first day back on American soil. However, I was still a little too late in arriving, and with one further Saturday in Southern California for a couple of weeks hence, I vowed that for the next visit, I would make an even earlier start to see if I can get a more complete view of the whole event.

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