Car Show Curbside: The Original Cars and Coffee, OC


For Thanksgiving weekend, I offer the CC faithful another sunny California car show report. I recently ran down to Orange County for a Cars and Coffee gathering. Set in the parking lot in front of Mazda’s LA offices, this is one of the original California parking lot car shows, and every Saturday morning several hundred cars show up. These parking lot shows randomly fill the spaces of a parking lot with the old, rare or unusual. As usual, I tried to focus on the unusual, rather than those show queens so typical of organized events.


These shows often present interesting vehicle contrasts sitting side by side. This pairing of a Pontiac Trans Am and Audi Quattro demonstrate the difference between a European and US factory hot rod.


While this Aston Martin and Shelby GT350-H (Hertz) shows the same contrast applied to specialty coupes circa 1965.


The Orange County Cars and Coffee typically leans toward European Exotics, rather than American Muscle cars. To make that point, here’s an Italian redhead.  I included this show queen to help establish the feel of Cars and Coffee, but in the spirit of Curbside Classics, I’ll try and focus on the more uncommon exotics.


First, feast your eyes on this Maserati Merak. The “Little Lambo” of that era, it shared a body with the Bora, and a V-6 engine with the Citroen SM. It probably deserves a separate write up, but for today I’ll just share this taste of its lovely lines.


Next, a McLaren MP4-12C. The driver pulled away before I noticed its presence, but I wanted to catch a picture of this brand spanking new exotic driving on public streets, just as if it were your neighbor’s unwashed silver four door Camcord.


Our final exotic is a Maserati Bora. Looking at the dent in that left front fender, you can see that this mid-engine classic establishes that a member of the Curbside Classic contingent is here at the show- Drive it on the streets, park it in public.

Classic 4

The show also featured some mid-priced European classics as well. This Saab Sonnet II starts the parade, and shows few wear marks despite of its lengthy life. Perhaps that reflects an easy life spent here in SoCal, but more likely it recieved a Souther California style make over somewhere along the line.


This Jaguar will turn a few heads, and may be in even better shape than the Saab. I’m not sure if it’s an XK120 or XK140, but it reminds us all that Jaguar has been turning heads for over 60 years, and helped defined the essence of English sports cars.


Conversely, this Jensen Interceptor reminds us that at one time England delivered an incredible variety of sports cars, and provided a unique incubator for exotic hardware such as the Ferguson Four Wheel Drive system (applied to the Interceptor platform, but not present on this car).


For those who harbor VW love, here’s a mid-sixties bug. I didn’t check all the details, but the bumpers and lack of Wolfsburg crest place it in the 64-67 range. Frankly, these Bugs are a dime a dozen, but the condition of this one caught my eye and I decided to include it here.


To go with the Bug, how about a French take on basic transportation? Renaults are a bit prosaic, so let’s go with Citroen’s version, the 2-CV. I’m willing to bet you did not see this at your last car show…


I’ve avoided buying an Italian car for 52 years now, but if someone wants to buy this Alfa Romeo GTV and then place my name on the title, give me a call.

I have the same thought regarding this Type 34 Karmann Ghia. I remain mystified why this car never made a more of a splash here in the US.


While it looks very fifties, I think it out-styles the standard Ghias, which also looked very fifties right into the mid seventies.


Oh look, here’s a Borgward Isabella. Doesn’t every car show have one of these show queens? So boring and expected…


Wrapping up the European representatives, here’s this week’s Mercedes Gullwing. Our owner broke car show convention, and left the gull wings closed. Despite that oversight, I find this image mesmerizing.


OK, let’s move to the Far East. California has a reputation as a stronghold for Japanese performance, and this gathering of six…


I mean eight Nissan GT-Rs reinforces this impression. Despite the Nissan turnout, this particular Cars and Coffee was not dripping with Japanese product. Still there were several cars more interesting than this line up of modern Japanese muscle.

Japanese 1

This Corolla caught my eye more for its owner’s impunity than for its style. If you had pointed to this coupe in a Toyota showroom back in 1984 and said it would one day appear in a car show alongside Ferraris and Lamborghinis, the showroom would have echoed with laughter.  Of course, it’s also the last of the rear wheel drive Corollas, and could provide BMW like performance with the right engine upgrade under the hood.

Japanes 2

We don’t have to guess what’s under the hood of this Integra Type R. This is the holy grail of Acuras, and uses the storied B18-C engine. I’ve known two people who owned a Type R, and both owners lost their cars to theft. Because of that, I’ve never see a Type R on the street, but folks will bring them out for a car show. I have noticed though, that they tend to stay pretty close to their cars…

Japanese 3

I’ve saved the Japanese car with the most Curbside Classicness for last. This RX-3 wagon includes rotary power, clean flanks and the factory wheel covers. Delicious!


Moving on to US cars, I’ll start with this 1936 Ford. In my opinion, this two door coupe brings the right color, lines, and stance to the show.


Here in the Golden State, many of these cars have modern drivelines and suspensions, but a close-up of this wheel and hub tells us this Ford uses period correct pieces.


Moving forward in the automotive timeline, we find this ’59 Skyliner. Per official car show protocol, the owner parked the car with the roof half way open.


I also captured two of the most iconic shapes from the early sixties. First this Lincoln Continental.


Followed by this Buick Rivera. Neither car requires comment, but both demand inclusion.


The next two cars represent mainstream models with unusual body styles. First, this Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, a long wheelbase version of the CJ-7 we all know and love.


While this full sized Buick rocks the wagon body style, complete with vinyl top and wood grain sides. The living embodiment of unapologetic excess!


Finally, to wrap up today’s posting, here’s an early sixties GMC pickup. Look carefully at the grille badge, and you can spot an unusual feature.


That’s correct, this truck includes Cummins power. I’m not sure which generation of the B series Cummins this GMC is packing, but the installation is “Professional Grade.”

I see someone in the back wants me to note there were no El Caminos in today’s posting. They’re right- While El Caminos appear to be everywhere in the South Bay area of LA, they’re not as common down here in Orange County. Despite that, I hope you found our photo tour worthy of Curbside Classics.