Car Show Classics: Turbo Drive Cars & Coffee In December 2017

Cars & Coffee has become a global institution, with events popping up all over the world. There are a few different events bearing the Cars & Coffee name here in Brisbane but so far the most impressive has proved to be the Cars & Coffee in Coorparoo. Perhaps the measure of a good Cars & Coffee should be how much it entertains both enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. This one certainly delivered.

Cars were parked in the parking lots of office parks and along the curbside on the appropriately-named Turbo Drive. The street was buzzing with activity, with couples bringing their children along, people sitting on deck chairs and, of course, plenty of coffee carts. There was also coffee being sold out of this Citroen H Van—nice to see these iconic vans remaining popular as coffee and food vans.

I knew it was going to be a good Cars & Coffee event as soon as I walked onto Turbo Drive as the first car to catch my eye was this Porsche 356.

Actually, I lie. That Mercedes-Benz 300TE behind it was the first car to catch my eye—why didn’t I take photos of it, too?

I’ve written before about the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, a C-segment hatchback with a big 3.2 V6 stuffed under the hood. I’d entertained the notion of buying one but decided it was unwise to buy Italian. I actually ran into someone who purchased the exact Alfa Romeo 159 I test drove way back in 2014 and it ended up needing thousands of dollars in repairs. I can’t extrapolate that anecdotal data across all Italian cars, of course, but I think I made the right decision not to buy that 159 or a 147 GTA. Still, just look at that engine. Gorgeous! With 247 hp and 220 ft-lbs in a 3100-lb body, these little hatches could fly!

Speaking of Italians, either the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is in play or there are a lot of Lancia Fulvias in Brisbane. I’ve seen three this year, including one at my local grocery store. Here’s one in rally livery.

Another car I’ve spotted a few times lately in Brisbane is the BMW 8-Series. Alas, each time I saw one, it managed to elude my camera. Not this one!

There seemed to be little rhyme or reason as to where cars were parked. Some were on the street, some in parking lots, others parked on a lonely shoulder at the end of the street. I was baffled to see this DeTomaso Pantera on its lonesome but I was happy to be able to snap off a bunch of photos without people walking in the way. Let’s save them for another time—when am I going to see another Pantera?

I’m not sure if this exceptionally clean E30 3-Series was supposed to be on display or not, considering it was in exile near the Pantera.

This BMW 2002 was in a more central location although it wasn’t getting much attention. Then again, there were so many amazing cars competing for the attention of the masses.

It wasn’t just European cars that were well-represented, mind you. There was an abundance of Japanese vehicles, like this second-generation Toyota Stout. I’m sure Paul will appreciate this one.

Take away the whitewalls and red wheels and what you’ve got here is a nice, honest workhorse.

There’s still plenty of basic pickups rolling around today but the subsection of the pickup market that has seen the most explosive growth in Australia are – surprise surprise – the loaded crew cabs. Sound familiar, Americans and Canadians?

Even the cars people drove to the event tended to be quirkier or more enthusiast-oriented than the norm. Here’s a beautiful Volkswagen Golf R32, another small hatchback with a big engine stuffed in it. I also spotted a Skoda Octavia vRS wagon, which is arguably the thinking man’s Golf GTi as it shares the same platform but is more practical. There was also a Fiat Panda, a rare sight here in Australia—we prefer the 500.

Speaking of Fiat 500s – or, rather, 600s – here’s an old Abarth.

I’m not going to profess to know much – or indeed, anything – about these little Italian runabouts, but I’m sure they are a delight to drive.

If you’re a fan of truly minimalist vehicles like this Abarth, perhaps you might also be interested in this Lotus Seven. How funny that it’s parked next to the aforementioned 8-Series, almost its polar opposite.

Fancy something more modern but still want something lightweight and enormously fun-to-drive? Take your pick from this convoy of Lotus Exiges.

When I saw the script on this roadster that read “Studebaker SS”, I was puzzled. This didn’t look like a Studebaker to me! Well, it wasn’t, but it could have been. The “SS” eventually came to market as the Excalibur but it was originally designed by Brooks Stevens for Studebaker, developed from a Lark Daytona chassis.

Studebaker nixed the idea of a production SS roadster just before it was displayed at the New York Auto Show of 1963, where it found some very enthusiastic buyers. When it reached production two years later, the Excalibur sourced its engines from Chevrolet.

A decidedly different roadster is this Datsun Fairlady roadster. I’ve seen some extraordinarily cringe-worthy personalized plates lately (“IDD8ME” immediately comes to mind) but the “DATSQK” on this one made me chuckle.

The wheels obviously aren’t stock but they suit the car relatively well.

I was struck by just how neat and tidy the interior was. Good lord, I’d be nervous to wear my shoes in this car!

All these imports at an Australian car event and you may be wondering, “Where are the Aussie cars?” Well, they were in short supply but I did spot this Holden Torana SL/R 5000.

This appears to be a LH SL/R 5000 with the L34 option package, one of just 263 built. This added a stronger block for the 5.0 V8 with larger valves, as well as various other enhancements under the hood. Exterior tweaks included these bolt-on wheel arch flares and larger 14-inch steel rally wheels. There was an available High Output option additional to the L34 package, adding 30 horses (to 270) and 15 ft-lbs of torque (to 330).

This particular example’s dash was even signed by famous Aussie race car driver Peter Brock, may he rest in peace. L34s ditched the regular SL/R’s center console, adding to the stripped-out, race car ambience.

Another Aussie car on Turbo Drive was in decidedly worse condition. Parked in front of a towing contractor were the remains of what appears to be an E-Series HSV. Something really did a number on it! Look where the driver’s side front tire ended up…

The other noteworthy Aussie car I spotted was this 1966 Dodge Phoenix. Originally an Australian-assembled version of the standard-size Dart, borrowing the name of its top-shelf trim level, the Phoenix eventually became an Aussie-built derivative of the Plymouth Fury III. Despite its origins as a humble Plymouth, the Phoenix was Chrysler Corporation’s flagship in Australia until 1972.

When your bread-and-butter cars are two whole sizes smaller than the USA’s, what may be a basic full-size elsewhere carries a tad more prestige. I was reminded of that when watching the latest season of the smashing Australian period drama A Place To Call Home, where leading man George Bligh, a wealthy landowner and MP, acquired a 1957 Plymouth Fury as his new vehicle.

The current BMW M5 is an extraordinary automobile, there’s no question about that. But for me, there are two generations of M5 that I consider truly legendary: the wild V10 (!) E60 series, and the sublime E39.

This generation of 5-Series just looks so… right. And the M5, naturally, is the ne plus ultra of the E39 series. Just under 400 hp, a 6-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive, a terrific chassis, simple and elegant styling—what’s not to like?

While we’re talking marvellous M-machines, here’s an E46 M3. Love this color!

We Australians love our Japanese performance cars. Here’s Godzilla himself, an R32 GT-R with a 2.6 twin-turbo straight-six and “276 horsepower”–yeah, nice try Nissan, but we all know there were over 300 horses under that hood.

The R32 GT-R was so legendary, it led the Australian Touring Car Championship’s governing body to ban turbocharging and all-wheel-drive.

Gotta love that Aussie sense of humor–the license plate says “GT AHH”, which is pretty much how we pronounce it down here.

The Civic Type-R has been around since 1997 but the North American market is finally getting it, 20 years later. Here in Australia, we’ve had it on-and-off. We sourced our eighth-generation sedans from Thailand but Honda also imported some UK-built hatchbacks. While much more adventurously styled than the JDM Type-R sedan – the styling reminds me of a Pokèmon – the European Type-R actually had less power. Still, a rev-hungry VTEC four-cylinder with 200 horsepower in a compact body isn’t bad.

The third-generation RX-7 may just be the most beautiful Japanese car of the 1990s and perhaps the best expression of the curvy, organic design language of the era.

I especially love the dark-tinted taillights of these. And yet it was the clear-lensed taillight style of the Supra that caught on…

Kudos to Mazda for sticking with the Wankel rotary for so long. Alas, there is no longer an RX Mazda but there’s always rumors it will reappear.

The third generation looked better than the second generation which, while handsome, looked an awful lot like…

…the Porsche 924 and 944.

This is a 1989-91 944 S2 and it was the one car I saw with a For Sale sign. These had the largest capacity four-cylinder engine at the time, displacing three litres. Often overlooked in favor of the 911, these were still pretty impressive machines.

Well, we started on a Porsche and ended on a Porsche. What was your favorite car at Cars & Coffee? And are your local Cars & Coffee events this good?