The History - of Cars and Coffees

Curious how the Cars and Coffee craze exploded across the country? We were too… Allow us to provide a quick history lesson – Grab a cup of coffee (ha) and enjoy!

  Started in Sunny California

  Founded in 1983

  Four original founders

  Still running to this day

1983 The Genesis

Donut Derelicts and the Founding of Cars and Coffee

1983: Long being a community meeting place for old timers to shoot the breeze, four buds started gathering at Adams Ave Donuts in Huntington Beach California to take their sons dirt bike riding and talk politics over coffee and donuts. When one of the guys bought a 57 Chevy panel delivery, it started a revolution. Soon the entire crew found themselves with some old iron and in February of 1985, decided to start meeting at the shop with their cars and add bench racing and sports to their list of morning conversation.

One by one, local street rod owners heard the buzz and started joining in. Before they knew it, every hot rod, street rod, classic and specialty creation from the South Bay to Laguna and parts unknown had heard about the Adams Avenue Donut meet. Their group grew to hundreds every weekend, to include local legends such as Art Chrisman (drag racer from the 60’s), Little John Butera (formerly with Hot Rods by Boyd) and Chip Foose.

It soon became impossible to get a decent parking space if you weren’t out and about during the dark hours of the morning, with all spots taken before 6:30 am. Today you can still cruise into the “Donut Derelicts” and be amazed by the variety and quality of cars that drop by to join in the largest and most well-known weekly hot rod gathering in the world!

From “Donut Derelicts” to Crystal Cove:

The birth of the original “Cars and Coffee”

2003: Two former “Donut Derelicts” that didn’t really feel they were a part of the traditional hot rod gathering decided to start meeting “behind the Orange curtain” during the somewhat more reasonable hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Crystal Cove shopping center located on the Pacific Coast Highway just south of Corona del Mar.

What started as a small gathering of high-end gearheads grabbing a cup of joe together on Saturday mornings (enter the first official use of “cars and the coffee”) has morphed into something MUCH larger. Word of the gathering quickly spread amongst enthusiasts. Former race car driver Dan Gurney and sports car/golf guru Reeves Callaway lived close to the event and started attending. Shortly, the event started to outgrow the size of the lot.

Then the problems really started:

This often caused traffic to back up on Pacific Coast Highway – a small fact that was not appreciated by the California Highway Patrol as well as local police.

Cobra Great Falls Cars and Coffee

In the end, the Irvine Co. (which owns most of Orange County) succumbed to the complaints from the neighbors, and there was news of an impending eviction of the C&C from Crystal Cove. The last straw was laid after an incident which had The Irvine Co. security deny Dan Gurney and Reeves Callaway entrance to Crystal Cove. That’s when John Clinard (car collector and head of Ford’s west coast public relations) offered to move the event to Ford’s nearby headquarters in Irvine, California.

From “Cars and Coffee” Irvine

The infamous Cars and Coffee Irvine takes Shape and Inspires the World

2006: Ford Motor Company stepped up and provided a new location for the Crystal Cove gathering in what was then its large Premier Auto Group (Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo) complex. While Ford moved on (The PAG building is now currently owned by Taco Bell), the event has lived on with Mazda grabbing the baton (at its building in the same non-residential campus) with its huge parking lots used as show areas, and a large parking garage serving as overflow/spectator parking.

2014: Cars and Coffee Irvine is shutdown.

The once weekly pilgrimage hosts 100-250 automobiles of all makes and models, it isn’t uncommon to see some of the rarest cars (not just in the United States, but in the world) cram within its hallowed aisles. One of the few shows where celebrities like Jay Leno have more pictures taken of their car than themselves, both large automakers and boutique manufacturers have caught onto the commotion and often use the lot to reveal prototypes and pre-production vehicles to the public.

But with the death of the famous Irvine cars and coffee, the concept has permeated many areas not only in America but around the world that hosts car enthusiasts sipping coffee and talking cars.