I’ll be the first to admit that when I first came on board at Front Street, my exposure to vehicles which were not domestic muscle in some form or another was drastically limited. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it was virtually nonexistent. For the last several years of my writing career prior to this opportunity, I had been focused on drag racing and engine performance, which left me severely deficient when it came to identifying some of the world’s super- and hypercars along with Euro and sport compact vehicles – they just weren’t on my radar.
It’s safe to say I’ve had a crash course in brain surgery (bonus points if you get the musical reference, and even more points if you can correctly identify the band!) when it comes to the automotive performance realm outside my previous focus… which leads me to the subject of today’s post. After I picked up my Mustang in 2014, I started looking around for local car-guy gatherings where I could take the car on a regular basis, discovering first the monthly Cars & Coffee event at the Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, PA, which will be the subject of a future post here on Front Street. That event is monstrous and has a car-show feel to it, with thousands of spectators who come just to look at the cars.
And then when I started here, our web designer told me about West Chester Cars & Coffee and suggested I check it out. That initial trip down to see what it was all about has turned into a number of friendships made with people I’ve met there, and near-weekly attendance as long as my schedule isn’t filled with travel. I’ve seen everything here from a Porsche Carrera GT to a Lexus LFA to a McLaren P1, and each week brings a different mix of cars, but one aspect remains the same – the attendees are there to appreciate the automobile.
A clean Flame Red C3 Corvette always catches the eye; this small-block 350 cubic-inch/350 hp car looks to be original and offers a glimpse into the high-performance American offerings of the time period. It was unmolested and extremely clean, especially given its vintage.
Moving further down the row brought me to another Corvette; this slick ZR1 features the beautiful Jetstream Blue hue to go with the supercharged LS9 engine producing 638 horsepower and factory-installed carbon-fiber hood, roof, splitter, and rocker panels. This car is one that’s been on my bucket list forever, despite the fact that I’m a diehard Blue Oval fan. The performance baked into this car really brought the Corvette to another level.
Years ago, I owned a 1984 GTI that was sold to me for the paltry sum of $250 by a dearly-departed uncle. It was a heap of junk, but it was still a fun car to drive until the rod knock sent it to the great automotive graveyard in the sky. I can only imagine how much fun this super-clean MKII GTI must be to drive, given that it’s in immaculate shape.
Custom tags abound. It’s a car guy thing.
The unique look of this 911 Targa 4S draws upon Porsche’s long and illustrious heritage; this car was fresh off the dealer lot at only two weeks old. The owner told us it’s a blast to drive, and with 20-inch Pirellis and a wide-open cockpit combined with the twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine producing 420 horsepower, we’re inclined to agree. He also said it’s for sale. Everything has a number, right?
This McLaren 650S is at the West Chester event just about every time I’m there, and I drool over it every single time I see it. I mentioned the ZR1 above as being a bucket list car, but the 650S occupies a spot higher on the list, maybe even the pinnacle. My own supercharged Mustang offers brutal straight-line speed and relatively decent handling, but I suspect this machine would forever change my mind about how a performance car should feel and perform.
In case you haven’t seen any of my previous event coverage, it’s always about the dogs – I try to snap a photo or three of man’s best friend from every event I attend. In fact, I’m firmly convinced the only reason my wife agrees to get up and go with me to this event each week is because so many attendees bring their furry friends along. I think she’s plotting to convince me to adopt another dog, although I wouldn’t put up much of an argument.
The Golden Retriever on the right is there every single week, and is possibly the best-trained dog I’ve ever met. Its owner has a variety of performance cars he brings to Cars & Coffee, with one consistent feature: each one has a seat cover for the passenger seat, and a healthy covering of Retriever fur in the interior. Cars are meant to be driven, and dogs are meant to be loved. This dog has the life.
The Porsche 356 is a direct descendant of the Volkswagen Beetle; this ’64 356SC was built in the next-to-last model year of the 356 as it went away after 1956. The 356 is basically a Beetle on steroids, as it adds a second carburetor, better cylinder heads, and better camshafts. This particular example was imported from overseas, and I heard the owner talking with these gentlemen about how he has to convert the odometer reading from kilometers to miles when the car needs its annual state inspection. A beautifully simple car from every angle, and spotlessly maintained.
Quite the juxtaposition here, wouldn’t you say? A MINI backed up to a ground-pounding Cobra, albeit a replica. David and Goliath.
There are usually a few electric vehicles on the premises as well. As a diehard fossil-fueler, it’s hard for me to think about the fact that this Tesla and BMW i8 are the predecessors of the performance cars of the future, but they are.
From a young age, I can remember Ferraris as objects of lust; I’ve always appreciated the simplicity and elegant lines of the vehicles from Maranello. Many years before I became immersed in the domestic drag racing market, I was a 10-year-old kid who subscribed to Car & Driver and Motor Trend and could recite the pertinent performance figures of the Testarossa and F40. Those days are long gone, but I still think Ferrari manufactures the most provocative cars on the planet. This California just begs your eye to appreciate its curves.
Yet another pair of bucket-list beasts. Not long after I came of age to attain my driver’s license, the Dodge Viper burst onto the scene with its V10 engine and simplicity – make power, lots of it, and handle like a slot car. It’s still there today, as an example of what an American sports car should be. Brash, beautiful, and brutal.
Three carbs, classic lines, and another prime example of an American musclecar, this Pontiac Grand Prix was parked right on the end of the row and attracted onlookers all morning long.
Old-school cool oozes from each of these rides.
Taking the meaning of Cars & Coffee literally, this owner spent a bit of time perusing the paper with his partner by his side. He didn’t mind that I spent 5 minutes trying to get the perfect photo of the emblem.
Tom Lang of Gear One Performance brought out his Edelbrock-supercharged Subaru BRZ. He recently installed the supercharger system and loves how much better it helps the car to perform, especially when he pushes it on the Toyo R888s that sit underneath. The car’s also been outfitted with a custom-painted Sard LSR wing and an AiM Sports MXL Strada dash unit. When I think of cars I’d like to own, Subaru doesn’t often strike me as the first choice, but his BRZ is a sweet ride I’d be happy to see in my driveway.
The Plymouth Fury Gran Coupe in all its glory; the paisley roof and 383 cubic-inch engine combine with the futuristic hidden-headlight treatment up front to create a curious vehicle. I’m not really sure how the paisley plays into the equation, but it was the 70s. There are lots of things about the 70s I don’t necessarily understand.
Any gathering of gearheads has the potential to go one of two ways – be chilled out, with a great vibe, or turn into a scene that’s not at all welcoming or enjoyable. Thanks to all of the folks from West Chester Cars & Coffee for the hospitality, the friendships, and most importantly, the sweet rides that make my Saturday mornings awesome.