The cars and coffee phenomenon began several decades ago with car guys assembling on Saturday mornings at Adams Avenue Donuts at the corner of Magnolia in Huntington Beach, California. It is a busy commercial mall so the cars could arrive at 7:00 a.m. when the donut shop opened (soon, you had to be there by 6:30 to get a parking place) and everyone had to be gone at 9 o’clock to clear the parking lot for the mall patrons.
“Donut Derelicts” was created and the die cast for every small town donut and coffee emporium in the country — in 2016, make that the world.
It doesn’t take a village, it takes one guy with a vision. Santa Barbara’s Cars & Coffee began with Monte Wilson, international executive with Adobe at the time, and his pals driving their cool cars to a gathering at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Coast Village Road in the Montecito community of Santa Barbara a few years ago. It soon out grew the available space and moved up to the old Montecito Village square.
The eclectic mix of collectable cars even draws a crowd of folks who don’t have one, but wish they did — please feel welcome.
It is there every Sunday; coffee on the square and breakfast at the pharmacy / coffee shop around the corner or to more precious fare back down on Coast Village Road. Once each year the gathering moves back to Coast Village Road and ups the ante for the officially judged Montecito Motor Classic — also free to attend.
The quality of life and taste in the neo-Spanish Colonial town drives the automotive selection to a fine art. A few super cars are always present, but the historically important choices always out number them and the “I remember when…” sports cars and granddad’s cars are always surrounded by folks with stories to tell.
The hot rod contingent reaches from fabulous hand-made exotic with a rear engine and 600 horsepower packed into a ’34 Ford roadster to an untouched early post war ’29 dry lakes veteran worthy of a special museum of its own.
Porsche 356s, 911 variants and Gull Wings share the Teutonic spaces.
If you are in SoCal looking to connect with cars and car folks with time to chat, it would be hard to improve on the tree-shaded Montecito square.
Photography by Larry Crane