SouthOC Cars and Coffee - Socal Car Culture at its best.
Well, I was hoping to continue with more stories from the car scene of Hong Kong, following last week’s feature about Sunday Morning Drive meets. Sadly, the city is in its third lockdown period after a surge in reported Covid-19 cases; we’re back to where we started.
So after fighting lines for groceries and toiletries at the supermarket, I thought I would dive back into my extensive archive of past events I have attended before this year went into a tailspin. You’ll be surprised by how many photos I have taken from previous events and trips before lockdown and my move, that I have yet to publish online.
To start this look back in time, I’ve decided to focus on a certain event that I always try to make time to attend, every time I find myself in Socal. It’s probably one of the best, and most consistently-attended weekly car meetups in the area I have attended, next to the monthly Sugoi Saturday ones at Offset. Co’s headquarters (for another post).
I would not hesitate that if you happen to be somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego for a weekend, and you want to get a good sample of what Socal Car culture is like, you have to make time to check out this event. It takes place at The Outlets at San Clemente every Saturday morning: South OC (Orange County) Cars and Coffee.
The story behind its founding is rather interesting. Following the shutdown of Cars and Coffee Irvine (one of the most famous C&Cs in the country), a group of car enthusiasts was eager to find another site to provide a regular outlet for enthusiasts to network and socialize together.
They initially found a new site at Target San Clemente, but once again, the growing numbers of cars in attendance did not bode well with property management. The group shifted to host cruises to Cars and Coffee Alsio Veijo, meeting up and convoying to Veijo from a local shopping center.
In addition, the group hosted monthly 50-mile Saturday evening cruises, starting from The Outlets when it first opened. Eventually, when Cars and Coffee Alliso Veijo shut down as well, the Outlets was approached to see if a weekly Cars and Coffee event could be hosted on the premises.
The rest is history. Since then, the Outlets is now one of the biggest weekly car events in the world. If you need evidence of how to sustain a regular car event, look no further than this. 500-600 cars on average attend each week, with up to 3,000 and more at times.
There is no limit on what is considered ‘showworthy’ for the event. Every vehicle of any era, owner, and level of modification is welcome to attend. Even myself, who showed up with the Infiniti Q50 I rented off Turo during my last visit, was able to park up with the rest of the crowd.
There is no entrance fee required for those attending, aside from paying for a coffee at the Starbucks across or a piece of merchandise for you to share the event with your friends. Being one of the most accessible car shows out there, is one of many things that makes this Cars and Coffee so popular.
The event has achieved notoriety, to the point famous car celebrities have dropped by to attend. Examples include Jeff Goldblum, who filmed an episode of his show, ‘The World According to Jeff Goldblum’ and English mechanic Edd China, dropping by on his SEMA-famous motorized couch.
Even the ‘cast’ of Ford vs. Ferrari had a showcase here, right before it was due to premiere. You never know if luck will be on your side when you attend, and you will find yourself brushing shoulders with some of the biggest car figures in the automotive world.
You may notice a few photos feature a purple Acura NSX. That is because I usually attend this Cars and Coffee with the owner, Fred Plan. My very first time attending had me riding shotgun with him from East LA to San Clemente, and for my visit this year, we cruised from Pasadena to the event. His story with his NSX is worth detailing in full for a feature, so watch this space!
Another detail that makes this event stand out, is how it is managed by a family of car enthusiasts. Alongside volunteers who assist with directing traffic, you’ll see Simon Wehr, the founder of the event, his wife Sarah, daughter Sophie, and son James (co-founder), managing the event from start to finish. Every bit of passion they have towards this event is visible; to ensure everyone feels welcome no matter their vehicle, and that this event can remain sustainable.
“When James and I started South OC Cars and Coffee, our objective was to make it feel inclusive; a place where anyone who was passionate about their vehicle could come.” Said Wehr. “It doesn’t matter if you are a millionaire in a Ferrari, or a 16-year-old kid in a GTi, if you love your car, then you are welcome.”
Another detail many car events, especially pop-up meets or other Cars and Coffees could take note, is how the entire operation manages itself. Wehr and his team make it very clear everyone can enjoy themselves, as long as they abide by the rules set by property management and the California Highway Patrol (CHP). No instance of ‘hooliganism’ is tolerated; the slightest tire chirp or engine rev will have participants logged and banned from attending future events.
Considering the team does not hold back posting photos or videos of ‘spoilsports’ on the event’s Facebook page, it's nice knowing some kind of quality control is maintained, to ensure everyone can enjoy themselves without worrying about the event getting shut down.
Similar to the Sunday Morning Drives in HK I wrote about last time, it's completely random on what could be arriving that week. You’ll expect to see turbocharged Subarus rubbing shoulders with classic American muscle cars, but what about a lifted Toyota Land Cruiser next to a Mclaren?
Or a Ford Model T, between a Fisker Karma and a drift-spec BMW, across from a row of Camaros?
It’s that same idea of “you never know what might drop by today” that keeps people like myself, enticed to come again and again. Some of my personal favorites that have shown up here include a Mercedes CLK AMG Black, an R32 GTR with a replica ‘Calsonic’ livery, a Volkswagen Passat Estate with the short-lived ‘W8’ motor; even an ex-service Chevrolet PPV that was converted into its’ civilian-HSV counterpart.
And that is just a sample to describe the level of diversity one can observe at this one event. Some of the cars you might see will always be memorable in their own way.
With the attendance numbers this event brings in regularly, you bet the businesses in the Outlets themselves take full advantage of this. A steady stream of customers to the coffee bars, restaurants, and retail stores comes by every weekend. Some even use Cars and Coffee as an excuse for their non-car enthusiast peers to come along and shop at the Outlets after the cars leave.
Unfortunately, if you were looking to make time in your weekend schedules to visit, the event has gone on indefinite hiatus as of now. While the event resumed a few weeks back with social distancing measures in place, with the recent increase in Covid-19 cases in California, the team has decided to postpone the event until it is safe to resume large public events. Considering people come far and wide to support this event, health and safety take priority overseeing many unique cars across California.
However, while the event is on break, their social media pages are continuously updated; featuring photos of previous events and features on crowd favorites. Their merch store is also online, so if you want a t-shirt, hat, or sticker to show your support, now is the perfect opportunity!
There is no telling when South OC Cars and Coffee will resume, but when it does, you should try to make the drive out to at least one meetup. You never know what you might discover, or who will be dropping by that Saturday morning.
For more information and to shop merch, visit https://www.southoccarsandcoffee.com/
Follow @southoccarsandcoffee on Instagram and Facebook
- Adrian Ma Photography
- Jay Philippbar
- Disney Plus (The World According to Jeff Goldblum)