Cars and Coffee is a somewhat impromptu somewhat organized auto show. It began I don’t know how many years ago. It is held every Saturday morning, rain or shine, except the few times Christmas falls on a Saturday. You find it in the parking lot of the Ford/Mazda Design center in Irvine, California. It begins about 6 am & goes until I don’t know when. It is an auto show that is different every weekend, every time and a great gathering place for auto buffs. It is free to display your car, it is free to attend, but if you want coffee you either bring your own or buy it there.
Cars and Coffee found at http://irvine.carsandcoffee.info is held concurrently in 12 different U.S. cities each Saturday. These include Honolulu, Vegas, Scottsdale, Denver, Dallas, Austin, Detroit, Columbus, Charlotte, Williamsburg, & Goshen (in New York’s Hudson Valley). If you are near one go to their website, click on the USA near the top for a map, then click on the city you wish to visit.
My older son Aaron has been trying to get me to one for months. Finally our timing worked out. The rest of the family members were out of town leaving an open Saturday morning for us to do something as temporary bachelors. I arrived at his place a little after 6 & we got to the site a few minutes later. It was still dark, most of the cars on display had already arrived, the Irvine Police were already directing traffic, and a large crowd was there before us.
But first a digression. When outside it is often difficult to make a good portrait of a car. On the easy side the car isn’t vain, doesn’t move, and doesn’t care if you’re any good with a camera. On the hard side there is a lot of technique and a lot of composition necessary to make the photo interesting. Then you may have your reflection staring back at you. I’ll be showing a few of these. At the show you are at the mercy of crowds, automobiles nearby, and of course the available light and the weather. Finally, because this was early in the morning, the overhead lights on the poles in the parking lot were on for a while. Sometimes these reflected back into the camera.
A few words about composition. I do mostly landscape photography, but I’ll shoot almost anything except for weddings, & Bar Mitzvahs. Slowly I’m learning the technique of portraits.
Some of the rules for landscapes & static objects like cars are probably the same. But I haven’t specialized in static objects. In my mind I try to think of them as part of the landscape & treat them that way. Sometimes it works.
Aaron, on the other hand, has a formal education in the Graphic Arts. Photography, angles, design elements, textures and intersecting lines comes more natural to him because of his training. He has a photo of a ‘57 Chevy Bel Air tail fin that is wonderful. I’ve yet to figure out how to consistently approach a static object like he does and come away with a great image. He says he leaves the landscapes to me and he concentrates on the close-ups. I say anytime you have a camera its a good time to try something different, just like I’m trying to get the right angle on static subjects.
What all that means is I tried a lot of angles here I don’t normally employ. I used the 24-105mm f/4 lens on 342 of the 345 frames. I did a lot of close ups and some photos with a more shallow depth of field. While the light was low I used my small Gitzo tripod with a Really Right Stuff ball head and a shutter release cable. I had a 3 axis spirit level in the hot shoe to give me a visual level. My camera has an “L” bracket on it so I just flip the camera instead of rearranging the ball head. I was always at ISO 640, which is pretty much normal for me. While editing I employ a very few basic built in routines in Photoshop (curves, contrast, & levels), I crop it if I think necessary, and that is pretty much it for the technical stuff.
The nature of the show made things very interesting. During the entire time we were there automobiles were driving in looking for a parking spot for display. Or they were leaving. It was a ballet. The drivers slowly threaded their way through the crowd trying not to hit anyone. The crowd watched, or had no idea they may have been subject to bodily harm. The smell of exhaust was always in the air.
My estimate of the crowd was 5,000 looking at 300-400 cars. If you were to say 500-600 cars I wouldn’t dispute it one bit. Saturday was the day before Easter and also covered many a school’s spring break. Aaron said it was the largest crowd & largest display at a Cars and Coffee show he had ever seen.
We parked in a parking structure adjacent to the Taco Bell Corporate Headquarters. The fact that Taco Bell is nearby is probably coincidental. We had to walk by their building where a security guard is stationed & instructed not to let anyone in.
The next building is the Ford Design Center. They have an outside set of bathrooms for the crowd on the Taco Bell side of their building.
On the other side of the Ford Design Center is the parking lot. On the other side of the lot is the Mazda building.
Walking in the very first car I saw was a fire engine red Packard. Aaron started to walk on and I told him I was stopping there to shoot the Packard. It was still before sunrise, & the light was very low. That was the first of those 345 frames. 58 of them are good enough to show or comment on in this post. That is about 1 in 6.
I usually shoot subjects in brackets of 3, 1 at the meter, another at 1/3 stop above the meter, the final at 1/3 stop below the meter. That means I’m showing closer to 1 of 3. Perhaps that’s too many, but it was a fertile field.
I quickly found out this is a pretty casual place. A few cars were for sale so they had descriptions. Most of the cars weren’t for sale and had no signs, no placards, only the logos they came with.
So here they are. I’m not convinced any are good enough to print, but we’ll see. Since Saturday I’ve learned a little more about shooting a car. It is best to take a low view for an interesting composition, shoot on an up angle, and hope for an interesting sky. No interesting sky here, it was overcast just about the whole time we were there. While editing I noticed I was attracted to a lot of fire engine red sports cars. A traditional color that, but other colors abounded.
The fire engine red Packard Eight.
Next to that was a ’64 Corvette. If the plate is original to the car it is a ’64 because of the sequence & design of the license plate. Like I said, no signs, no placards.
Next to the Vette was a ’33 Rolls Royce. Parking spots are first come, first served. Sometimes like cars are next to each other. Sometimes they are not.
A blast from the past. A ’49 Chevy pickup with an interesting paint job. It was $16,500 or best offer. The yellow color is a reflection of the parking lot lights.
Valve covers from a ‘55 or ’56 T-Bird. The rest of my photos of this car were trash.
This show was populated by a lot of Corvettes, a lot of Mustangs, and a lot of Ford Cobras. Maybe as many as 10. I’ve never seen so many Cobras in one place. That means they must all be kit cars. The real thing is worth about 4 million today. I saw a real one in Pasadena, CA in 1967. It was $10k and of course I didn’t have the money.
I had to include this. A ’66 Ford Falcon if it is the original plate. Falcons were popular when I was in high school because they were cheap to buy and cheap to operate. P.S., gas was 25 cents a gallon then. That was almost before history books were invented.
A fire engine red Corvette with enough chrome to start a scrap business. There are some reflections worth noting. The Falcon is seen in the wheel cover in the 2nd photo. So is at least 1 leg of my tripod if you look closely. In the 3rd photo my tripod is seen off to the left.
This 3rd photo is f/8 at 1/20th second. I think its hand held, but maybe not. The photo of the wheel is definitely hand held. I wasn’t about to drop the tripod that low and lay on my stomach. Its too hard getting up. Most of the photos prior to this are on the tripod. Most of the photos here on out are hand held.
A few moments later the lights on the parking lot standards went off. As the sun rose it made it easier for hand held shooting.
One of my favourite cars, a Triumph TR 6. Did you catch that bit of British English? The owner offered to remove the sale sign for me, which was very kind. The car had a few blemishes, but was very nice & offered at $22,000. I guessed it as a ’72, which was correct. Back then a used one was about $4,000 & I couldn’t afford it. The interior photo is from another TR 6 seen later that morning.
In the mid 80’s a used TR 6 moved in just down the street from Fran & I. The owner, a minister and his family, took over the house while the car took over the garage. He and I drove it around one night and had a very good time together. That car was $4,000 also. Unfortunately, Fran would have nothing of it. In fact she is often unhappy when I talk about buying an extra car or an extra watch. I can’t seem to figure that out. The TR 6 eventually moved on. So did the minister. I still miss the car. If he were still there I’m sure the minister & I would still be buddies.
British sports cars were the best for their time, at least I think so. They had a reasonable amount of power, a lot of torque, and could hug the road. This was when American sports cars always thought the road was straight with no speed limit, and bathtub Porsche’s were extremely rare.
I am told the old Triumph plant in Coventry stands empty and derelict, or maybe that’s the car plant in Blackpool. In the 80’s what was left of Triumph went to the Rover group. BMW bought the Triumph name in the 90’s and sell motorcycles under that name.
Most of the great British automotive manufacturers are gone now, but a small few exist if you look for them. The British ruled the popularly priced sports car market in the late 40′s and early 50′s. Since the mid 70′s that dominance has moved out of Britain.
Here is a ’57 Chevy Bel Air. The paint job is very close to one of the original pastel colors offered at the time. The engine shows this to be a street racer in factory clothing. Those intakes gulp a lot of air!
Photos of two different Chevy Camaros. Each of these was in the first body style introduced in 1966.
A photo of the chrome logo on a fire engine red Ford Mustang.
A ’65 Cadillac convertible with an “over the top” paint job. I’ll keep my comments to myself, but I would appreciate an email from one of my readers, Terry, with his opinion on this.
This is a van put together from pieces of other vans then had some custom parts added. The El Toro High School auto shop built this thing. It got lots of attention! You can see by the front bench it’s not made to be comfortable. More interesting is the rear mounted fire breathing engine. If the top & the bottom of the van weren’t open to facilitate the engine’s huge appetite for air then the driver & passenger would probably die from lack of oxygen!
This is business end of a Plymouth Road Runner, a very popular car of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. My photo of the cartoon logo was blurry so it got trashed.
What would an auto show be without a Woody? Empty I think. Here is a ’48 Ford Woody wagon with a Super Deluxe 8 and original California plates. Look closely and you’ll see my reflection in the hub cap. The AAA chrome adder above the front plate was common in Southern California in the ‘50s. I think it became obsolete when decals became popular or car culture began to change. Certainly you don’t see license plate frame adders as fancy as that front one anymore. It is stamped from metal, painted, & says “Miami Beach”/”World’s Playground”.
Another favorite sports car of the 1950s, an Austin Healey. This one is a 100 with a 1956 plate. I’m a little suspect of it. Photos I find of the ’56 had a different shaped grille. The car could be a ’56, but I suspect it is more like a ’58. Of course it is fire engine red, the only real sports car color.
I am not a motorcycle fan, but there were a lot of motorcycles in attendance. They all seemed to be parked in one spot between the cars, and they all seemed modern.
As I shot the motorcycles a parade of various cars slowly moved by looking for a place to park. The first two show what I guess is a street [hot] rod. It was, is, or is made to be a late ‘20s Model T. It has a plate dating from the mid 70’s. I never got any closer to tell exactly what it was.
Immediately after the Model T came this mystery race car. I didn’t shoot it, but it had a recent California street legal plate on the back, but no plate on the front. Everything the driver needed to adjust the vehicle was represented by buttons within the confines of the steering wheel. I have no idea what brand this is. I’ve attached a close up of the lettering hoping one of you would recognize it. It resembles a modern Hebrew script. Beyond that I can’t say.
This is a Packard Hood Ornament. I’ve included it because I blew my composition. I was hoping to get the ornament focused with everything behind it out of focus. Instead the face of the ornament is focused with the out of focus areas in both front and back of the face.
This is much of the rest of the Packard. It is a 1937 Straight 8 Model 120 CD.
Here is a 1932 Ford Model A street rod. It is so classic that if you put your ear close to the engine you hear it whisper “trouble”. Trouble doesn’t describe the car, it was wonderful. It describes what I would get into if I drove it!
When I was growing up a fellow 2 doors up made these and whatever else he could get his hands on. It seemed like every year he was working on another car with loud exhaust. He was always roaring up and down our street in one of his rebuilds.
The final photos are of another Woody. This one is a 1940 Ford with Oregon plates. It is a beautiful car. You can see my reflection in a few of these. Don’t forget to read the description in the last photo. Or the price.