My Car Quest

May 30, 2024

A Beach Town Shopping Center Has a Weekly Cars & Coffee That Thrives

by Wallace Wyss –

Times was I’d cover events like the Pebble Beach Concours and the Quail. Drive 500 miles each way, spend $1000 in hotels, $500 on gas, yadda yadda.

Now I go to shopping center parking lots like this one for the San Clemente Cars & Coffee. But I hafta say that this weekly event taking place each Saturday in San Clemente, California, a town formerly known for being the home of President Richard Nixon, rocks because I see a lot of exotic cars. Enough to temporarily satisfy me.

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

Red white and blue Aston…say isn’t that the colors of the country started by those against Britain?

And it’s free. True I don’t see many prewar cars, and if I do it’s an old Ford Woodie. But Orange County is a newer County than Los Angeles. I am sure the age range is younger than Los Angeles county. The parking lot is right off the Interstate 5 freeway, I am talking 100 feet. And big enough for I’d say 500 cars (on their website they claim 1000). All the exotic cars park in one row if they get there by 9am. I am talking Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren. Then there’s “American exotics” like Ford GTs and mid-engine Corvettes.

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

Those who snagged a table at the outdoor restaurant had a perfect view…

One nice thing about this location is the outdoor restaurant overlooking the lot. Every table was full by 9am. And though I didn’t check the prices I am sure they are lower priced than in Malibu.

There were muscle cars, Dodges, Camaros, Mustangs but they had their own rows and occasionally a t-bucket or ’32 Ford deuce roadster made an appearance. The Japanese cars tended to be totally modified, I think I saw one that had at least $20,000 in paint and add ons.

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

Proof that even early Broncos ran doorless. But at least this guy has bars to stop you from falling out….

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

Don’t know what make this “slammed van” was but is it starting a new trend?

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

Vipers have been enshrined as Chrysler’s supercar. I keep seeing new paint schemes that must have been added later by newer owners.

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

This Austin Healey methinks is a retro-rod but there was no owner to ask to pop the hood, Cosmetically it was a 10 out of 10.

I would say there were 500 spectators the recent morning I was there. I arrived when the ropes still walled off the area–ropes removed at 8:30am and I left at 10am, by when almost every spot was full. In the South OC Cars & Coffee website publicity picture, shot from the roof of the center you see the blue Pacific but once you are there you can’t see it from the parking lot. But you can feel the sea breezes though and the air is clean (I live in an inland area where the air is alas tinged with haze).

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

There were a couple examples of pin striping–alas a lost art

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

A lowly dune buggy–I wished I could have told the owner about meeting Bruce Meyers in 1969 in nearby Newport Beach when he was just starting to promote the Meyers Manx.

Though we are mid-pandemic, only about 75% of the spectators wore masks but since the event is outdoors and has a breeze I think it is relatively safe.

I was impressed that many of the exotic car drivers looked to be under 40. I am not an ageist (if I was I’d be on the wrong side of the spectrum) but still felt a bit of pride that in America, if you choose the right profession and location to start a business you can afford an exotic. The Corvette owners also had little groups of fans around their 2020s, so I can only imagine how long they’ve waited to buy a mid-engined Corvette. When the mid-engined Corvette convertibles start arriving, they too will get crowds.

I also saw wilder paint jobs than I see in the Malibu Car Shows, more whimsical, not so “will I lower the value if I paint it my way?”

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

I call this paint scheme from the Early Spray Can School of art.

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

This Porsche spray job was a little too far out to be factory….

One worry (boy am I an old lady) is that there’s a crowd watching the cars come in and in nearby Tustin, what ended that cars & coffee was guys laying rubber to impress the crowd and losing control but there are a lot of kids appointed here to officially control inflow and outflow and someone would be a damned fool to show off. Amazingly I didn’t see a single police officer anywhere, which to me means it’s a well mannered group at this San Clemente Cars & Coffee.

I’ll be back at this event, the only thing limiting my enthusiasm is that they won’t let you in before 8:30am and us fine art photographers need morning light, thank you very much. Do you think Yosemite told Ansel Adams he couldn’t enter the Park until 8:30 am?



Let us know what you think about the San Clemente Cars & Coffee in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss paints 20″ 30′ portraits of cars on commissions from owners. To be emailed some sample shots, write

San Clemente Cars & Coffee

Is this one allowed on the Freeway?

A Beach Town Shopping Center Has a Weekly Cars & Coffee That Thrives
Article Name
A Beach Town Shopping Center Has a Weekly Cars & Coffee That Thrives
At this Cars & Coffee in San Clemente I saw wilder paint jobs than I see in the Malibu Car Shows, more whimsical, not so “will I lower the value if I paint it my way?”


  1. The paint job on the Porsche looks like something that came out from a game. My son and I played this game called splatoon and the design of the Porsche looks like it got hit by a paint gun. LMAO. Anyway, I like how they modified the Bronco. Not sure if the rims they used for it is the same ones I saw when I was browsing 4wheelonline.

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