There is a ritual I think most car people go through leading up to car shows and car meets. It’s called the “night before scramble”. This is when we tend to our cars needs, in order to prep them for the next morning’s meet, often at the very last minute. Folks bringing their daily driver to the meet may need to wash the workhorse inside and out, erasing evidence of the car’s daily rigors. Working into the wee hours of the night, they meticulously buff, wax and shine up their trusty chariot. Others might have cars more dedicated to Sunday driving, track days or car shows, which require some dust removal, but also might have the odd piece or two that needs to be installed before rolling to the meet in optimal appearance. Perhaps a new lip spoiler bought during the winter, maybe a new intercooler, or a new set of wheels even. Still others may have a car that has been mostly out of commission all winter, the subject of a significant overhaul. They may spend hours toiling away, coffee coursing through their fatigued body as they struggle against the clock trying to get a vehicle that can run under it’s own power before the sun peeks over the horizon. Whatever the specifics of your ritual, it all comes from the same place: we love our cars, and we love seeing other’s cars. Everyone wants to show their pride and joy in the very best light they can muster. Some cars arrive still show room fresh, new car smells still intact. Some of them exotics, the object of fantasies, their model names uttered as punctuation to the phrase “if I ever win the Lotto”. Others are pristine gems of motoring yesteryear, that conjure romantic images of cruising through small town USA, winding through pine lined European roads, or sliding around corners on a Japanese mountain road. Even project cars in progress can be appreciated, the early days of what may become an eye-popping spectacle of a build. We all love this stuff, in our own unique way, and cars and coffee meets are the culmination of everyone’s efforts to express themselves in automotive form. So here, as always, are a few of my favorite sights from the day in no particular order.
Brown, vintage, boxy, and Volvo; the combination of these descriptors may not illicit thoughts of motoring excitement, but that is the wonderful paradox that is this particular Volvo 142S at North Suburbs Cars and Coffee season opener. It defies the usual convention of automotive expectations, and maybe that is a reason it is so hard to take your eyes off of it. Volvo’s cars have always been synonymous with safety, but this one looks like the risk taker of the family, maybe even a bit dangerous. This 142S with a rusty brown exterior that resembles something between a well worn saddle and a rust bucket, is a real genre bender. I see the aesthetic cues of rat rods, vintage Euro and oddly vintage JDM, all present in the package. Unmistakably Scandinavian with it’s no-nonsense lines mostly intact, but with the low stance, widened wheel arches, deep dish wheels,and fender mounted mirrors, it carries an attitude that is the antithesis of the original car. If the Volvo family is a long line of modest and moderately successful accountants, this 142S is the one that ran off to London to start a punk rock band and thumb it’s nose at the establishment. Even now, uploading the photos, I can’t take my eyes off of it. What the hell is this thing? It’s fantastic is what it is.
Remember me waxing poetic about automotive yesteryear earlier in this piece? T his next car is a prime example of vintage motoring romance. If you have been exposed at all to stories of rally racing, specifically group B racing, this car’s unassuming exterior is likely to stir thoughts of incredible speed, and incredible danger. Group B was off road racing at it’s most insane, and for a sport that involves tossing cars sideways at over 100mph flanked just inches away on either side by old growth forest, stone buildings and oh, actual living human beings, that’s saying something. This Audi Quattro sends all these images into my mind, but yet it sits here so inconspicuously. Aside from it’s striking red paint, it looks like just another boxy European car from the 1980’s. I spent some time looking over this car, I very rarely see them at all. Not many were sold in the U.S. to begin with, and for a period of time Audi was in danger of disappearing from the U.S. market altogether. These two factors, along with the typical elements of age and rust, mean that there probably aren’t too many of these left on the road, and even fewer likely in this condition. This Quattro appeared to be in remarkable shape, aside from the well weathered steering wheel and polygonal styling, there was little to betray it’s true age.
The next highlight is a trio of cars, owned by a diverse group of people, with a diverse style of modification, all unified by the automotive oddity that is Mazda’s rotary engine. The group was part of a healthy contingent of RX-7’s that I personally have a new found kinship with, given that I too own a second generation RX-7. Mervyn’s first gen received a freshly rebuilt heart transplant just the night before, or perhaps very early morning of the meet. Racing to get the aggressive street ported 13B heart installed and running well enough to make the drive, Mervyn pulled it off and gleefully rode up in his car, no doubt tired but with a smile on his face. Fred was happy to have his Montego Blue third gen RX-7 back on the street after winter hibernation. His FD is an exercise in subtle modification that emphasizes enhancing the already gorgeous lines it left the factory with, rather than straying too far from it. Seeing Fred’s FD, I have really begun to appreciate that Montego Blue paint. Not quite blue, and not quite green, it treats you with a different appearance dependent on light and angle, unleashing a brilliant shimmering combination of the two color elements in direct sun. I also had the pleasure of meeting Ted for the first time, also owner of a third generation RX-7. His lovely FD strays quite a bit more from stock, but manages to retain that beauty just as well. Wide body treatment gives it a more striking profile, and having it sprayed in Ferrari’s own Nero Daytona paint color, makes it ever more difficult to prevent jaw from hitting floor. The deep black with such dense clustering of pearl within it, creates an ever sparkling effect. Walking alongside the car, admiring the whole package, the paint chases after you with silver pearl glittering in the sun light, and the carbon answers with it’s own slightly caramel tinted hue. The more contemporary aesthetics of these changes, are all tied together well by the mesh three piece wheels sporting a gunmetal on polish lip look that makes the whole ensemble fitting of a period correct 90’s japanese tuner car.
Another nice find was this track prepped E36 M3 sitting in the shadow of a still barren tree. Wheel aficionados will appreciate the five spoke Epsilon wheels it sits on, in beautifully clean condition as well. The E36 seems to be enjoying a surge in popularity as of late, and it’s easy to see why. It’s angular lines have aged well, and it is still a competent performance machine with a great handling chassis. With this generation being sandwiched by it’s way costlier predecessor, the E30 and the seemingly poised for appreciation E46, it makes a great value proposition as well. Hmm, maybe I should change me E46 M3 ownership fantasy for one of these instead?
North Suburbs Cars and Coffee have created quite an event, and in just the two times I have been to them, I have not been disappointed by the turn out one bit. I am looking forward to hitting more of their meets, and really looking forward to another great summer now that spring seems to finally be here. Keep scrolling for more shots from the day, there really was no shortage of cool cars to spot, and everything above was just a small taste of what was on hand. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!
-photos and writing: Robert Sixto