Every Saturday, rain or shine, my dad and I plus other like-minded car admirers make our way to the San Clemente Outlet Mall for the latest edition of South OC Cars and Coffee. During the week, the outdoor mall is filled with moms, baby strollers and little kids busy shopping at Levis and Lululemon. But on Saturday morning, the parking lot with a view of the ocean is brimming with tons of older adults and cars — from vintage Model T’s to Lamborghini Aventadors.
My dad and I get up at the crack of dawn and head down a typically empty 5 Freeway to get there before all the fun starts at 9 a.m. It’s a bonding experience of the best kind: Car aficionados checking out cars; talking about cars; taking pictures of cars; learning the history of cars and being outside in the sunshine together.
My first real connection to a car was when I was 10 years old and my dad took me for a ride in his 1967 CS Camaro, a red convertible. Riding in that car, with its rumbling engine, gave me a rush that I had never experienced. I felt a full range of emotions: fear, excitement and butterflies in my stomach. I felt invincible and hopeful at the same time.
Since that day, my dad and I have gone to car shows, car races and dealerships all over the state. We’ve researched cars, spoken to owners and have come to discover that every car has an interesting story and is a part of a family.
What makes OC Cars and Coffee so special is owner Simon Wehr, who puts on the weekly show for the more than 3,000 cars and guests who flock to the outlet parking lot to socialize and connect over a shared passion.
Wehr, with his engaging personality and cool Australian accent, picks a car of the week and interviews the owner about what makes the car special. My favorites have been Jim and the 1961 vintage C1 Corvette that he purchased in 1999. He lovingly restored the car to its original beauty and modernized it with 17-inch tires. He gets a kick out of coming to these shows — along with his Labrador, Jerry — and sharing his car’s story.
There’s also Ken and his 1966 Ford Bronco roadster that has no doors that he’s restored and babied for more than 22 years. And Kathy with her 1973 Triumph GT6 in an original French blue color like the one she had in high school.
Cars make people feel emotional, young and excited. I encourage everyone to hop in their car (preferably a convertible) grab a bagel and a cup of coffee and head down south to South OC Cars and Coffee and have a blast!