On an unusually warm, winter Saturday morning, car enthusiasts emerged from their garages in search of caffeine and camaraderie, funneling into the parking lot of a coffee shop just as the sun began to rise.
Why would dozens of people sacrifice time to rejuvenate on the weekend to stand around with cups of hot coffee and talk for hours? Derrick Horn, a car local enthusiast, provided a simple yet powerful answer to that query.
“Cars just make us happy,” said Horn.
Local car clubs like Downtown Charlotte Euro Club and Carolina Holdens come together on the second Saturday of each month for the Cars and Coffee event hosted by Waterbean Coffee® in Cornelius, N.C. Dozens of cars from all corners of the world mingle for a few hours, illustrating that it is possible for some species to co-exist after all.
Andy Barbee, another local enthusiast, spoke about why he anticipates this gathering each month.
“My interest in cars has been lifelong. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love them. It’s become a lifestyle. I go to all kinds of places with the BMW club I am a part of,” said Barbee.
At this Cars and Coffee event, it’s rare to see a new attendee on his or her own for too long before friendly enthusiasts seek them out and welcome them into their hub.
After speaking with many of the attendees, it’s also clear that this community runs on more than just burnt fuel: it thrives on a conjoining passion for cars and creates camaraderie like no other. Those with mutual interests gather together and meet strangers with ease, knowing that they already have at least one characteristic in common.
“My love for cars began in high school with the Camaro RS, and if money wasn’t an object, I would get an Audi R8. The coolest car I’ve ever seen at one of these events was a Bucket Ford Rat Rod because almost every part you see is either handmade or from pieces of other cars,” said Ken Noblezada, local Mini Cooper enthusiast.
According to the car community, the most open-ended question you can ever ask an enthusiast is to name his or her favorite car. There can never be just one.
“Well, how about all of them? There are so many categories of cars with different niches like BMW, Porsche, Chevy and Vintage cars at this, it’s just so amazing to get together and interact like this,” said Barbee.
Younger enthusiasts tend to name a Ferrari or a Bugatti as their dream car, but the enthusiasts with a couple zeros tacked onto their physical odometers find it nearly impossible. Some of them drove cars in high school that today’s car communities worship as vintage gods.
But one of the most unique aspects of this event to witness was the underlying respect car enthusiasts have for one another. Those with vintage cars mingled with drivers of 2017 models; Corvettes were parked next to Subarus and Mini Coopers alongside Porsches.
At the end of the day, this community respects the preferences of others, even if some enthusiasts don’t particularly share the same taste. If they want to plasti-dip their rims purple–that’s their prerogative. If they want to put giant chrome wheels on a Volkswagen Golf, we live in a country where they are free to do so. While there were certainly playful jokes thrown around, these car enthusiasts didn’t harbor any malice towards their fellows with differing interests.
“All of this [motioning around the parking lot] is about camaraderie. I was new to the area, so coming here was an opportunity to meet new people who also loved driving a car that has over 400 horsepower (the Chevrolet SS). We have a unique group of people and a like-minded majority,” said Horn.
The monthly event sponsored by Waterbean Coffee® runs from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and once 10 a.m. rolled around, local residents who were only interested in going about their daily business began to sprinkle into the parking lot without recognizing that there was an event being held.
“People like that don’t care about their car in the way that we do. They just don’t have the courtesy or respect,” said Horn.
Another popular debate among enthusiasts that routinely reaches a stalemate is whether the automatic or manual transmission reigns supreme. “Purists” are those who prefer to do all of the shifting with their own hand, but there are some enthusiasts who value how the technology in an automatic is able to maintain high-speed performance and agility.
Taking a walk around the parking lot, you look around and see people of all different origins driving cars from all over the world, bringing together countries and people from different walks of life.
Everyone has a story. All of these people with unique stories get together each month and share their passions and experiences.
“When I was seven or eight, I remember this 1990 Porsche 911 that was black with gold wheels, and I had a matchbox car to go with it. It’s the cars and camaraderie that make this so interesting–all of the stories that you hear from other people,” said John Cleveland, another local enthusiast.
The community that revolves around this Cars and Coffee event is stronger than steel. It’s where enthusiasts can form unbreakable bonds and lasting friendships. And the logic behind it can be summed up in five words:
“Cars just make us happy,” said Horn.