T Bucket roadster 1

A Ford T Bucket roadster stands out.

What’s in your garage?

Maybe it’s your daily driver, sheltered from the elements so you can unload the kids and the groceries without fear of precipitation. Or perhaps your garage is stuffed with the random detritus of adulthood – lawn tools and bicycles and Christmas decorations.

My garage is my haven, and it's also home to my "one day ..." car – as in, the car I one day will get around to fixing up. It’s a 1962 Chevy II that I have owned for more than 20 years, and it has been the prime inhabitant of every garage I’ve owned.

In fact, my other garage-worthy vehicles – a 1967 Camaro and a late-model BMW convertible – are banished to the driveway, with only cloth covers to protect them from the elements.

Of course, those cars have the benefit of four wheels and the ability to move under their own power – features that the Chevy II currently lacks in its deconstructed state. Even so, I know it will run again one day, better than it did when I purchased it as a teenager.

And when it does, one of its first trips will be to Cars & Coffee.

For now, the Camaro and the BMW alternate as my transport to the biweekly gathering of Richmond-area car enthusiasts. There, both the rusty relic of the American muscle era and the sleek German sports car are equally at home.

And if you don’t have a sweet ride to show off, there’s no reason to stay home on Saturday mornings. If you like being around cars (or "car people"), you’re welcome at Cars & Coffee.

***

I started attending Cars & Coffee at Regency mall about three years ago, when I bought the Camaro and wanted to find a community of enthusiasts to hang out with.

The informality of Cars & Coffee sets it apart from other car shows and competitions, and its collection of automotive variety would be difficult to find in any other setting.

There’s no entry fee or formal structure. Anyone driving anything can pull up and park – it doesn’t matter if your ride is built or bought, or whether it’s a classic, an exotic or a daily driver. For the curious, there’s plenty of parking outside the show’s core area, so you don’t need to be self-conscious about whatever mode of transport you arrive in. (Just tell people your Ferrari’s in the shop!)

I wasn’t looking for a club that espoused a fierce, exclusive loyalty to a brand or badge. I was seeking a welcoming group of car people who, like me, appreciate a wide range of vehicles – foreign or domestic, old or new, flashy or works in progress. These are people who also devote their garages and free time to the confounding yet rewarding art of vehicle modification.

I had attended some other car meet-ups ... that turned out to be cruises to local bars. So I also was looking for something more family-friendly – a big part of the enjoyment for me is bringing along my young daughters.

Cars & Coffee, which began here in 2011 with only about a dozen vehicles, was exactly what I had been looking for.

The Richmond gathering, held every other Saturday, holds true to the "bring what you got" ethos of the original Cars & Coffee in Irvine, Calif. That event, which reached its height in the early 2000s, spawned hundreds of C&C groups across the globe.

Kenny Holder and three friends organized the first Richmond C&C in July 2011, meeting in the parking lot of a local Starbucks. After outgrowing its first three locations, the event ended up at Regency in 2015 and now attracts more than 400 vehicles on the busiest weekends, which tend to be the ones with the best weather.

The event runs year-round, and even on frigid winter days, a significant contingent of hardy enthusiasts will show up. (The gathering is canceled for precipitation – if your windshield wipers are on, C&C is off.)

Holder has contributed plenty of sweat equity in growing the biweekly meet: He built the website, creates C&C merchandise and orchestrates the group’s social media presence, including a Facebook group with nearly 5,000 members.

Even so, he’s still surprised by its growth. "I never thought this event would be where it is today," Holder said.

***

The cars begin to trickle in well before C&C’s 8 a.m. start time, becoming a steady stream of glimmering metal that represents the entire swath of automotive history and pedigree.

A stunning new Acura NSX might be followed by a more pedestrian mid-aught Volkswagen Golf GTI or a midcentury representative of American muscle. A made-to-order Ford GT supercar mingles with its ubiquitous cousins – a bevy of Ford Mustang GTs that might be worth only a tenth of the supercar's list price.

Members of a local Camaro club file in next, finding an open series of spaces sandwiched between the BMW contingent and a pristine 1957 Studebaker. A Corvette slides past while a T Bucket roadster belches and gurgles into view.

Every week, something new is bound to show up. You’ll see familiar cars and faces, and you’ll probably also see something you’ve never seen before.

It may be an immaculately restored Jaguar E-Type or an obscure relic such as an Elite Laser 917. You’ll see paint jobs that are as deep as a mountain lake as well as cars with more of a "surface rust" aesthetic – affectionately described as "patina" by doting gearheads.

The thread that unites all attendees is pride in their vehicles and a desire to share them with other people who "get it." Enthusiasts of every background are brought together by the camaraderie of the local car culture.

That feeling of community continues to attract new attendees each week, and Holder calls it one of the best aspects of the meet.

"It's not about the car you drive, but it's about how much of an enthusiast you are,” he said. "The best part is that the owners and attendees are great people, too."

So it makes no difference whether your garage is filled with rakes and storage bins or your "one day ..." project. There's still a spot for you and your ride at Cars & Coffee.

***

IF YOU GO

When: Every other Saturday, 8-10 a.m.; check the event’s Facebook page for details on the next gathering (Facebook.com/CarsAndCoffeeRichmond)

Where: Regency mall, 1420 N. Parham Road, north parking lot (outside the food court entrance)

Take care: As with most car shows, don't touch the cars. Organizer Kenny Holder also advises attendees to pay attention to purses, bags, jacket zippers and any other items that might inadvertently bump and damage the vehicles.

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