PALM BEACH GARDENS – You never know who you might meet or what you might see at Cars & Coffee Palm Beach. The enormously popular car meet up at the Palm Beach Outlets Mall attracts high-end car collectors, hobbyists and lots of regular folks who love to look at cool rides.
Florida Fine Cars caught up with a few of those car enthusiasts during one of the recent monthly events. Here’s what we found!
Meet car buff Larry Jones, a retired boat captain who loves to show off his custom 1950 Mercury Coupe, a sleek black custom head-turner painted with ferocious flames that lick at the hood. Jones acquired the car about eight years ago partially customized and has continued to do more work. Talking about it makes him smile.
“It has a Chevrolet engine, a big block Chevrolet. It has a lot of power. It’s got probably 500 horsepower,” Jones said proudly. The stunning paint job was created by Crazy Horse Painting in Waxhaw, North Carolina. It’s called “live fire” and it’s meant to stop traffic.
“I’ve chopped the top, I’ve channeled the car (brought the floor up 4-inches) and it rides on air bags,” Jones explained. “It has air bags on all four corners. It’s a better suspension and then you lower it and it looks cooler.”
The car sports a chrome grill from a ’56 Chevy, and the headlights are “frenched,” or recessed into the body of the car.
Nearby, Jeff Bye parked his yellow 1966 Ford F-100 pickup truck, no ordinary ride by any account! He rebuilt the lowrider with a 2008 Crown Victoria front end, a 5-speed transmission from a 1998 5.0 liter Ford Mustang and installed buttons on each side that shoot out fire.
“Some people think you should restore it the way it was,” said Bye, who rebuilds Porsches and Ferraris for a living. “It’s either like love or hate. I’ve had people tell me I’ve destroyed the truck.”
You’ll always know when Bye’s truck is on its way: it doesn’t have a muffler or pipes and the noise is really, really loud.
But that’s all part of the fun.
According to John Zeilinga – one of the founders of Cars & Coffee – the popular monthly car meet up usually attracts about 1,400 cars car owners during the slow months. During the Season, you might find as many as 2,500 cars on display and 20,000 spectators in attendance.
“We have everything from old Model T’s to brand new Lamborghinis, hot rods, race cars and hand-built garage cars,” said Zeilinga, a firefighter/EMT for Plantation. “We get people who just want to learn about cars and people who have been working on cars for 40 years.
Brandon Gasparini is one of those car buffs who works on cars. His Jeep Cherokee is a marvel with the rugged-looking, textured spatter that distinguishes from all others. But Gasparini didn’t pay a penny for the look. It’s mud, not paint, and it draws crowds every time he wheels into Cars & Coffee to show it off.
“Best paint job around,” yelled a passerby, who gave a thumbs up. “We like this one the best!”
Gasparini’s 1997 model Jeep Cherokee X5 has nearly 300,000 miles on the odometer and is spattered with so much mud that many spectators mistake it for a custom paint job until some of the texture rubs off on their fingers.
“I haven’t washed it in a month,” said Gasparini who works for Jeep. “It runs like a dream.”
The mud buggy has removable doors, a 4.5-inch lift and 33-inch tires.
Gasparini takes his Jeep mudding in some secret holes in Port St. Lucie that he’s been digging since he was in high school.
“It takes hours to wash it which is why I don’t,” he chuckled.
Across the way, Joe Zahradnik was showing off the brand new 2017 Shelby Baja Raptor, one of only 50 to be manufactured and the first of four to be sold to the public: the first went to the Shelby Museum in Las Vegas, the second to the Ford Motor Co. and the third to an undisclosed business executive.
Crowds of truck lovers were “oohing: and “aahing” at the huge blue beast, built with a redesigned front bumper, special suspension work and custom LED lighting that can be angled as you drive.
“Amazing! When can I take it for a test drive,” cooed one admirer as he peered inside.
Sticker price? $115,000.
And at Cars & Coffee, there’s a likely buyer somewhere with the means to take it home.
At the back of the lot, Said Sauder fielded questions about his fire-engine 1969 modelred T-1 Porsche transporter, which has the cab of an old Volkswagen bus and the rear of a car transporter.
“Back in the ’60s and ’70s Porsche had to take their cars to races and that was the way to go in style,” Sauder explained. But Sauder’s transporter has a longer bed – he stretched by seven feet.
Back in the day, the vehicle was used to transport a Porsche 550 Spider to races and back, he said.
It’s quirky mix of Volkwagen charm and longbed truck drew admirers all day long.
“This is the only one of its kind in the U.S.,” Sauder said. “There’s two in Germany. It’s supposed to have a Porsche Spider on it but it’s not ready. Three people told me it’s the best car in the show!”
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