Lashara and Evans Harris (left) stand in front of their BMW and Mercedes with car detailer Jeremy Connor (right) of Who Did That Inc. at Cars and Coffee on the first Saturday in July. (Photo: Jordan Stutts of Qcitymetro.com)
Editor’s Note: Adventures in the Qcity is a series that spotlights local destinations in the Charlotte area. Click here to read about other we’ve featured.
Early in the morning on the first Saturday of each month, a chorus of rumbling hotrods — classic, exotic and new age models — roll into a vacant parking lot near the NC Music Factory.
The car owners, all obsessed with their wheels, paint jobs and horsepower, have come for Cars and Coffee, a three-and-a-half-hour car show where wide-eyed enthusiasts might spot anything from a vintage Corvette to a brand new Ferrari.
The first autos arrive just before 7:30 a.m. Then, after a few cups of coffee, available for purchase under a tent behind Mattie’s Diner, drivers rev up their engines as spectators gawk and listen.
Because no trophies or prizes are awarded, Cars and Coffee is more about camaraderie than competition.
Bob Howland, a regular at the show, said, “The ice is already broken when you start talking about cars.”
“It’s nice just to be out and talk to people,” he said, “talk about cars, get people interested and preserve a piece of history.”
Cars and Coffee was started in December 2008 with a handful of owners meeting at a Panera Bread in south Charlotte. But as word spread, they eventually outgrew the location.
Today the owners meet in a 700-space parking lot crawling with dozens of onlookers. News spread person to person and over the Internet.
On the first Saturday in July, Howland drove up in a dark green 1967 Corvette that he has owned for 30 years. Except for a new engine and a fresh paint job, his car is basically “how it came out of the factory,” he said.
“When I bought it, I was single, living at home,” Howland recalled. “…I’ve had it before my wife, before my kids, before everything. This is part of my life.”
Howland said he and other members from the Carolina Classic Corvettes club are helping to restore a Corvette owned by a woman who inherited it from her father. All of the parts and labor were donated “in memory of her dad,” he said.
For Fred Johnson, the decision to get a newer-model Corvette was easy.
“I’ve had the rest, now I want the best,” he said.
When he was fresh out of high school, Johnson bought a 1967 Chevelle and has “always had some kind of fast car.” He now drives a sleek, silver 2007 Corvette with 430 horsepower.
He described Cars and Coffee as “a family friendly event” but said he’s looking to enter his car into real competitions. Last month in Myrtle Beach, Johnson entered his first competition along with members of his club, Roadrunner Vettes.
Johnson said he wasn’t sure what to expect that first time out, but now he said he knows “what the judges are looking for, what you need to improve on.”
Evans Harris and his wife, Lashara, are used to racking up trophies at car shows, some as far away as Las Vegas. The two of them together have won close to 30. So for them, the friendly environment at Cars and Coffee provides a chance to support Jeremy Connor, the man who makes their cars look spotless.
Connor is owner of Who Did That Inc., a car-detailing business. The three were at the July show to display Evans’ black and blue 2005 645 CI BMW and his orange and black 2011 Mercedes C300.
Connor said he spent about 90 hours detailing both cars, which together are worth about $80,000.
Even though winning a trophy is nice, Evans Harris said his interest in hotrods comes from his involvement in a charity called Reaching and Riding for the Youth. He said the program goes to cities across the nation, usually following the NASCAR circuit, and uses cars to reach children in need of mentoring.
“I used to see teenagers who were into cars,” Evans Harris said. “We let them know they don’t have to do negative things to get into cars, buy cars or design cars.”
As for the grownups, Evans Harris said Cars and Coffee connects auto lovers in a special way.
“It doesn’t matter about what color, what age group you are,” he said. “If you’re into four wheels, you’re in to four wheels.”
GETTING THERE: Cars and Coffee is located in a parking lot behind Mattie’s Diner at 915 Hamilton Street. From the uptown Transit Center, go to walk to Bay B and take bus 21. Get off at the intersection of NC Music Factory Boulevard and Johnson Street. After about a six minute walk west on NC Music Factory Boulevard, Mattie’s Diner will be on your left.