There was an air of excitement, the like of which I hadn’t felt in a while. It felt odd and different, almost alien.
The idea of getting up on a Sunday morning to do ‘car things’ is something that’s been missing for the past few months. It felt so good to have it back.
Since the world as we know it changed dramatically in mid-March and the terms ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ entered our everyday vocabulary, the opportunity to just get back to previously normal things seemed immaterial. Here in Ireland, we were locked to a 2km, and later a 5km (1.2 and 3.1 miles respectively) radius of our homes. For weeks on end, cars sat on driveways and in sheds, and the buzz of meeting people fizzled away.
Last Sunday was different. It was a sense of return, a sense of normality, and a sense of a world of old, yet different in many ways. Hand sanitiser, face masks and encouragement to stand 2m apart is something you’d never expect to see in a field packed out with cars, but if it’s what it takes to get back out and about, yet continue to tackle COVID-19, then so be it.
The idea of mixing cars with a cup of coffee is such a simple one. From its Southern California roots, C&C has always been a somewhat non-show; come in what you own, appreciate what everyone else has brought, and enjoy a mid-morning brew.
I’m odd and don’t like coffee or tea, which is severely frowned upon in some parts, so ‘Cars & Chat’ has always been my interpretation of the C&C moniker. But it’s the one meet-up that can be so divergent.
Any C&C that I have ever attended has been different in its own way. There is always going to be a showstopper that you have never laid eyes upon before, but also a passionate hoard of petrol-heads that will talk with enthusiasm about their own pride and joys.
In the late July sunshine, the Killarney Cars & Coffee venue began to fill up early. Advertised to start at 10:00am, there must have already been 50 cars when I arrived 15 minutes early. For the next few hours, the stream of vehicles was constant, each carrying an owner excited to be back out and getting miles into cars that have sat idle for what feels like a lifetime.
Amongst the early arrivals, this Mazda RX-7 left me standing in a trance. I have an incredible lust for an FD3S, so to see not just a stunningly clean example – which is rare in Ireland – but one sporting an incredible set of RAYS-made Mazdaspeed MS-02 wheels was just jaw dropping. I did have a conversation with someone while standing near this car, but I don’t think I registered a single thing as I was so captivated by the Mazda.
Nearby, another JDM hero sat overlooking the Mazda – and it was owned by the same owner. This R32 Skyline GT-R was pretty much as factory fresh as these cars can be. Original everything, save for some tiny little additional details under the bonnet, this car had a constant circle of people milling around. Still though, at what other show would you have a Japanese icon parked alongside a 1950s British roadster and a modern Skoda Octavia vRS?
I’ve always felt odd around shooting Cars & Coffee, mainly due to the fact that I often spend these meets chatting and catching up with friends. But such was the variety of stuff that kept rolling in, I just kept shooting. Also, and a truer mark of the times we’ve been through, I hadn’t turned on my camera since early May, so I really needed to get back up to speed.
As the sun began to properly blast down, I swivelled my head and caught a glimpse, through a crowded field of cars and people, of one of the rarest sights imaginable.
Now, this is the point I get very odd, but one of my favourite features on this site last year was Jordan’s visit to the Festival of the Unexceptional. I adore odd and quirky stuff that harkens to a time before and during my childhood, so a completely original, and possibly restored, Austin Maestro 1300 HL is like honey to me. Its so incredibly unexceptional, yet incredibly wonderful, and I know for sure the owner absolutely adores it. Bonus points for a rear sticker that reads ‘Cool’.
The BMW crew were represented strongly with a smattering of M3s and some lovely E36 3 Series cars, a model that was the disposable and cheap rear-wheel drive option not too long ago, but has seemingly become a scarce classic overnight.
I also enjoyed getting a good look around a brand new Renault Megane RS Trophy. While not the upper expensive, carbon-wheeled Trophy-R, the latest offering from Dieppe is still a wonderfully aggressive player in the hyper-hatch market.
With the sunburn starting to take hold, it was eventually time to make an exit. Of course though, having made the effort of getting on the road at 8:00am, it would have made no sense to simply turn around and head home.
There is a small road that leaves the town in the opposite direction that is reasonably well known, and no trip in that direction ever feels complete without a spin over Molls Gap.
In the company of the possible pinnacle of modern performance hatchbacks – namely a pair of Mk7.5 VW Golf Rs – the pace was brisk, but my noisy and raw Peugeot 106 Rallye felt at home. Twisting up through what felt like a never-ending sequence of sharp turns and darty straights, the diminutive 106 made up for its many shortcomings.
I recently talked about the driving experience of this machine, and over the past few weeks I have made an effort to simply take the time and properly enjoy it on great roads. That said, it was fairly well left for dead once the Rs opened up on the fast and flowing section to the summit.
Home by the mid-afternoon after a morning of good cars and better people, I felt re-energised.
2020 has been a game changer. Much of the car world we all know and love has been altered and changed in ways we never imagined, but the simple pleasure of getting out on a Sunday morning to enjoy the automotive life is something that remains unshaken.Gallery