Written by Sally I. Barceló
Photography by Jason Stephens
Car culture has been a part of American culture since the 1950s, and on the first Saturday morning of every month, car enthusiasts gather in Lakeland to keep that tradition alive.
To an outsider, a car show might seem redundant. The automobile is simply a means to an end, a necessary tool to get from point A to point B. To others, a car show is a way to gather, admire other vehicles, and exchange stories with their owners. They are exhibitions and appreciation of the present, past, and future, while enthusiasts spend hours in conversation while also showing off their own vehicle. These events are often celebrations of the camaraderie and stories that owning a vehicle brings.
Ten years ago, Walt Engle, Gene Conrad, and Steve Hurley got together and decided to create a space for all types of car enthusiasts to gather and enjoy a shared experience around cars. That space is now known as Lakeland Cars and Coffee. The concept of a car show is fairly simple, and the execution is streamlined: a group of local car enthusiasts gather in a parking lot with their favorite rides. In this case, they gather the first Saturday morning of every month with coffee in hand.
Whether you enjoy the classics like a Cobra — one of America’s top racing hot-rods — or rare custom collectibles like an Underground Racing Lamborghini, enthusiasts of all types of vehicles can stroll and find something to admire at the monthly event Lakeland Cars and Coffee.
“Whether you know everything there is to know about the mechanics of a car, you want to show off your own car, or you just admire everything there is about automobiles, then this is the Saturday morning for you. At Lakeland Cars and Coffee, all cars are welcome — from classic cars to supercars, modern cars, or just the car that you are personally proud of,” says Engle.
“At Lakeland Cars and Coffee, all cars are welcome — from classic cars to supercars, modern cars, or just the car that you are personally proud of.”
Originally, Engle planned to get the event up and running and eventually pass the torch, but now, 10 years later, he is still connecting with old friends and meeting new car enthusiasts every Saturday and sharing with them his own stories and passion for cars.
Car show gatherings are a staple in the American culture, and they happen in every city across the nation. Car meetups like these have been taking place since the late 19th century when automobiles first became popular in the U.S. Not long after, driving enthusiasts started formal clubs to share their love of cars and advocate for better roads. Car clubs really took off in the postwar America of the 1950s and 1960s. For example, car lovers launched the Vintage Sports Car Club of America in 1958 to meet and share their passion for classic vehicles.
Throughout the decades, what has made these events special is the simple fact that everyone in attendance has a unique love and admiration for different vehicles. And Lakeland’s car culture is ever growing. Families, friends, and young and old couples are welcome to stroll through the parking lot at Lakeland Linder International Airport to take photos, enjoy coffee, and admire one another’s cars the first Saturday of every month from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.