Green Wheels: Caffeine & Carburetors

NEW CANAAN — It was unseasonably cold for the last Caffeine & Carburetors event in downtown New Canaan. If you haven't heard of this six-times-a-year ritual, it's worth a short review. The event, which is a delightfully informal alternative to highly organized car shows and concours d'elegance events, was launched in 1995 by Doug Zumbach, who runs Zumbach's Gourmet Coffee.

Yes, a lot of people drink Zumbach's coffee during the morning events, but it's not about that—this is a gathering of area car nuts, pure and simple, with an accent on high performance and racing cars (though plenty of slow classics are on hand).

Emceed by veteran Connecticut DJ Peter Bush, who's insanely knowledgeable about all things automotive (and especially racers), the Caffeine events have been growing to the point where they threaten to overflow downtown New Canaan. Parked in every available space are some of the world's most exotic machinery.

Bush seemed most impressed by a bright yellow Saleen S7, reportedly the first one made. Yes, 700 is a lot of horsepower. These things started at $375,000 and went up from there. There were many, many Ferraris, a whole Porsche Platz (including an ultra-fast production 959) and not one but four classic BMW 3.0 CS cars. I've always wanted one of those, and they've always been outside my price range.

The humbler marques were well-represented, including a much-used Trabant that probably still had East German grit on it. For contrast, there were two MGB-GTs like Richard Thompson sang about, one pristine (and right-hand drive) and the other a rusty beater. A really banged-up 1989 Peugeot was a competitor in the 24 Hours of LeMons for cars that cost $500 or less. Bush is a veteran.

I liked 1960s Jaguar Mark I and Mercedes 230S rally cars, both of them looking like they just did the Paris-Dakar. There was both an immaculate Lancia B20 Coupe and what is likely to be an ultra-rare Lancia panel van.

There was an incredible bright red Messerschmidt with clear bubble top, a 1947 John Deere tractor, and many 1960s Minis, MGs, Lotus Elans, and E-Types. A pug wore a Ferrari coat, and a Nissan Fairlady roadster had later twin-cam Nissan power (and no hood, the better to display it's woodgrain valve cover). This is the kind of event where that beat-up Peugeot was parked next to a fully restored Mercedes 600 limousine.

And this year there was also a Euro-model 1967 Volvo 122S, with pride of place between two hot-rodded BMWs. I know the Volvo because, well, it's my car. It's fun to be a participant, not just an observer.


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