If you’re currently kicking it in the big smoke like I’m forced to do to fund my racing habit, then chances are that you’ve attended at least one Caffeine and Classics events that our sister title kicked off with Protecta Insurance back in 2013. The formula of a monthly car park meet, an eclectic mix of cars, and some top-notch caffeinated milk to sip while strolling rows of automotive awesome is, well, awesome. Spanning everything from old Mazdas, Minis, Chevys, and BMWs to scratch-built Porsches worth moonbeams, has clearly resonated with the local scene, as the event has grown to the point that people show up hours before the scheduled and intended late start time just to secure a spot inside the car park.
The problem is that the location of Smales Farm on Auckland’s North Shore is only so big. Car parks are limited, and many of those limited spots have been taken up by what I and many others in attendance would call marginal cars of interest, while cool shit has been forced to park in the surrounding car parks to the point that you may as well have taken the bus to get there. Up until recently, the rules on what was welcome to park-up were loose, so cars like, say, my daily-driven E46 M3 would be welcomed. (I would never take it, but it’s a bad-arse car in its own right, just not what the event is about.) This goes for plenty of other models, including, but not singling out, the hordes of Commodores, late-model Mustangs, and the like that would show up. Granted, all of these are cooler than your typical daily grocery runner, but with an event that’s struggling to keep numbers down and, I assume, under pressure to sort it out from local council “or else”, something had to give. These cars — the type of stuff I see regularly on my daily commute — have been first on the chopping block.
A post on social media outlining the new rule that cars must be over 30 years old, or something truly special or unique, has received more attention than a post about some important new law that the government is currently debating. Many clearly are seeing red and seemingly taking it extremely personally that someone could tell them that their mild performance ‘special edition’ daily-driver is not allowed to attend anymore. Any event that’s working is going to experience growing pains, and I fully back the move to limit what is allowed to turn left at the gate and what must go right. But I do think that perhaps things need to be taken to the next step with a list, and a clear line drawn in the sand, as leaving it open to interpretation is dangerous. Many people will still show up at the Smales gate and proceed to plead their case as to why their car should be let in. If I was the gatekeeper, I’d have two mean looking SOBs standing behind me, as I bet it’s going to get ugly more than once. Sad but true!
On a more positive note, I think this is only going to strengthen these low-key Sundays, raising the calibre of cars to another level. I know lots of really cool cars that didn’t bother to attend due to numbers of questionable machines. And, hey, all is not lost. If you’re not welcome at the gate, there are plenty of other events that will allow you to show off ya spitshined daily, so keep it classy at the gate if you’re turned away.