11 July 2012

The top five classic car cities

Look at any forum, chat room or Facebook fan page where old car enthusiasts gather and the common thread is a feeling that it’s hard to tell one new car from another. Whether you subscribe to that notion or not, it’s always refreshing to see old cars mixing with the new. Certain cities in the U.S. just seem to be more classic-car centric — they have the perfect mix of a reverence for vintage cars plus a combination of culture, roads and climate. Here are some of our picks for the most classic-friendly cities in the U.S.:

  1. Portland, Ore.: Portland is America’s best old car town. Trust us. A mild inland climate where snow is a rarity and road salt is unheard of means that old cars really don’t rust unless left outside in a damp Portland winter with the top down. An ample supply of reasonably priced old cars and young hipster drivers means that car spotters can see everything from Ford Falcons to Datsun 510s and AMC Gremlins plying areas like the Pearl District, Hawthorne and NW 23rd as daily transportation. There are several blogs dedicated to old cars photographed at random on the streets of Portland. There’s an entire cottage industry of ace mechanics who don’t advertise (and for whom you have to know the secret knock) but who service Portland’s bounty of old cars. Add this to the truly killer roads just out of town that crisscross the Willamette Valley wine country and the Pacific Coast (just mind the militant bicyclists), and Portland is hands down America’s best old car town.
  2. Monterey, Calif.: The Monterey Peninsula is host to some of the old car world’s most glamorous events — The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elégance, The Quail Motorsports GatheringThe Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and numerous classic car auctions. In addition to all of this, its proximity to some of the most scenic stretches of US 1 and the iconic 17 Mile Drive which accesses the famed Pebble Beach Golf Course make for some unforgettable drives. That plus a fairly arid climate (once you get slightly inland) ensures that there are plenty of rust-free old cars around in daily use.
  3. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Scottsdale, like Monterey, plays host once a year to an orgy of classic car excess in the form of no less than six collector car auctions that take place in the middle of January. There’s simply nothing like it anywhere else on the planet. Permanent home to the Barrett-Jackson auction company of SPEED TV fame as well as Russo and Steele, the area boasts a year-round old car driving season (assuming you have A/C and an up-to-date cooling system) as well as some great roads in the mountains just north of Scottsdale. And it’s in the desert, so rust is virtually unheard of.
  4. Los Angeles: It may be congested and smoggy, but Southern California is to many still the epicenter of the American car culture, and it’s still possible to enjoy some truly great drives in a classic car. The classics are Mulholland Drive from the 405 to Laurel Canyon Boulevard and PCH from Santa Monica to Zuma Beach. Unlike most states, old cars in California wear their original license plates with pride and you can tell a California native from the 1960s by its black and yellow plates or a child of the 1970s by its classic blue and yellow plates. 
  5. Detroit: Yes, it’s an obvious choice, what with the whole Motor City thing, but the fact of the matter is, it’s well-earned. In addition to being the seat of the U.S. auto industry, the car culture is fully ingrained into the city’s psyche. Blue-collar, honest American muscle cars are celebrated here every August at the Woodward Dream Cruise, which takes place on the legendary Woodward Avenue where so much of the unofficial R&D was done by the Big Three during the muscle car era. The driving season is limited and the fact that salt is practically the state mineral of Michigan means that winter drives are a no-no, but with numerous automotive-related attractions like The Henry Ford Museum, Detroit is a must on any list of the best old car cities.

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    barry triestman United States July 12, 2012 at 15:30
    How about Reno, Nv, Desert, gaming industry funding Hot August Nights. Is it the biggest muscle car event?
  • 2
    Frank Wichita Ks July 28, 2012 at 14:21
    test - did you receive my previous comments. After entering the comments, I was directed to an error page.
  • 3
    Mike Flint Michigan July 28, 2012 at 17:20
    How about Flint? If Detroit is the "seat of the auto industry", then Flint is the seatback and head rest. Flint is just as compelling as Detroit when it comes to classic cars. Flint is Buick, lest we forget the General and the whole area is awash in classic muscle from early spring til late fall. Just saying........
  • 4
    Mike Flint Michigan July 28, 2012 at 17:20
    How about Flint? If Detroit is the "seat of the auto industry", then Flint is the seatback and head rest. Flint is just as compelling as Detroit when it comes to classic cars. Flint is Buick, lest we forget the General and the whole area is awash in classic muscle from early spring til late fall. Just saying........
  • 5
    Dewey Hammons Oklahoma July 28, 2012 at 17:59
    I Have a beautiful 1951 Ford Victoria for sale.
  • 6
    Lynn Anderson Metro Detroit Area July 28, 2012 at 09:41
    Thank you for including Detroit! In all my years doing auto shows, I found that no one loves or appreciates the rolling sculpture called the automobile more than Detroiters. And as an automotive journalist, I find more beautiful classic cars in Detroit than anywhere else. Warmer climate cities drive their vintage vehicles all year long - and they look it. Because we have a winter and only drive our cars 6-7 months, our classics are more pristine and maintain their restorations longer. The Woodward Dream Cruise is the largest one-day celebration of the automobile in the world, attracting millions of cars and their ardent fans. Come join the celebration next month!
  • 7
    Ned Scudder San Diego, CA July 29, 2012 at 08:12
    Not all cars in CA with black and yellow or blue and yellow plates are "California natives," so do not be fooled into thinking just because a car might be wearing them that you are looking a car with a sunny, dry history. Rules are in place which allow the retro-fitting of these plates to non-native cars, which means that if you travel to sunny southern CA in search of a rust-free automobile, you might be looking at a car that arrived from Buffalo, NY just a few months ago without knowing it if you use just the old license plates as your guide.
  • 8
    Art Weatherly Riverside Ca July 29, 2012 at 08:39
    How about Mulholond Dr from the Hollywood freeway to almost Oxnard, PCH to Oxnaerd also.
  • 9
    Leo Sheridan WY July 31, 2012 at 14:25
    Having been to many classic car events, to me the best one is Kool Deadwood Nites in Deadwood SD. Free concerts in the street, rod and poker runs through the beautiful Black Hills and over to Devils tower Wyoming, beautiful golf courses, and of course casino gambling. Hundreds of classics congregate in a town of 1300 people for 4 days the last weekend in august. It is always a fun time and highly recommended.

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