As the date drew near, initial speculation forecasted around 500 cars would show up for the Bergen County Cars & Caffe Season Opener, held at TopGear Imports. But before the clock struck noon, an estimated 1,500 autos had circumnavigated the industrial park in Saddle River. Despite the massive crowd that came with and for the cars, most people behaved as they should in public.
The automotive scene, especially the "Cars & Coffee" faction, has had its eyes blackened, its lips fattened, and its nose broken in the last few years courtesy of a few highly publicized mishaps. Inexperienced drivers looking to earn their hooning licenses in everything from BMWs to Mustangs (ok, primarily Mustangs) became unintentional stars in YouTube clips, Instagram videos, and Facebook Live streams, with their reputations becoming as viral as their actions themselves. It gave ammunition to people who view cars as merely appliances for transporting them to the necessary evils of life, like work, candle parties and chiropractor appointments. With that said, it was imperative that attendees strictly adhere to the "no burnouts/no reckless behavior" policy. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Thankfully, with the exception of only one known incident in which I'm told the driver of an E30 Cabriolet was unable to maintain lane, the crowd kept under control, thanks in part by both by the Saddle Brook and Elmwood Park police departments who directed the traffic in the appropriate direction, and to volunteers who helped steer it once the cars made it into the parking area. But most importantly, the success was made possible because of attendees like you, who knew better than to two-step themselves into a group of onlookers in your hand-me-down Dodge Charger V6s. Or to roll through the parking lot blasting the newest release from your favorite Limewire-downloaded artist. The C&C scene applauds the general lack of asshattery.
As usual, I arrived early enough to be one of the first folks on scene, leaving enough time to scope out the situation before the madness began. And by madness, I simply mean the continued inflow of cars from about 7:45 until 11 or so, at which point the river of cars started to reverse course, resulting in yet another stunning display of what would happen if floodwater was instead represented by Lamborghinis, Porsches, and BMWs. I'm still about eye-deep in pictures.
Rumor has it that at around 10:45, traffic had backed up so bad that the police had restricted entry to the business park and started to redirect cars to adjacent lots, or sent them on their way down the road. It was the most glorious traffic jam I have ever beheld, and one that I wouldn't have minded sitting in had I not been roadside capturing the cars as they crawled past. Picture this...a slow and steady spate of ludacris Lambos, prancing pasta ponies, streamers of Bimmers, and many, many other motoring menageries.
For content creators, social media lifestyle bloggers, camera-toting YouTube stars and Instafamous knuckle-draggers, assistants to regional managers, and automotive enthusiasts young and old alike, the event as a whole was like a fantasyland. Even though I wrote the number 1,500 above, until you see that number in the metal, it's hard to comprehend. The sheer volume of cars that your brain (and my camera's sensor) had to process was daunting.
The one thing that always sets Cars & Caffe apart from its Cars & Croissants brethren is its undeniable ability to attract a bevy of modern marvels. There were no less than 13 Porsche 991 GT3 RSs and almost nearly the same amount of Lamborghini Aventador SVs, both in Coupé and Roadster flavors. BMWs of all varieties, including a representative from almost every slice of the color wheel, figuratively rubbed mirrors with members of the FR-S/BRZ gang. I counted four Mercedes-Benz G550 4x4², an SUV that appeared as if a standard G-Class was injected with too much botox below the beltline. Additionally, there was practically more Porsches than people, which makes sense given a large portion of the hosting venue's inventory hailed from Stuttgart. Prestige Motors provided their own parade of McLarens and Lamborghinis for promotional purposes. Sadly though, to the disappointment of some, no so-called hypercars blessed us with their presence. I would suspect they were all still too hungover from Earth Day celebrations to make it out. Or their owners grabbed a different set of keys instead.
Tony Boniello, the founder of Bergen County Cars & Caffe, is well-versed in the language of formulating a plan and successfully seeing it through. This the the second return to TopGear Imports, the first commencing back in 2015. Venue is key to ensuring that everyone has an enjoyable time, while promoting a safe environment for folks walking throughout the area. The decision-makers at Top Gear Imports went above and beyond, hosting a catered breakfast inside their facility, while having an impressive collection of rare Porsches and other fine automobiles on display. There were no less than 3 Carrera GTs, a few early 911 Turbo Carreras, Speedsters of nearly every generation, and other miscellaneous motors parked just a few yards from muffins, bagels, and other assorted danishes. Can't beat that complimentary brunch and punch.
In other news, there was a handful of YouTube personalities in attendance as well, putting their own spins on how to document their experience and share it with the world. Last I checked, one video has already received nearly 200K views in the two days since it's been published. Damn, that's like 400K eyes and ears have seen and heard it. Also, as the event neared its end, a black Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster rumbled into the lot, with one very large finger wagging at the photographers from behind the windshield. The driver was none other than the monster of a man, Michael Strahan, and he was not interested in people taking pictures of the proverbial horse he rode in on. However, as soon as he lumbered inside, the lepers leapt at the opportunity to capture a celebrity's chariot, no matter how filthy it was. I'd also like to take this opportunity to offer an anonymous shoutout to the old pals I encountered and the new friends I made. I can get a bit disconnected with the world as I position myself behind my lens. Your greetings, salutations, and small talk help to reel me back to reality, even if for a short moment.
As the morning excitement turned to afternoon exhaustion, I had a minute to reflect on the totality of the circumstances that engrossed my attention for the first half of the day. This was not just an event, it was an occasion. Sure there will be more than the lion's share of C&Cs scattered throughout the year, but [mostly] everyone attends the Season Opener. It's the first time of the year that some cars leave their winter hibernation and get shaken down on the drive in. It brings people together. It's the only cure for the month's long cabin fever that ails the auto enthusiast. It's the reason I get up before the sun, grab a cup of coffee on the road, and head towards wherever my camera takes me.
Editor's Footnote: Because I don't want to break the internet with a gallery that takes eons to load, I'm simply going to link to my FACEBOOK ALBUM. Furthermore, I took 3206 pictures in the span of five hours. If I didn't get a shot of your car, it's not because I didn't want to (or maybe it was?), but because at some point my brain had to blink and I happened to miss things. The best way to guarantee a fancy glamour shot that you can repost on IG is to hire me ahead of time. If you decide that route, everybody wins. Additionally, all the images you see here or on my Facebook page are available for purchase, either as files or prints. Please submit all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your support.