For one reason or another I seem to find myself in Phoenix, Ariz. at least a couple times per year. We have friends who live in the city, sometimes car and motorcycle launches will be held here, or I’m just driving through on my way to somewhere else with a couple of days to kill. This week I’m in town to visit said friends while en route to Radwood Austin this weekend. Every time, without fail, Phoenix and the surrounding areas (Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Glendale, etc.) always seem to be bursting at the seams with car culture.
I mean, there’s an Ayrton Senna mural downtown, for crying out loud.
If you ask anyone where the car capitol of the world is, they’re bound to say Los Angeles, right? What makes LA great? Is it the year-round driving roads, the thousands of hot rod shops, or the wide variety of cars and enthusiasts? All of those things are true, but Phoenix somehow has all of that, plus friendlier import laws, and maybe even prettier scenery. Though the weather does definitely get too hot for at least a few months of the year, so plan to buy something with good air conditioning and an excellent cooling system (sorry BMW folks!).
So what has me so convinced that Phoenix is a hub of car culture? Let’s get started with a few awesome things I’ve seen here.
We’ll kick it off with the easy stuff. Fourtilfour’s weekly cars and coffee is something you definitely don’t want to miss. At the asscrack of dawn every Saturday (and some Sundays), enthusiasts of all types gather to show off their rides at the diminutive hipster Porsche-themed coffee joint in old town Scottsdale. Each event is given a different theme, as follows - 1st Saturday: Porsches, 1st Sunday: Motorcycles, 2nd Saturday: Fast Cars, 2nd Sunday: Aircooled Volkswagens, 3rd Saturday: Shakedown (Vintage European & JDM), Last Saturday: Adventure Machines. There is usually a wide spread of vehicles from inexpensive Japanese sporting machines from the 70s to a Carrera GT or two.
How about something like the Penske Museum. Roger Penske’s racing exploits have added up to an impressive bit of car history, and with a rotating display that shows off a dozen or so cars at a time, it’s definitely worth checking out each time you’re in town. It’s kept as part of the network of luxury dealers, and covers everything from sports cars to NASCAR to Indycar. It’s good.
This week my good friend (also named Brad) showed me around his favorite haunts, including a pair of parking lot meets. The first, a weekly hot rod and muscle car-heavy show took place in the largely empty parking lot of a furniture restaurant and car parts chain store.
While this show was packed with boomer energy and the toxic masculinity typically associated with car men, it was still a lot of fun. We talked to an older gentleman who pulled an old pickup out of a field and turned it into his personal pro-touring machine with a crate small block, gorgeous eye-searing orange paint, and a matching teardrop trailer. The guy with the Forest Service Green Dodge Swepty bought it when it was a year old and has proceeded to put over 750,000 miles on it himself.
And while there’s so much more to Phoenix, maybe my favorite was the after-dark scene of the Pavilions Rock & Roll Car Show. Affectionately known as “Pavs” to the locals, this show claims to be the longest continuously running car show in the world. Every Saturday from 4PM to 8PM the parking lot gets filled to the brim with every kind of hot rod, Chalcharstangmaro, eurotuner, and right-hand-drive JDM monster you can think of. I only took five photos, but I’d say a slammed E30, a Type 34 Karmann Ghia coupe, a real Civic Type R, a fresh-off-the-boat Mitsu Evo II, and a Local Motors Rallyfighter should give you an idea of what kind of variety we’re dealing with here. The show is literally hundreds of cars every week, and you can bet it’s a good time.
I don’t think I’ll be buying a house in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area any time soon, but knowing that there is this much car culture in town, plus hundreds of great driving roads within an hour’s drive out of town, plus rust-free shells on every street corner, maybe it’s time to start considering this place a car town.