It's a few hours before dawn on Dec. 20--a Saturday--and the 405 and 5 freeways around Irvine are slammed. Porsches and Lamborghinis and other exotic cars are clipping along, some at speeds and RPMs normally reserved for a racetrack, until they hit the gridlock, all headed toward the same Alton Parkway, Irvine Center Drive and 133 exits lit up red on Waze and Google Maps.
As the clock clicks closer to 7 a.m., the traffic gets heavier, briefly forming a solid row of cars stretching to a large parking lot just north of the El Toro Y that's shared by Ford's California design team and Mazda's corporate offices. As the cars idle while waiting to get in, their engines produce a symphony of roars, purrs, putters, growls and zooms. These are special cars--restored bombs, gleaming land yachts, Italian sports coupes, Asian imports, Beamers, school projects, a military troop carrier, a collection of Volkswagen buses and beetles, and dozens of other pretties for weekend warriors to gawk at and praise.
They all eventually pull single file into the Ford/Mazda lot, slowly crawling as the drivers follow signs and volunteers to empty spots. Drivers and passengers--older white men wearing bomber jackets; wealthy foreign-born Asians, Asian Americans and Middle Eastern men; and a handful of women, children and dogs--get out of their cars and start to wander, walking the lot and literally kicking the tires of the cars that have gathered. More »