For some reason I feel like I find myself in Phoenix, Arizona at least twice a year. We have friends who live in town, sometimes car and motorbike launches will be held here, or I’m just driving somewhere else with a few days to kill. This week I’m in town to visit said friends on my way to Radwood Austin this weekend. Time after time, without fail, Phoenix and surrounding areas (Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Glendale, etc.) always seem to be brimming with car culture.
I mean, there’s an Ayrton Senna mural downtown, to cry out loud.
If you ask someone where the capito carl of the world is, they have to say Los Angeles, don’t they? What makes LA great? Is driving all year round the 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 it all, plus friendlier import laws and perhaps even more beautiful landscapes. Although the weather definitely gets too hot for at least a few months of the year, so plan to buy something with good air conditioning and a great cooling system (sorry BMW folks!).
So what convinced me that Phoenix is a hub of car culture? Let’s start with some awesome things I’ve seen here.
We’ll start with the easy stuff. The weekly Fourtilfour cars and cafe are not to be missed. At dawn every Saturday (and some Sundays), enthusiasts of all types gather to show off their rides at the hipster, Porsche-themed little cafe in Old Town Scottsdale. Each event is given a different theme as follows – 1st Saturday: Porsche, 1st Sunday: Motorcycles, 2nd Saturday: fast cars, 2nd Sunday: air-cooled volkswagens, 3rd Saturday: Shakedown (Vintage European & JDM), Last Saturday: Adventure machines. The is usually a wide range of vehicles ranging from cheap Japanese sports machines from the 70s to a Carrera GT or two.
how about something like the Penske Museum. Roger Penske’s racing exploits added to an impressive chunk of car history, and with a rotating display that shows a dozen cars at once, it’s definitely worth checking out whenever you’re in town. . It is part of the luxury dealership network 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 lots. The first, a weekly hot rod and muscle car show, took place in the largely empty parking lot of a furniture restaurant and auto parts chain shop.
Although this show was filled with boomer energy and the toxic masculinity usually associated with car men, it was still a lot of fun. We spoke to an older gentleman who pulled an old van out of a field and turned it into his own pro-touring machine with a small bed block, gorgeous bright orange paint and matching teardrop trailer. The guy with the Forest Service Green Dodge Swepty bought it when he was a year old and drove over 750,000 miles himself.
And while there’s so much more to Phoenix, perhaps my favorite was the after-dark scene of the Pavilions. Rock & Roll car show. Affectionately called “Pavs” by locals, this show claims to be the longest continuously running motor show running around the world. Every Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., the parking lot is filled to the brim with all kinds of hot rods, 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 freshly landed Mitsu Evo II and a Local Motors Rallyfighter should give you an idea of which type of variety we are 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 home in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area anytime soon, but knowing there’s so much car culture in town, plus hundreds of great roads within an hour’s drive of the city, no more rust – free shells around every corner, maybe it’s time to start thinking of this place as a car town.