- Future Classic is located outside Chicago, IL, and crafts top-notch parts and soft goods for a worldwide automotive community.
- This Melbourne Red E90 M3 is equipped with an ESS VT2 625 supercharger kit making around 530 whp.
- The drive from Future Classic’s Chicago-suburbs headquarters to Pit+Paddock’s Cars+Coffee takes about 12 hours.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned in the past couple of years, it’s that we are generally more capable of things than we thought before. For me, the car “thing” had been more of a private affair for the better part of a decade — something that I cherished as an exercise of my own creativity and expression rather than a public display. But things change. And in this particular scenario, it was me that did the changing.
My vantage point of the car scene had evolved for two reasons. First, the advent of Future Classic afforded me the opportunity to create and the space to share my personal tastes for the automotive aftermarket with the world at large. Second, I (much to my dismay) got older. The latter brought a few grey hairs as a cruel reminder, but it also bestowed a realization that my newfound status as a statesman of the industry also offers the opportunity to share the knowledge I’ve accrued over the years with a younger generation.
Although I was born with a seemingly innate interest in cars, I owe a great deal to the innumerable conversations I’ve had over the years for maintaining and fueling this enthusiasm and passion. From when I was only old enough to admire to when I finally had a license and car of my own. These earnest, wide-eyed conversations with strangers at car meets or even during gas station fill-ups inspired curiosity and an insatiable hunger to learn more about these amazing machines.
Back then (I know, cue the “back in my day” speak), car meets were a smorgasbord of makes and subcultures. American muscle, sport compact imports, exotic supercars, and motorcycles of every kind shared the parking lot rows. It made for a fascinating buffet to feast upon and encouraged appreciation and respect for the variety of flavor preferences. Sadly, that diversity seemed to slowly fade over the years in the Midwest and, along with it, the numbers of participants. It became a much more secular exercise, a sort of parking lot rivalry in a space that once embraced differences and emanated a sense of community and belonging. Additionally, these meets were too often cut short by rowdy, disrespectful, and dangerous driving behavior — a far cry from learning spaces that I relished as a kid.
I think that’s perhaps why online communities of enthusiasts are flourishing nowadays. It gives us the opportunities to form connections and ask questions without the physical limitations of traditional in-person meets. I’m certainly grateful that the digital world has afforded us these forums; however, I’ll also say that connecting someone’s IG handle with their live-action, three-dimensional face (and car) is now that much more special. So when I heard about Pit+Paddock’s inaugural Cars+Coffee, I jumped at the chance to log some miles on my E90 M3 — optimistic to bring a bit of that old-school connection back to 2021.
Some might be an understatement. 799 miles stood between Future Classic’s office in Chicago’s suburbs and Turn 14 Distribution’s headquarters in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Chicago greeted me with a wall of urban traffic, posing a final opportunity to change my mind before the monotonous, flat roads of Indiana and Ohio opened up. But as straightforward as that sounds, this stretch of pavement tested my patience the most: the 400 miles were generously peppered with construction zones and the highway patrol that goes with it. Daylight turned to a steady downpour before surrendering to night.
ARRIVING IN PA
As relieving as reaching the Pennsylvania border seemed, the well-lit cityscape of Chicago’s main veins was nowhere to be found — my E90’s headlights and the aging ones inside my own head played captain as the roads turned twisty. All the while, potholes, and possums plucked at my desperation to arrive unscathed. But despite their best efforts, the E90 and I prevailed. A 2 am hotel check-in never felt so good.
Mercifully, I came in a day early. Friday presented an opportunity to visit R/T Tuning — one of my favorite shop destinations in the area. The variety of cars here harkened back to that golden era I talked about before (I know, cue the “back in my day” speak, again), but it’s true. There’s something really cool about seeing an M3, NSX, Supra, 370Z, S2000, CTS-V, and a Bentley share the same space.
I didn’t know it then, but my visit to R/T was only a small preview of what was to come at the Pit+Paddock Cars+Coffee. From space, it must’ve looked like a scattered pack of Skittles — and you’d likely be able to see it from that distance, too — over four hundred cars overflowed Turn 14 Distribution’s expansive lot and onto neighboring streets.
My mental hot tub time machine moment faded soon after, and I found myself back within my 30-something body, back pain and all. The snap of reality reminded me of my aforementioned purpose: to have meaningful conversations with the car community about the ties that bind us, indulge the curiosities of my own car journey, and put half-faces to names after a year of automotive quarantine.
Perhaps the social abstinence of quarantine made this event seem even more magical, but I ultimately believe that what Pit+Paddock represents is what set the intentions and energy of that day. Indeed, Pit+Paddock’s mantra echoes my own sentiments for the car industry’s future: to get involved with local communities, collaborate with like-minded companies, and give back to the culture that raised us.
Before starting the journey back westward, I drove out to Valley Forge National Historical Park with Daryl Sampson and Vinny Marino from T14 to snap some photos. As Vinny did his thing, I couldn’t help but think that the backdrop was rather fitting — two modern cars occupying hallowed ground, a subtle metaphor for bridging generations, and a final nod to both mine and Pit+Paddock’s mission.
Sincere thanks to Turn 14 Distribution and the Pit+Paddock teams for hosting such a great event. It was the longest drive I’ve ever taken to grab a cup of coffee, and it certainly will not be the last.