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Donuts & Diners from Dawn to Dusk

A friend of mine once told me that there is always something going on in an automotive sense every week in California.  Now it would be fair to say I viewed the claim with a certain amount of scepticism – that is, until my recent trip to the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, when I found you could quite easily fill virtually every minute of your time gazing at cool cars. Thanks to some pre-trip planning, with useful suggestions from rodder, Simon Phillips, combined with the use of a Ford equipped with an excellent, and invaluable, satellite navigation system, the scene was set for an eye-opening excursion into the automotive world of Southern California, and thanks to the Ford, a much less fraught encounter with LA traffic than I thought might be the case.

The focal point for the event, which takes place every Saturday, is the Donut shop on the corner


“Be there at 6.30am,” I was told, to take in the Donut Derelicts car show, which assembles in a shoppers’ car park in Huntington Beach every Saturday morning.  Why 6.30am, I asked?  “Because everyone rolls in early, to have time to chat before departing as the shops open at about 8.30am.“ This is so as not to take up all of the parking spaces – how thoughtful!


This lovely 1933 Dodge was for sale and had just 2800 miles on its new 360 cu. in. motor. The price was $24,900 obo. Tel: 714 968 0923

It turns out that the Donut Derelicts car show, which centres around a small donut shop between Adams and Magnolia Avenues, has taken place at this venue for over 20 years, and is something of a word-of-mouth event – it’s not promoted.  It’s a show for all auto enthusiasts, from hot rodders, to customisers, muscle car fans and classic car buffs – and everything in between.  Even car manufacturers have apparently been known to show up with prototype, or early production models, as a way of gauging public reaction.  “You never know what might turn up,” one rodder explained – and he was right. 


Radically modified 'Model A with Model B grille is both channelled and chopped


As one quaint automobile chugged by, I was informed it was a Stanley Steamer, from about 1906, but to me it had a more modern, hand-built quality about it.  Never having seen one before, I was none the wiser, but watching it pull out into traffic and slowly, almost silently slip away, reminded me of modern electric powered vehicles.  It also made me wonder if we’ve really moved on that far in an automotive sense.  Maybe we’ll probe that subject another time.


Steam or electric?  It made some interesting whooshing noises but we weren't totally convinced


Every parking space, for as far as the eye could see, was occupied, and with such an eclectic mix of vehicles, there really was something for all automotive tastes – from rat rods to full-on show vehicles, from custom Mercs to old Ferraris.  To my mind, it’s a shame we don’t enjoy this sort of motoring camaraderie in the UK, which brings together rodders, customisers and restorers, and removes the snobbish antipathy that often seems to exist between different groups of automotive enthusiasts.  All I can say is that those early morning hours rolled by very quickly, and by 9.30am, you would never have known the event had taken place.  Before the assembled crowd had disappeared altogether, though, we managed to run off a selection of photos to record the occasion, and also tracked down the owner of a lovely Track T, which you can read about in our second feature in Top Stories this week.  If you’d like to know more about the Donut Derelicts event, check out the official web site, at 


Hammered Ford was typical of the high quality customs on display

This Model A Roadster attracted a lot of attention - from its unusual choice of wheels to the drilled, side hinging hood supports to the lovely detail in the trunk.  Check out that raised V8 logo on the inside of the trunk lid.



Of course, California is all about great weather, and even in January, it’s pleasant enough (at least for us Brits) to drive around in summer clothes and hang out late into the evening without feeling cold . . . well, just about.  One of the favourite places to take in a little evening air while still remaining immersed in the local car scene is Bob’s Big Boy Diner in Burbank.  Opened in 1949, Bob's Burbank is the oldest restaurant in the nationwide chain, and its historical significance was recognised in the1990s, when its new owners restored the building to its former glory.

Today, the place is not only a wonderful, “living” example of the streamline styling of the period, but also the scene, on Friday and Saturday nights, of two themed car club events.  Again, like the early morning Donut breakfast meet, there are cars and characters present covering the entire spectrum of automotive interests. 



We met one enthusiast in the car park who was happy to talk about his prize possession – a Cobra 427.  Was it a very good replica?  No, sir.  This was the real thing.  An original Cobra 427SC sold for $627,000 in 2004, so accounting for inflation, this car had to be worth well in excess of that figure – and it was parked next to some cars that appeared to be worth just a few thousand dollars.  No wonder the Cobra owner looked a little worried!   Then there was the neat, rat rod-inspired VW Beetle, stripped of fenders and lowered, whose owners explained that the car had already appeared in Britain’s Ultra VW magazine.


Cars and bikes of all vintage are welcome.  There is some police presence, but its decidedly low profile


Of course, you can’t go all the way to Bob’s without trying a burger, and although I don’t claim to be a connoisseur of such culinary delights, this one was particularly tasty.  By way of a word of warning, though, if you are planning a trip to this landmark diner, try and book first, as it’s very busy.  One thing is for sure, this is one of California car culture’s must-visit venues (

Story: Andy Kirk & Graham Jones
Photos: Andy Kirk

You are looking at well over half a million $ - it's the real thing

The car park is not as big as you might imagine (about twice as big as the Ace Cafe) and it was soon full, but you could still drive in and out with ease

This neat convertible Bug was doing its best impersonation of a hot rod.  it seemed to work too

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