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Cars and Coffee again has people wheeling into Bethlehem

cars and coffee wide
Ryan Gaylor
Some of the cars on display during Cars and Coffee at SteelStacks in Bethlehem Sunday.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — The sound of backfiring engines and the smell of exhaust filled South Bethlehem on Sunday as thousands of automotive enthusiasts flocked to SteelStacks for this year's first Cars and Coffee auto show.

Three parking lots near the former Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces housed rows of high-end supercars parked among more pedestrian models lovingly tuned and modified to their owners’ unique tastes.

The show drew 2,500 to 3,000 people, ArtsQuest Business Development Associate Aaron Dobbs said, and hundreds of cars in its main lot alone, with more on display in two smaller side lots.

Cars were lined up in another way Sunday morning.

The resulting traffic snarled roads around SteelStacks. Several attendees said they spent more than 45 minutes sitting in traffic waiting to park.

cars and coffee porsche
Ryan Gaylor
Onlookers watch as a white Porsche pulls out of the main Cars and Coffee show lot Sunday.

'Bring together the Lehigh Valley'

This year brought a handful of new food and other vendors to the show, including food trucks from Tom’s Coffee, Duck Donuts and BBQ/seafood joint Slabs and Crabs.

Sunday’s meet, the first of six monthly Cars and Coffee events held by ArtsQuest, was open to all makes and models.

Future shows will focus on specific themes, such as American muscle cars, Japanese imports or European models.

Only the show’s main lot, nearest the SteelStacks blast furnaces, will be restricted to on-theme cars, Dobbs said, with the side lots still open to anyone.

The summer’s final Cars and Coffee, in September, again will be open to any car owner who wants to participate.

“We want to bring together the Lehigh Valley,” Dobbs said.

“Whether you're the biggest car fan in the world, or you're just a little bit interested, there's something that's appealing to everybody.”

cars and coffee med
Ryan Gaylor
Attendees check out some of the more exotic cars on display at Cars and Coffee in Bethlehem Sunday.

'Really a box of crayons'

The season opener in particular typically draws a vast variety of cars, which automotive devotees and novices alike praised Sunday.

"I just always loved cars. They're pieces of art."
Bill Rossi of Easton said.

“I bought my first car when I was 14 years old, before I was able to drive," Bill Rossi of Easton said.

"I just always loved cars. They're pieces of art… and then people customize them and make them different or better than they were. It's always cool to see what people are doing.”

Rossi, attending his first Cars and Coffee on Sunday, said he was “shocked at how big it is,” both in terms of the number of cars participating and the amount of traffic he fought to make it to SteelStacks.

cars and coffee exotics
Ryan Gaylor
A handful of exotic cars were on display at Cars and Coffee in Bethlehem Sunday.

“This is where you see people get to be creative and do their own thing,” Philadelphia resident Sean Carney said.

“Everything from the airbagged cars that are sitting on the ground, which is this one culture, to race cars, to show cars, to just funky, everyday inexpensive cars that someone had spent tons of money on to make it their own.”

Monty Montalbo, an Orlando, Florida, resident with a self-described “mild interest” in cars, said, “I think it's really cool.”

“There's a lot of cars that are just base models — like they just bought it out from the dealership and then pulled up. But the ones that are modified, they're really cool.”

Carney said, “You see a lot of different flavors of the car community, and that's what I think I like the most about it. It's really a box of crayons."

The next Cars and Coffee meet will be May 19 at SteelStacks.