Rev Your Engine
Every week, the rebel spirit of the Valley’s car culture rumbles to life in a parking lot in Woodland Hills.
- Written byDan Fredman
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
It’s 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning and Dustin Troyan stands in the parking lot at the Promenade in Woodland Hills, watching car after car roll in. A silvery Porsche 914-6. A phalanx of multicolored Camaros. A 1955 Ford Thunderbird. His weekly “Supercar Sunday” meet is the big daddy of local “gearhead” get-togethers, the loose constellation of events that keeps the San Fernando Valley the center of the car-obsessed universe. Whether it’s the Friday night cruise-in at Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake, the annual Chevy extravaganza in Canoga Park, the Sunday morning “Cars and Coffee” over the hill in Malibu or “Supercar Sunday,” these public displays of automotive love are where the Valley’s cylinder-powered soul rumbles to life.
“In the 1960s and ’70s, the car culture was fueled by the outlaw image of hot rods drag racing on Ventura Boulevard or sports cars deucing it out up on Mulholland,” Dustin says. “On the surface, it was all about seeing how far you could push your car, avoiding the cops and maybe making a little money. But deep down, it was really about hanging out with your friends and a sense of belonging. ‘Supercar Sunday’ is the natural evolution of that car-crazy tradition of Southern California.”
“You can never go wrong with PCH through Orange County; from Dana Point to Huntington Beach is always a fun drive. I also love Mulholland.” — Jeff Sharell
Dustin, a longtime car enthusiast who works in automotive marketing, was working as a coffee roaster in Woodland Hills when he realized the lot in front of his coffee shop would be a fine place to stage a morning gathering of car lovers. “Supercar Sunday” was born in 2000 as a free, weekly get-together for about 20 of his friends but soon became too successful for its own good. After merchants complained about the crowds, he moved the event to the Promenade in 2009. The rules are still the same: All cars are welcome, free of charge. No spaces are reserved, so the brand-new, detailed-to-the-max Ferrari 599 is parked next to a bone-stock ’67 Mustang, a shiny Nissan GT-R next to a rat-rod of indeterminate age, all surrounded by an ocean of Jaguar XKEs, Corvettes and even a Checker Marathon. No revving. No Peeling out. No racing. And the memorable directive, “Do NOT be an idiot.”
Most weeks, 200 to 300 cars are on display, some buffed to a luminescent brilliance and others in some state of restoration or disintegration. The ethos is simple: Just bring what you drive and expect no judgments but perhaps advice, educated recommendations and the occasional admission of awe or envy. “For at least a morning, cars are the only thing anyone cares about,” Dustin says. “Every car has a story, sometimes a lot of stories. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do for a living, your politics, your race, where you’re from or even what you drive.”
It’s a car guy world. Let’s meet some of them.
WHO: Jeff Sharell, Tarzana
THE RIDE: Jeff has loved tinkering with cars as long as he can remember. His first car was a 1988 Toyota Celica. “It was my brother’s car. It was a horrible burgundy color and had matching interior. I had to take it, but I didn’t waste any time. I headed over to Globe Tire in LA and got some new 15-inch chrome wheels for it (back in 1991, they were cool). Then I tinted the windows, had some of the interior reupholstered, lowered the suspension and put a stereo system in it with two 10-inch subwoofers in the trunk.” Jeff also owns a 1959 Chevy Apache, a 1963 Chevy C10, a 2005 Mercedes E55 AMG and a 1992 Mercedes 300te wagon, “none which are stock.”
THE ROUTE: “You can never go wrong with PCH through Orange County; from Dana Point to Huntington Beach is always a fun drive. I also love Mulholland. I would have to say that I enjoy driving cars over working on them. I really like going to car shows and car meets. Being in Southern California, there are car meets every weekend, and during the summer, there’s always a car show to go to.”
“We were fast and furious before there was a Fast and Furious.” — John Windt
WHO: John Windt, Culver City
THE RIDE: John was working at Motown Records in Detroit when he bought a used, red 1964 Lotus Elan. Its simple design appealed to his engineer mentality, and he drove it out to LA in 1968, looking for work.
THE ROUTE: “The Lotus and I became regular participants in the late-night racing scene up on Mulholland Drive. We were fast and furious before there was a Fast and Furious. I even rolled the car one night. No injuries—my pride, maybe—but it took me eight months of working six hours a night to get it back up on the hill again. I do all my own work on the car. It’s simple—no power brakes, no power steering, just three pulleys and one belt. I eventually got so busy building recording studios that the car sat in the garage for 10 years. I sold it to a friend, and he let it sit for another 10 years before finding time to drive it. In the meantime, I’d take my Ferrari 430 to Bob’s Big Boy, and I was hearing good things about “Supercar Sunday.” That got me thinking about how much I liked the Lotus, so I bought it back from my friend and I’ve been driving it ever since.”
WHO: Francisco Hernandez, Northridge
THE RIDE: His dream car is also his everyday car—a 1987 Toyota Corolla SR5, a bright red coupe whose “in-transition” exterior belies the attention paid to the mechanicals.
THE ROUTE: “My mother’s first car was a 1977 Toyota Corona and I’ve always just liked Toyotas. I grew up in the Valley and started coming to “Supercar Sunday” before I was old enough to drive. I do my own work on the SR5. I’ve swapped out the automatic transmission for a manual, upgraded the carburetor and will do the cams and maybe some bodywork at some point, but right now I just enjoy driving it, and I like hanging out and talking to other car-heads. Retro-heads, old school-heads, exotic supercar guys—there’s no segregation, no judging, just a dedication to cars.”
WHO: Sheldon Roth, Northridge
THE RIDE: 1997 Volvo 855S Estate Wagon, a mom car on the outside and a turbo-charged monster under the hood.
THE ROUTE: Sheldon studied design in college and the education stuck with him. “Back in the ’70s, I was passing through Amsterdam and I saw a Volvo 122S parked next to a canal. It was like walking into a magazine ad, and it was love at first sight. I’ve owned maybe a dozen Volvos since then but am down to three now. Being into cars is a nice outlet for what may be my benign case of OCD. I love detailing cars—it’s a tactile way of feeling how the form and function of a car’s design come together. At “Supercar Sunday,” I like to see the little artistic touches other guys add to their cars. It’s like looking into a jeweler’s display case.”
WHO: Alan Dornath, Woodland Hills
THE RIDE: Back in high school, in 1961, Alan had the third-fastest 1956 Chevy in the Valley. His current cars, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Hardtop and 1964 Impala Super Sport 4-speed Convertible, still see time on the asphalt but not the drag strip.
THE ROUTE: “I was a member of a club called the Highwaymen, and I regularly ditched school to go racing along the LA River in front of Forest Lawn. I worked afternoons at a Mobil station and would park my Chevy in front, and people would stop in to see if I wanted to race. ‘How much ya got?’ I’d ask, and we’d make arrangements to meet later. I won most of the time. I made a lot of money for a high school kid. You get older and you want to pass your love of cars along to youngsters.”
“I regularly ditched school to go racing along the LA River…” — Alan Dornath
Alan heads up the Classic Chevys of Southern California and organizes an annual car show to raise money for the Rancho San Antonio Boys Home in Chatsworth. “We’ve raised more than $150,000 over the years, which is a little ironic since more than a few of us hot-rodders would probably now be considered at-risk youth, and we could easily have wound up as Rancho San Antonio residents instead of benefactors.”
WHO: Mark Garren, Northridge
THE RIDE: The inveterate surfer drives a limestone gray 2017 Volkswagen Golf R, the racier version of the ubiquitous GTI.
THE ROUTE: “It’s a limited-edition model that’s like a go-cart on rails. I had a 1985 GTI a long time ago, so when I was in a position to do something nice for myself last year, I tracked this car down in Utah. A buddy and I flew up and drove it back home through Las Vegas. The roadtrip was a blast. My quality of life is much improved since I’ve begun driving this car every day, and seeing other people who are just as into whatever they’re driving is such a good feeling.”
A creative lair, indeed.