Cars, Coffee & Community

Sarasota Cars & Coffee Is Bridging the Generation Gap

The monthly gathering of car enthusiasts is raising funds for those affected by Hurricane Ian on Oct. 8.

By Laura Paquette October 6, 2022

Crowd watches sports car at Sarasota Cars & Coffee at University Town Center

Car enthusiasts enjoy Sarasota Cars & Coffee at University Town Center.

Whether you drive a Ford Focus or a Ferrari, fill your trunk with donations and head to the the West District at UTC on Saturday, Oct. 8, for Sarasota Cars & Coffee. The October event will collect essential items and monetary donations for those affected by Hurricane Ian. 

Cars & Coffee, which meets monthly, began in 2011 when Peter Tromboni, a native Sarasotan, founded the event. It started out as a small car show at the Suncoast Porsche dealership. “I went to more casual car shows in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa, but there wasn’t anything like it in Sarasota,” he says.

Tromboni was confident that Sarasota was a great market for the event. His hunch paid off. Cars & Coffee outgrew the dealership and now takes place at University Town Center, outside Ford’s Garage.

Each month, the event collects donations for a different charity, further encouraging attendance. “We tend to average around 500 cars per month,” says Tromboni, “although we recently had over 600.” 

Little boy collects donations at Sarasota Cars & Coffee.

Sarasota Cars & Coffee fundraises for a different charity each month. Tomorrow's event will help raise money and collect donations for those affected by Hurricane Ian. 

One of the vehicles frequently seen at Cars & Coffee is a 1972 DeTomaso Pantera owned by 82-year-old Marty Quadland. Even while he lives part time in Wyoming, Quadland is revved up to return to Sarasota for the November event. He purchased the Pantera 50 years ago; in November, Pantera enthusiasts will come together to celebrate his half-century ownership of the car. They hope to introduce these cars to younger generations and fuel an enduring love of the rare automobile.

1972 DeTomaso Pantera car against backdrop of snowy Teton Mountains.

Marty Quadland's 1972 DeTomaso Pantera in the Teton Mountains. 

Apart from the Panteras, other cars include a McLaren Senna, retro Volkswagen Beetles and restored British convertibles. “We often see $10,000 cars parked next to $200,000 ones,” says Tromboni.

For every generation of cars brought to Cars & Coffee, there is a car enthusiast to match. “People of all ages attend,” says Tromboni. “There are families with strollers, war veterans with classic cars, and high school kids eager to show off their first set of wheels, often a used Honda Civic with little paint left."

Red and vintage automobiles highlight the diversity of cars at Sarasota's Cars & Coffee.

Sarasota Cars & Coffee attendees bring a wide variety of cars to the event each month.

One such high schooler is 15-year-old Kaitlyn Graybeal, who can’t wait to bring her 1983 Porsche 911 Targa to the event. “It’s one of the first cars I learned to drive,” she says, “and it’s really fun.” The love for automobiles runs in Graybeal’s blood. Her family not only collects but also regularly drives everything from vintage cars owned by her great-grandparents to a speedy 2000 Spec Miata race car. 

“Over the last hundred years, there’s been such a wide variety of cars, and every generation from those past hundred years has loved cars,” says Kaitlyn’s dad, John Graybeal. “As the cars change, people change, but they keep everyone linked together."

Two Fords from different generations are parked side by side.

Different generations of cars allow attendees to experience the history of the automobile.

Bruno Wu, a 37-year-old personal chef, first fell in love with cars as a child. “I had the little boy syndrome of growing up and wanting a bright red sports car,” he says. Today, Wu brings his weekend car—a 2017 Fiat 124 Spider—to Cars & Coffee. “I love when an older person does a double take and geeks out because they used to drive one,” he says.

When Stephen Hirschthal, a 35-year-old digital media specialist, attends the event, he’s reminded of his father. “My dad always had a fun sports car,” he says. With his 1974 Chevrolet Corvette, Hirschthal carries on his father’s legacy. “Older couples sit in the car, remembering their youth,” he says.

Heidi Graybeal, Kaitlyn’s mom, also wistfully recalls childhood memories of cars. Attending Cars & Coffee reminds her of her grandparents, from whom she inherited several beloved cars. “We used to go to car conventions together, and I would ride in the cars during parades,” she says. Their family still frequently drives the classic 1928 Ford Model A Heidi's grandparents owned.

“Cars can have an emotional attachment to a person, place or time in your life,” John Graybeal says, “and can represent more than rubber, steel and leather.” 

Colorful Volkswagon beetle at Cars & Coffee

"People can express themselves through their cars," says Cars & Coffee attendee Bruno Wu. 

Speaking of rubber, steel and leather, the elbow grease many put into their cars connects gearheads young and old. “People know that when you put work into a car, there’s money, blood, sweat and tears involved,” says Hirschthal, “and your car becomes a visual representation of your personality.”

Over the years, Tromboni has observed this pattern again and again. “There could be 10 of the exact same vehicle lined up, and they could all be different,” he says.

“It’s something that everyone can share, and the love, work and spirit is all the same no matter the car,” says Hirschthal.

Young boy stands next to race car at  Cars & Coffee.

Budding car lovers experience the thrill of race cars from SRQ Motorsports. 

According to Quadland, Cars & Coffee's open atmosphere is a perfect way to bridge Sarasota’s generation gap. Standing next to his silver and gray Pantera, he's proud to introduce it to younger generations. “A lot of older people have been told that the younger generations aren’t as interested in these cars,” he says, “so it’s quite nice when an 18-year-old asks a dozen questions about it.” He adds that many young people have never heard of the Pantera before, and are amazed that it looks as good as modern exotics. 

Car enthusiasts walk through the parking lot and enjoy the different cars.

Car enthusiasts of all ages gather and share their passion for the automobile.

Perhaps the dual nature of cars as both historic and cutting edge makes them an ideal vehicle to bring people of all ages together. “I think it would be rare for an 18-year-old to start talking to an 82-year-old if there wasn’t a subject we were both excited about,” Quadland says.

“Here’s a challenge for everyone,” says John Graybeal. “Find someone from a different generation than you and invite them to the next Cars & Coffee.” If you’re lucky, you might even meet Quadland and his Pantera.

Sarasota Cars & Coffee runs the second Saturday of each month from 8 to 10 a.m. outside Ford's Garage at University Town Center. Car owners are encouraged to donate $10 to the monthly charity supported by the event. The October event will be held Saturday, Oct. 8. Get more information here.

Show Comments