ALPHARETTA, Ga. – As car shows go, Caffeine & Octane is perhaps the largest free weekly get-together of car aficionados and automobiles in the Southeast. It features just about anything on four wheels or two – from high-dollar Lamborghinis and Maseratis to muscle cars of the 1960s and ’70s or vintage cars great-granddad drove.
The event is the first Sunday of the month – every month – and there is no entrance fee for cars or gawkers. And last Sunday, Aug. 4, there were plenty of both. Perhaps as many as 2,000 cars were on display at the corner of Windward Parkway and Deerfield Parkway.
The cars completely filled two parking lots of a Windward office building. Where the visitors parked is hard to say except that surrounding businesses had their lots full as well. Fortunately, Alpharetta police were out in force to keep order and direct traffic.
Bob Guarino from Cherokee County brought his ’71 El Camino. He said he just found out about the show that week. Rod Witmer of Grayson was a first-timer also. He brought his 2007 Corvette Z car painted “atomic orange.”
“I don’t fish, play golf or hunt. I just hang out with people who enjoy cars like I do,” Witmer said.
Paul Brown and his wife Sheila from Marietta brought out the track roadster he hand-built from the ground up. Although he has been coming to Caffeine & Octane for around 20 years, this was the first time he had his “baby” here.
Asked how fast will it go, he gives the honest answer.
“Much faster than I want to go,” he said.
It took him 17 years to build. For instance he hammered out the aluminum body, put in the 55-inch Chevy engine, put in the turbo-hydro 350 transmission and … well, you get the picture. The men (and some women) who bring their expensive toys to the show enjoy talking about them almost as much as they do driving them.
While there are a lot of tales about how it got started, Brown appears to be one who knows the real story. “A bunch of guys” from the Jefferson Township in Marietta would meet in a parking lot for coffee and bagels and talk cars and admire them. Others would stop by just to look or bring their own car.
So that is what it has always been, guys showing off their cars.
“It finally got so big they made us move out” Brown said.
That is where Mike Theis stepped in. A self-admitted “gearhead” and “computer geek,” since he retired he has devoted himself to his passion – bringing people and car shows together. He is CEO of the website SouthEastWheels.com that provides dates and locations for shows just about anywhere.
“I help people put events on calendars so other people can find them,” Theis said. “I loved cars, but I wasn’t any good at working on them. But I found I could do this.”
When Caffeine & Octane outgrew its last meeting place, Theis found the Windward site. But even that has gotten to be too big, so he called AutoTrader.com with Marcus Dame and Mark Ritter who manage the show now.
“It needs managing, and they do shows all over the country. They’ve stepped up and provided leadership. We have the city on our side, and the police to keep control and give us their blessing,” Theis said. “It works well for everybody.”
Theis says he is the cheerleader now. But rain, sleet or snow, Caffeine & Octane will happen the first Sunday of the month.