In a subculture rooted in nostalgia, moving forward and creating something new can be extremely difficult. There will always be naysayers clutching firmly to tradition shaking their heads at anything new or different, simply refusing to participate in the new out of some strange allegiance to a faded past. It’s no surprise that moving the West Coast Kustoms show from Paso Robles to Santa Maria in 2009 would have been met with this same obstinacy, because Paso was truly something special to be a part of. However, after spending last weekend at the 8th Cruisin’ Nationals in Santa Maria I’m confident in saying the reluctance to accept this place as the new home of WCK’s show has been at best misguided, and at worst hindered the evolution of our corner of the automotive world.
I will always hold my time at Paso dear to my heart, but in hindsight can now appreciate that the thing that made Paso so special wasn’t just the town, it wasn’t just the park, and it wasn’t just the little hangouts scattered about all over at night. Paso was special because we made it mean something, we assigned value to it, we embraced it, and we made it happen. Santa Maria is no different. My nostalgia for pulling off the freeway and cruising down Spring Street into a wild world ground scraping hot rods, flame spitting customs, glittering kandy dipped lowriders, and the cacophony of straight pipes next to glasspacks echoing through the rolling hills of Central California has been completely satisfied by hanging out in front of the Santa Maria Inn on Friday night. This show, the Friday night cruise, and the trek to Santa Maria has become something special and unique in its own right.
It took me a few years to catch up with this show, it took a while to accept the fact that there would be no more mornings on the lawn at Paso, and it took time to find the right way to make participating in this show work for my wife and I. Now that the dust has settled I’ve come to love Santa Maria, and I can’t wait to do this again next year. I am so grateful that visionaries bolder than I rode out the tough years to make this happen here. We will never have another Paso, there will never be another George Barris or Bill Hines, and you won’t read a lot about car culture in print on a newsstand. While it’s fine (and appropriate) to mourn the loss of all these things, no part of our culture ends with the passing of a legend, closing of a magazine, or relocation of a carshow. Like our cars themselves our culture evolves, births new heros of legendary talent and incredible passion, creates new media outlets to document and share it, and creates new events at new locations to immerse yourself in. I’m hoping that in writing this and sharing the pictures from my weekend I can excite just one curmudgeon who still hasn’t given this show the shot it deserves, so here’s my best shot at a call to action: Paso is gone, but its spirit lives on at Santa Maria. Get out there and be a part of it, and make car culture what you want it to be, Santa Maria is cool as hell.