Calling all classic and tricked out car aficionados – come one, come all! Santa Maria Valley is here to spice up your car culture experience on the California Central Coast – some might say it’s ‘how we roll.’ From hot rods to low riders and every customizable wheeled companion in between, the culture here is for all and spans street rods, muscle cars, custom trucks and then some.
If car shows fuel your fire, put the pedal to the metal and roll into Santa Maria Valley to check out the scene. Here, we offer a place for fellow gearheads to gather and celebrate their antique rides. Not to brag, but we’re basically keeping history alive in Santa Maria Valley. No matter which kind you fancy, there’s something here for you.
In 1982, Rich and Penny Pichette, whose legacy has been credited with bringing international tourism to Santa Maria Valley, started what we know today as one of the most influential car shows in Santa Maria Valley, the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin’ Nationals. Penny has been dubbed “Queen of Customs,” and is still heavily involved in the car community. She has since taken over both the club and its car shows. In 2012, Penny received the 2012 Mayor’s Award for bringing tourism to Santa Maria Valley. According to the Santa Maria Valley Chamber, tourists came from as far as Japan and the Netherlands.
“My husband and I had a hamburger stand,” said Penny. “Forty-two years ago, we started the show with 82 cars. We’re one big family, and we keep growing.”
The West Coast Kustoms Car Show is sizable and always garners plenty of excitement. The event typically kicks off with a world-famous Friday night City Cruise in front of the host hotel the Historic Santa Maria Inn on Broadway between Stowell and Cook St.
We’ve seen more than 700 entries in a single year, and the event features tons of vendors, live music, a model car and art show, a swap meet and a Hall of Fame autograph session, and much more. A portion of the proceeds always goes to Alzheimer’s awareness in honor of co-founder Rich Pichette who passed away from the illness in 2010.
“We’ve met so many wonderful people over the years,” said Penny. “We’ve been lucky enough to work with well-known customizers and have even met people like George Barris, who designed the Batmobile. Santa Maria Valley has really embraced our event – it is Cruisin’ Nationals’ home.”
West Coast Kustoms is surely a cornerstone of the car culture on the Central Coast, but it doesn’t stop there.
The annual Elks Car Show, put on by the Santa Maria Elks Lodge 1538, has been around for more than 25 years. The event has seen up to 170 entries in a single year! This show is always free to the public and often helps raise money for charities in the area.
Don’t skip the Downtown Classic Car Show – one that’s gained a lot of popularity within the Santa Maria community. The event is hosted by People for Leisure and Youth (a.k.a. PLAY, supported by the Santa Maria Parks and Recreation Department) and the Santa Maria Impalas Car Club. This smaller-scale show includes motorcycles and lowriders in addition to hot rods.
If you’re planning a trip to Santa Maria Valley, check out our events listing for all of the above and more, including: