The Southern California custom car culture is a truly unique existence, and has been an integral part of the regional art and popular culture scene for decades – but it truly isn’t talked about enough. California has had a huge influence on car culture because of its reliance on automobiles, and because of the glamour derived from Hollywood movies and the area’s thriving real estate booms throughout the decades.

And wouldn’t you know – there’s a lot going on in the Santa Maria Valley.

From hot rods to low riders, the culture is for the young and not-so-young, and spans across street rods, muscle cars, custom trucks and then some.

“My husband and I had a hamburger stand,” said Penny Pichette, co-founder of the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin’ Nationals, a premier Santa Maria car show. “Thirty-seven years ago, we started the show with 82 cars. We’re one big family and we keep growing.”

The West Coast Nationals seemed ahead of its time more than three decades ago. Today, it’s home is at the Santa Maria Fairgrounds where approximately 900 cars shine proud, and where people can rockabilly to live music, experience custom pinstriping, and where a portion of the proceeds go to Alzheimer’s awareness, in honor of her husband and founder, Rich Pichette.

It seems fitting, because the Santa Maria Valley is the perfect home base for road trippers. The Santa Maria Valley area features 34 tasting rooms, 6 unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. If you are looking for sand dunes, hiking trails, horseback riding, cycling, and authentic Santa Maria Style dining, you’ll find all that right in Santa Maria Valley’s backyard. It’s a destination where guests are treated like family. Santa Maria Valley is the perfect home base where visitors can eat, drink and do more for less.

“We’ve met so many wonderful people over the years,” said Pichette. “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.”

Kustomize Your Santa Maria Valley Car Culture Experience

Cruisin’ Nationals West Coast Kustoms Car Club
(951) 488-0413

This signature event brings back those great leadsleds and honors the many big kustomizers still active on the West Coast. Here is a chance to get that kustom out of the garage, load up the family and join in the good times.

Elks Car Show
(805) 922-1538

More than 135 cars, trucks and motorcycles are on display. This unique show is open to all years and types of vehicles. Proceeds from the show benefit Elks and local charities.

Bent Axles Car Show & BBQ
(805) 937-2247

This car show is a chance to pick out your favorite pre-1973 modified American-made dream car while chatting with auto enthusiasts and experts. More than 200 cars will be featured, and all are invited to a Santa Maria Style Barbecue.

North/South Run (Classic Truck Show)
(951) 237-1570

Ford F-100 Elite of Northern California and Pickups Limited of Southern California present the oldest-running event in the world that features 1953-1956 Ford F-100 pickups and panels. With over 46 years of North-South runs (and counting), this one is a must-attend for Ford enthusiasts everywhere.

All Ford Car Show & Swap Meet
(805) 598-8133

The All Ford Car Show and Swap Meet is an annual gathering that attracts Ford-enthusiasts from across the country. The show features classic Fords, Lincolns, Mercurys and Edsels, and offers wholesome activities for the whole family.

Cruzin’ For Life Car Show & Cruise
(805) 937-8008

Cruzin’ for Life was founded in 2004 by Clifford Labastida. He and his brothers had this brilliant idea to have an alternative way to raise funds to help fight cancer and have fun doing so with cars.

In Santa Maria Valley, there’s so much to do from here. Hit the road and explore it all with our 24 hiking trails, 34 tasting rooms, seven unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. There is no need to venture far if you are looking for sand dunes, cycling and authentic Santa Maria Style dining. You’ll find it’s the perfect home base, where you can eat, drink and do more for less.