Classic Cars and American Landscapes: A Match Made in Heaven
In this guide, we’ll journey through prime locations in the U.S., each promising breathtaking drives and a celebration of rich car culture. Whether you seek events echoing the golden age of American motoring or picturesque routes designed for vintage cruisers, these highlighted spots ensure memorable experiences for every classic car aficionado.
Palm Springs, California
The Scenery and Drive: Palm Springs, with its vast desert landscapes and picturesque mountain backdrops, offers a breathtaking backdrop for classic car drives. With roads like the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, driving a classic car here can feel like you’ve stepped into an old Hollywood movie.
Recommended Vehicle: 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible. With its elegant design, this car is a perfect match for the upscale, vintage ambiance of Palm Springs. This car epitomizes luxury and style from the early ‘60s. Palm Springs, with its renowned mid-century modern architecture, is the ideal backdrop for such a vehicle. Its roomy and elegant design offers a comfortable cruise under the desert sun, while the convertible option is perfect for soaking up that Californian sunshine.
Why It’s Special: The city is a living museum of mid-century modern architecture, a style that captured the spirit of the 50s and 60s—a golden era for automobiles.
Events and Culture: Palm Springs is home to a number of classic car events and shows, including the annual Palm Springs Modernism Week, which often features classic car exhibitions. The city’s mid-century modern architecture and retro vibe complement the classic car culture, making it a fitting locale for vintage vehicle enthusiasts.
The Scenery and Drive: Fondly known as the “Motor City,” Detroit embodies the spirit and resilience of the American automotive industry. The city itself offers a mix of historic neighborhoods, modern skyscrapers, and a lively waterfront along the Detroit River. Cruising down Woodward Avenue, historically famous for being the United States’ first paved road, you’re not just driving on tarmac but on pages of automotive history.
Recommended Vehicle: 1968 Ford Mustang: Detroit’s storied automotive legacy is perfectly represented by the 1968 Ford Mustang. This car is more than just a vehicle; it’s an icon that encapsulates the innovation, design, and spirit of American muscle. The ‘68 Mustang, with its streamlined design, V8 rumble, and distinct presence, would feel right at home on Detroit’s historic streets. Imagine cruising past the Motown Museum with the Mustang’s engine note complementing the city’s rich musical heritage.
Why Detroit is Special: As the birthplace of the American automotive industry, Detroit has an unmatched legacy. The city is a testament to innovation, resilience, and revival. From the Detroit Auto Show to its rich Motown musical history, the energy is palpable. For car enthusiasts, it’s not just about the drive but about being in a city that has fuel running through its veins.
Events and Culture: Detroit’s annual Woodward Dream Cruise celebrates the golden era of the automobile, attracting classic car enthusiasts from all over the world. The Detroit Auto Show, though more contemporary, is a nod to the city’s rich automotive lineage. Add to this the beats of Motown, and you have a culture that’s both revved-up and rhythmically smooth. Owning a classic car in Detroit isn’t just about transportation; it’s about being a part of a legacy.
The Scenery and Drive: Monterey, with its breathtaking coastal roads and picturesque beaches, has long been a favorite spot for car enthusiasts. The famous 17-Mile Drive, hugging the Pacific coastline, offers unparalleled views of rugged cliffs, cypress forests, and the famed Pebble Beach. Cruising down this scenic route with the top down, the salty ocean breeze meeting classic leather, epitomizes the quintessential California driving experience.
Recommended Vehicle: 1961 Jaguar E-Type. This British classic, with its distinctive sleek design and high-performance capabilities, is the ideal companion for Monterey’s elegant landscapes. Its elongated bonnet, smooth curves, and luxurious feel perfectly match the sophistication of the area. Moreover, the E-Type’s powerful roar harmonizes with the waves crashing along the coast, making every drive feel like an orchestrated symphony between man, machine, and nature.
Why Monterey is Special: Beyond its obvious scenic appeal, Monterey is deeply rooted in automotive history. The annual Monterey Car Week, a gathering of high-end automobiles, is one of the most prestigious car events globally. From classic car auctions, including RM Sotheby’s and Bonhams, to the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, it’s a week-long celebration of automotive elegance.
Events and Culture The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the crown jewel event, where some of the world’s most prized classic cars are showcased on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. Beyond this, numerous events, auctions, and shows dot the calendar, making Monterey a year-round haven for car enthusiasts. The local culture celebrates the beauty of vintage automotive designs, and many local businesses and establishments have themes and decor reminiscent of the golden age of motoring.
The Scenery and Drive: Nashville, often referred to as “Music City”, is known for its vibrant music scene, historic landmarks, and southern charm. As you drive around the city, you’re met with a mix of urban development and lush Tennessee landscapes, from the bustling Broadway street lined with honky-tonk bars to serene drives along the Cumberland River.
Recommended Vehicle: Ford Bronco. A perfect embodiment of ruggedness with style, the Bronco captures the spirit of Nashville’s country heritage while being versatile enough for both city streets and off-road excursions to nearby state parks. Its high ground clearance and robust build make it perfect for the rolling hills surrounding the city, and its vintage charm matches the timeless appeal of Nashville’s music history.
Why It’s Special: Nashville is a blend of old and new, where the legacies of country music legends coexist with new-age musicians, cafes, and boutiques. This duality is mirrored in the Bronco — a classic vehicle with modern capabilities. As you roll down the streets with country tunes playing on the radio, the Bronco feels right at home.
Events and Culture: From the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame to the annual CMA Fest, Nashville is a haven for music lovers. Furthermore, events like the Nashville Auto Fest celebrate the passion for cars. Whether you’re taking your Bronco for a spin to a live music event or showcasing it at a local car meet, it’s bound to be a conversation starter in this vibrant city.
Key West, Florida
The Scenery and Drive: The southernmost point of the continental U.S., Key West is a slice of Caribbean paradise. The Overseas Highway, which connects the mainland to this island city, offers one of the most scenic drives in the country. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, drivers are treated to stunning oceanic vistas, pristine beaches, and the iconic Seven Mile Bridge. The tropical atmosphere, colorful historic buildings, and laid-back vibe make driving in Key West a unique experience.
Recommended Vehicle: 1950s Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible. Key West embodies a timeless charm, and what better way to traverse its picturesque streets than in a classic convertible like the Chevy Bel Air? Its iconic design, combined with the top-down capability, allows drivers and passengers to fully immerse in the island’s beauty, feel the warm tropical breeze, and listen to the gentle rustling of palm trees.
Why It’s Special: Key West is all about embracing the “island time” mentality. Life slows down, and there’s a distinct appreciation for the simpler, finer things in life. The Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible, with its nostalgic appeal and luxurious design, mirrors this sentiment, making it a perfect companion for the Key West lifestyle.
Events and Culture: Key West has a rich history and cultural fabric, hosting numerous events throughout the year. The Hemingway Days Festival celebrates the legacy of the writer who called Key West home. The island’s Classic Car Show would be a perfect venue to showcase the Bel Air, drawing admiration from fellow enthusiasts and visitors alike. The community is also renowned for its lively arts scene, music festivals, and the famous Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, where each evening is marked with festivities as the sun sets, creating a spectacle against the vast ocean horizon.
The Scenery and Drive: Scottsdale provides a backdrop of picturesque desert panoramas, with towering saguaro cacti, iconic red rock formations, and some of the most breathtaking sunsets. Whether cruising through the upscale streets of downtown Scottsdale or venturing into the serene desert landscapes, every drive becomes memorable.
Recommended Vehicle: 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible. The Corvette, with its sleek design and performance, complements the upscale nature of Scottsdale. Its convertible nature lets you soak in the desert sun during the day and marvel at the clear starry nights. While Scottsdale is modern and luxurious, it holds a deep appreciation for classics, making the ‘57 Corvette a perfect match.
Why It’s Special: Beyond its scenic beauty, Scottsdale is known for its world-class resorts, spas, golf courses, and art galleries, making it a hub of luxury and culture amidst the rugged charm of the desert.
Events and Culture: The Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale is a pinnacle event for classic car enthusiasts, drawing crowds from around the world. Apart from that, Scottsdale’s art and culture scene, rich with galleries, theaters, and festivals, offers a refined contrast to its natural desert beauty.
The Scenery and Drive: Miami is a mosaic of cultures, beaches, and vibrant nightlife. Driving through the streets, you’ll experience the energy of Little Havana, the opulence of Coral Gables, the bustling life of Downtown, and the art-filled corners of Wynwood Walls. The scenic routes are equally mesmerizing, with coastal drives offering panoramic views of the pristine Miami beaches and the sparkling Atlantic.
Recommended Vehicle: 1961 Chevrolet Impala Convertible: Synonymous with cruising in style, the ‘61 Impala, particularly in its convertible guise, captures Miami’s effervescence. The Impala’s sleek, elongated lines and drop-top feature are perfect for Miami’s sunny climate and for turning heads along Ocean Drive. The car’s lively hues, especially in tropical tones, mirror the colorful art deco buildings of Miami Beach, making it an exquisite match for the locale.
Why Miami is Special: Miami is a melting pot of cultures. The city’s Latino roots, combined with a global influx of residents and travelers, make it a lively and diverse metropolis. Here, you can start your day with Cuban coffee in Calle Ocho and end it with fine dining in Brickell. Plus, no other city has Miami’s signature Art Deco Historic District, offering a visual retreat of historic, colorful architecture.
Events and Culture: Miami hosts a myriad of classic car shows and events that draw enthusiasts from around the globe. One such event is the Deering Vintage Auto Show, where classics like the Impala are celebrated amidst Miami’s historic setting. Miami’s love for cars is also evident in its numerous luxury car rentals, where tourists often indulge in renting classics to cruise the coastal city in style.
The Scenery and Drive: Austin is often celebrated for its blend of urban and natural beauty. It’s not just the state capital and home of the University of Texas; it’s a city dotted with lakes, rivers, and green belts, offering a unique mix of cityscapes and nature. The nearby Texas Hill Country provides beautiful winding roads that pass through wineries, caverns, and rustic landscapes.
Recommended Vehicle: Ford F-Series: Classic Ford F-Series trucks perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Austin – classic, rugged, and unapologetically authentic. As a city that prides itself on its rich history and keeping things a little off-kilter (“Keep Austin Weird”), a classic truck like the F-100 is a fitting choice. The truck’s powerful engine and sturdy frame are ideal for navigating the hill country’s undulating roads, while its vintage appeal will draw admiring looks in any of Austin’s hip neighborhoods or outside one of its legendary live-music venues.
Why Austin is Special: Often referred to as the “Live Music Capital of the World”, Austin is renowned for its vibrant music scene, with country, blues, and rock being particularly prominent. It’s also home to numerous lakes and parks which provide many recreational opportunities – from kayaking on Lady Bird Lake to hiking in the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Events and Culture: Austin hosts numerous events throughout the year that would be perfect for showing off a classic car. From the iconic SXSW festival and Austin City Limits to smaller events like car shows, vintage market days, and local music events, there’s always something happening. The city’s culture, deeply rooted in music, arts, and outdoor activities, makes it a perfect backdrop for the F-100, whether it’s parked outside a trendy cafe in the South Congress district or cruising near Zilker Park.
Asheville, North Carolina
The Scenery and Drive: Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers breathtaking mountain vistas, enchanting forested roads, and a historic downtown with Art Deco architecture. The Blue Ridge Parkway, known as “America’s Favorite Drive”, runs through Asheville and offers some of the most scenic driving routes in the country.
Recommended Vehicle: International Scout. This classic SUV with its rugged looks and off-road capabilities is perfect for the diverse terrains around Asheville. The Scout, with its robust engineering, is ideal for exploring the mountain trails and scenic byways. Its classic, boxy design reflects a timeless ruggedness that harmonizes with the mountainous backdrop.
Why It’s Special: Asheville is a city that values authenticity and has a rich arts and crafts culture. The International Scout, known for its straightforward design and no-nonsense functionality, mirrors this ethos. Just as Asheville combines the modernity of its bustling downtown with the natural charm of its surrounding landscapes, the Scout offers a combination of vintage appeal and enduring functionality.
Events and Culture: Asheville’s vibrant arts scene, from its drum circles to its artisan markets, makes it a hub for creativity. The city celebrates its automotive passion with events like the annual “Asheville Auto Expo.” Owning an International Scout in Asheville not only means fitting in with the rugged mountain culture but also standing out at local car shows and gatherings.
Las Vegas, Nevada
The Scenery and Drive: Las Vegas is an oasis of light in the vast Mojave Desert. The famous Las Vegas Strip offers a sensory overload with its neon lights, grandiose resorts, and themed attractions. While cruising the Strip is an experience in itself, venturing out offers scenic desert landscapes, with attractions like the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just a short drive away, providing picturesque views and winding roads.
Recommended Vehicle: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (C3 generation, 1968-1982): The Corvette Stingray is America’s sports car. Its sleek, aerodynamic lines, the throaty roar of its V8, and its inherent sense of speed make it perfect for the Vegas lifestyle. Whether it’s turning heads on the Strip or enjoying an open desert road, the Stingray encapsulates the thrill and glamour of Sin City. The car’s iconic status and Vegas’s flashy nature are a match made in heaven.
Why Las Vegas is Special: Beyond the glitz and glamour of casinos, Las Vegas is a city of endless entertainment, from world-class shows to top-tier dining. It’s a place where fortunes are made, dreams are realized, and the excitement never stops. Vegas is about the show, the spectacle, and standing out – and what better way to do that than in a Corvette Stingray?
Events and Culture: Las Vegas plays host to numerous auto shows and events, including the popular Cars and Coffee Las Vegas, where enthusiasts gather to showcase their prized possessions. There’s also the SEMA Show, one of the largest automotive trade events in the world. The city’s car culture is rich and varied, with an appreciation for both classics and the latest exotics. In a city that values the bold and the beautiful, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray stands as an icon of American automotive excellence, echoing the audacious spirit of Las Vegas.
Classic car ownership in the U.S. is about uniting the past with the present. These ten locations, each with its distinct character and allure, offer enthusiasts the perfect backdrop to enjoy their cherished vehicles. The union of scenic routes, cultural events, and iconic automobiles makes the experience truly magical. Embrace the journey!