From a Midwesterner’s point of view
My top 10 reasons why the car scene of LA is so appealing to a Midwesterner. (Yeah, I know, Los Angeles is the car culture capital of the USA, so this list could be much longer. )
By Collin Morgan
Wed, Apr 21, 2021 03:32 PM PST
Editor's note: This article was originally posted in December 2019 by Collin Morgan. Collin recently left LACar to go work for one of the big media houses in the car industry, so we figured it'd be nice to re-publish some of his work on our newly refreshed website.
I woke up this morning to a blanket of fresh snow covering West Michigan. I checked the outside temperature and groaned at the single digit reading. 4 more months of this. Visions of palm trees, shorts, and a warm summer breeze danced in my head. I looked in the driveway and saw my rusty winter beater coated in a cruel, icy shell.
Such is the life of a Midwesterner. Summers are great. Winters are brutal. Now, there are definitely winter perks (have you ever drifted on a frozen lake?), but I can’t help but fantasize about an eternal summer.
What do you get when you combine eternal summer and cars? Los Angeles. Sounds like heaven, right? As with anywhere, I’m sure there are aspects of LA that are unattractive, but c’mon, it’s the holy grail.
Here’s my list of 10 reasons why the car culture of LA is so attractive.
1. Pacific Coast Highway
If anything epitomizes a ‘Sunday drive’, it’s PCH. While Highway 1 stretches just over 650 miles, you can spend an entire day doing just a small segment. The Pacific Coast Highway gives any traveler a complete experience into the personality that is California. Cliffs, mountains, elephant seals, I mean there is nothing like it in the Midwest, and perhaps the entire country. A day cruising top-down with the ocean on one side and mountains on the other - does it get any better?
2. Ocean Views
Speaking of ocean, the mighty Pacific is right there! I’m lucky enough to live among the Great Lakes, but they just aren’t the same as an ocean. I wistfully imagine the salty breeze, abundance of saltwater creatures, and the car culture that goes along with ‘cruising along the ocean’.
While we have great boardwalks, lakeside towns, and what we call the ‘lakeshore lifestyle’ (complete with Adirondack chairs and flip flops), it seems to be grasping for the larger-scale culture that comes with the ocean. Cars with surfboards strapped on the roof, beach buggies, and a date to the sandy shores complete my picturesque vision of the Pacific.
3. The Lack of Winter (Winterizing? What’s that?)
In any snowy state, car enthusiasts usually have two - seasonal - cars. Their baby sits dormant in a barn from November-April. Everyone owns a winter beater with an accompanying checklist: starts, runs, heats. If the car completes these three tasks, who cares what it looks like? You have an entire emergency box in the trunk that contains boots, gloves, a hat, and an ice scraper. If you don’t tell everyone where you bought your new ice scraper, you’re not a Midwesterner.
Anyways, how nice must it be to walk outside in February without taking an extra 20 minutes to warm the car? What’s it like to be able to see on your way to work without peering through a little square you carved through the ice on your windshield? Being able to drive your sports car 12 months a year sounds absolutely wonderful.
4. Ice-Free Roads
In winter, there’s this evil thing called ‘black ice’, and it’s basically a spot on the road where you WILL slide around. You can’t see it, you lose control once you’re on it, and you have no idea where it’s gonna pop up. Believe me, unintentional drifting is terrifying. I typically refuse to drive over 45 mph if the temperature is below freezing, and even then, windchill can preserve ice remarkably well.
Something as simple as being able to drive the speed limit year-round makes LA sound great. Being able to take that corner hard, or not worrying if you might slide into the intersection on a red light… that just sounds so nice.
5. The Petersen Automotive Museum
This place is an absolute masterpiece, I hope you don’t take it for granted. I believe The Petersen sets the standard for what an automotive museum should be, and it still stands above the rest. The history there is so rich and storied, and the varying exhibits give a new experience no matter how many times you visit. It should be a bucket list item for any automotive enthusiast, not only those visiting our great city of angels.
6. Cars Don’t Develop Cancer Within 5 Years
Rust. A product of winter salt. The ultimate car killer. Midwesterners usually decide on the quality of a car based on the level of cancer plaguing the vehicle. I was an automotive technician for a few years, and believe me; NOTHING escapes its crumbly clutches. Rusty, seized bolts can turn a simple oil change into a nightmare. There’s a saying that floats around mechanic shops up here: ‘it can’t be seized if it’s liquid!’. Queue the hiss of an acetylene torch.
Obviously, rust is a problem all over the country, but in the salt-less areas it’s not a fatal diagnosis. I won't get stuck behind a salt-spewing snowplow, because there aren’t any in LA. I could drive my 15-year-old car and not see the road through the rusted-out floor panel. The preservation of the automobile is so much easier away from the snow, and Los Angeles sounds perfect for that.
7. Incredible Car Spotting
You don’t see many exotics or dream cars around the Midwest; people don’t see it as financially reasonable to drive that type of car for only three months a year. By the off-chance you DO see one, you immediately know who’s driving it, there’s no anonymity. Sure, the bigger cities like Detroit or Chicago have their dedicated car groups, but once you get out of the city limits, that "cool car concentration" spreads thin.
Since the car culture in LA is a beating heart encompassing all aspects of passion, the chances of you seeing a car that makes your eyes bug out are so much higher. Whatever your cup of tea is, whether it’s lowriders, JDM, American Muscle, exotic, you’ll find them in Los Angeles. Sometimes, the people driving these dream cars are quite interesting as well.
You'll need help figuring out what event to visit, and when - check out our page dedicated to all the Car Events in Los Angeles for a handy calendar as well as a map of car events in SoCal.
8. Fantastic Driving Roads
If you check out your favorite map app, the roads along the coast of LA look like someone spilled cooked spaghetti noodles all over the area. The roads twist and turn, winding up hills and mountains, begging for a cabriolet to meander past. Here in the Midwest, you’ve got your occasional curvy road that runs along a river, but everything else is as straight as an arrow. No good corners, no camber, just corn fields. Cruising the roads in Angeles National Forest or around Malibu is amazing. That west coast sun, warm temperatures, hitting the apex on every weaving turn, now that is breathtaking driving conditions.
9. Mulholland Drive
Speaking of sweet roads, perhaps nothing is more iconic than Mulholland Drive. While Tom Petty wanted to glide over Mulholland, I want to drive on it. To absorb some of the iconic vistas the road offers is indescribable. Just to drive along knowing celebrities live down some of these driveways, understanding that Hollywood’s history could be seen and felt down and around each bend is mind-boggling.
10. Car Culture USA
There truly is nothing like LA in terms of car culture - possibly anywhere in the world. Cars make Los Angeles special, but the passion is what makes the city unique. The fact that there are car meets and shows every day showcase this love for cars - really, it's almost e.v.e.r.y. day! Being a part of this culture is an experience like no other. There are an endless number of events to attend, participate, and absorb for any car enthusiast. I don’t think words can really describe the culture, it’s something you have to see for yourself.
While I’m sure all of these items have cons, remember that Los Angeles contains aspects of the car world you can’t get anywhere else. Please take the time to appreciate these attractions - if nothing else, do it for me! Go for a Sunday drive up in the hills, go visit that new exhibit at the Petersen, and go to a car meet and really understand that Los Angeles is the greatest car city in the United States - and the world.
For a deep-dive in all things L.A. check out Neighborwho's article on Living In Los Angeles.
About The Author
Collin Morgan is a Grand Rapids, Michigan based writer and enjoys the unique and unusual aspects of the automotive industry. He has experienced the worldwide car culture firsthand and has visited the automotive shrines of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani in Central Italy, tackled the Autobahn, and toured Wales with a rally club. Back in the States, he frequents car events in Detroit and Chicago and is convinced Michigan is the most underrated state for picturesque drives. He owns a 1999 Miata and has happily allowed many good hair days to be ruined by the open road turbulence.