Monthly Archives: November 2021


Conversations With People We Value #31

Cars & Coffee, Caffeine & Carburetors, Cars & Croissants, you get the idea. Starting somewhat organically in 2006, the original Cars & Coffee came to life on a spacious (organizers thought) corporate parking lot in Irvine California. It’s astounding and fatal success created a new class of casual auto event. In the case of Cars & Coffee Irvine, its demise came abruptly on December 20th of 2014 when 2,000 classic cars showed up. Cause of death – too popular.

In 2013 an enterprising 20-something Jerseyite decided that North Jersey needed a branded source of events with its own distinctive character. Thus was born Cars & Caffe. Caffe is Italian for coffee. Hey, this is Jersey.

Meet the man behind Cars & Caffe, Tony Boniello

Cars & Caffe’s Tony Boniello is always looking to

brew up something new


So, what if you threw a party and 10,000 cars showed up. Ask Tony Boniello. In the fall of 2017, Boniello in partnering with other groups held a Sunday Cars & Caffe event that filled a major North Jersey shopping mall parking lot and drew 20,000 people in addition to the 10,000 very cool cars. Tony openly admits that that event stands out as an outlier significantly contrasting with the 500 to 1,000 car events associated with the Cars & Caffe name.

Matt Maisano and Tony Boniello

Drivin’ News caught up with Tony at this year’s final Cars & Caffe event. Taking place at well known classic car storage facility Motorcar Manor in Ramsey, NJ, and co-hosted by Motorcar Manor owner Matt Maisano, it provided a perfect venue to display Tony’s vision of a classic Cars & Caffe event.

Tony’s path to staging an eclectic array of distinctive classic car events began as a pre-teen. A fascination with automobiles at an early age evolved into a driving (literally) passion as Tony aged through his teens becoming a true automobile enthusiast. During the journey his desire to classic car event manage took shape.

The essence and attraction of the original and oft copied Cars & Coffee concept resides in its simplicity. It many ways it resembles a slow motion classic automobile flash mob. Tony explains saying, “it’s really intended for like-minded car enthusiasts. The crowd is welcome, but it’s really a car event for car people.“  For the event, enthusiasts’ cars casually assemble at a designated gathering site. Tony says, “It is a very laid back gathering of automotive enthusiasts from across all spectrums of the car world, muscle cars, exotic cars, hot rods, pre-war, post-war, brand-new and JDM (Japanese Domestic Market).” The event exists to provide a communal assembly for like minded enthusiasts. Tony says, It is not a cruise. It is not a concours. There’s no judging. It’s car people engaging, enjoying and bonding with other car people.” Events normally do not promote to spectators though they are welcome. Events take only a few hours on a Sunday morning, never past noon.

Co-Host Matt says, “Enthusiasts drive their car to the event. They hang out for just a couple of hours and then they leave. There’s no entry fees, no registration, no trophies, no ceremonies, no DJs it’s all about the cars. There’s nothing but car people enjoying each other’s cars and conversation. It’s pure. It’s a quick event. You can leave whenever you want. It’s perfect. You can enjoy a great car event and still have time to get stuff done with the rest of your day.

As a teenager Tony witnessed first-hand the promise and problems by attending the original Cars & Coffee Irvine event. Back on the east coast a very successful version of the Cars & Coffee concept called Caffeine and Carburetors blossomed in New Canaan Connecticut. Tony recognized the New Canaan groups commitment to the concept and their professionalism. It all came together when at the age of 20 Tony decided to bring the Cars & Coffee concept to Bergen County. So why not Cars & Coffee?

Tony Says that the owners of the Cars & Coffee brand wanted a five-figure licensing fee. As a college student, the idea of a debt that size held no appeal. Tony decided that he would develop his own branded event.

Tony says, “I didn’t see the advantage of shouldering that debt. I chose rather to build my own brand. I created my own database, my own network and my own business model.” He admits that it remains a work in progress.” His attitude embraces the “Build it and they will come” philosophy with a version that states “Keep building it better and more will come.” And what about the name?

Tony says,  “I wanted to do something unique, something with a little Italian flair. There’s a lot of spin-offs of Cars & Coffee. Being Italian I had a fondness for the Italian word for Coffee, Caffe.

Tony believes that over his eight years in operation, Cars & Caffe has developed a reputation not unlike Caffeine and Carburetors which he clearly respects. Tony says, “The New Canaan event is synonymous with upscale collectible vehicles old and new in the Northeast. I like to believe that Cars & Caffe is at home in that category.”

Tony acknowledges that rules, control and being a good neighbor play a critical role in the ongoing acceptance and success of an event. Rules, if violated will result in a person and vehicle being banned. Rules are simple: No engine revving, shut your audio system off, no burnouts, no donuts (They don’t mean the Dunkin kind) and no speeding.

Tony has incorporated fund raising and food donation as an integral part of the Cars & Caffe culture. His first show featured a Hurricane Sandy fundraiser. The event at Motorcar Manor combined a very successful food drive and a fundraiser to help defray the medical costs facing an 8-year old stroke victim.

Over the years Tony has shepherded the character of Cars & Caffe events with the goal being to promote an ever more eclectic composition. He notes that early on the location of the event would significantly impact the type of cars that would show up. Tony says, “When we were at Ridgewood High School early on, we got a lot of vintage American cars and vintage European cars. As I moved the events around it became more Supercar heavy.” As Cars & Caffe has developed its personality, it has become a more consistently eclectic event. Tony, clearly pleased, says, “Now at any event you might have a Jaguar XK120 pull in next to a Porsche 918 or a ’55 T-Bird alongside a LaFerrari, a brand new Corvette next to a “63 split window fuelie. It’s great.”

Clearly, Tony possesses a vision that extends beyond his Cars & Caffe events. He has set his sights on developing a regional presence. His efforts already evidence themselves with events such as Festival Italiano a judged event with over 100 cars of Italian heritage, RennZeign German heritage concours and “Cars on the Lawn,” a curated eclectic display of 150 cars at the ex-Vanderbilt Florham Mansion.

Tony says, “I think there’s a demand for a large-scale high-end  family of events in the Northeast. I would like to bring that to reality and I’m working towards that every day.

In closing Tony says, “I have found that Cars & Caffe is more about the people than the cars. I think that the community and the friendships that have been made help pass our passion, appreciation and respect for the classic automobile on to the next Generation. There’s a lot of younger people, high school kids, even middle school and younger that their parents bring. I see these kids grow up. I see these kids get their driver’s license and continue with the interest they have developed though our events.

Clearly Tony has found the rewards of Cars & Caffe to be his cup of tea.

By |2021-11-25T17:38:35+00:00November 25th, 2021|Comments Off on Conversations With People We Value #31

Cars We Love & Who We Are #23

When encountering an old friend and the conversation wheels around to a person we once knew, it feels so good to find that, decades later, he continues to produce magic.

This has been the smile generating case during a conversation with my long time friend, David Tookmanian. As a long tenured Parts Manager pre-Y2K for the performance oriented Brahms Chevrolet in Palisades Park, New Jersey, David stood tall as the “Go-To” parts guru for hot rodders and street racers across North Jersey and beyond.

In speaking with David the name of a great hot rod designer from back in our youth came up. Whatever happened to Randy Bianchi I asked? David with a proud smile replied that Randy just finished a 21-year long hot rod build that had just been invited to show at the 2021 Greenwich Concours. Indeed, Randy had continued to produce magic.

Meet retired Parts Manager extraordinaire David Tookmanian and Hot Rod legend Randy Bianchi.

Randy the Rodfather and his Green “T” hot rod


With names like Sunkist, Moonkist and Tuff 32 among many of his hot rod creations, Randy Bianchi has maintained a status as a visionary designer and fabricator of landmark hot roads for decades. During that period he also outfitted, spec’d and at times restored offshore racing boats from Donzi, Magnum and Fountain.

Randy Bianchi and David Tookmanian

In pursuing his hot rod passion, Randy had a voracious appetite for performance parts and engineering solutions to satisfy his Chevy powered creations. In fulfilling that need, Randy developed a strong relationship with David Tookmanian that has lasted 50 years. Though David left the parts business at the turn of the century, their friendship and mutual admiration have endured.

Randy laughs as he says, “Dave enjoyed a great reputation among the go fast guys as “The Man” when it came to dispensing Chevy performance parts answers. Ya know, you’d inflict grievous harm to your big block Rat motor on Sunday and be at the Brahms parts counter on Monday.”

Invited by the selection committee to show at Greenwich and to appear in the glossy program, Randy’s visually compelling Green “T” hot rod started life as a solid but weary 1927 Ford Model “T” sedan. The inspired vision that would earn entrée TO the Greenwich field took shape in 1999 with a sketch that, 21-years later, came to life as a Lamborghini green radical reality that remained quite faithful to Randy’s original concept.

Randy says, “I have kept it as close to the original sketch as possible.” Wild side pipes were drawn on the car initially. To keep them that way Randy says, “It required me to incorporate releasing panels in the doors to accommodate the pipes while allowing the doors to open so you could get in the car.”

“Yes,” Randy admits, “it is slightly impractical, but that was the plan and one of my building principles is to stay with your initial idea regardless of the challenges, curve balls and problems that could arise to get there.”

David in reflecting on Randy’s Green T says, “Randy took a classic old school look and applied his DaVinci genius to elevate it to a ten on the outrageous scale.”

David noted that Randy will focus on certain parts that are personal expressions that go to his core and integrate them into the build. An example on Green T are the 1956 Oldsmobile Starfire taillights. Randy believes the year of the taillights should match the year of the engine. A 1956 Oldsmobile V8 powers Green T.The inspiration for Green T originated with his, then, young son Randy, suggested doing a hot rod together. Working on a tight budget, as it always seems to be for hot rod builds, Randy decided to go non-traditional. Instead of a 1932 Ford coupe or convertible, Randy selected a 1927 Model T sedan as the canvas for his masterpiece. By selling off all the parts he would not need, Randy was able to recoup the $1500 cost of the car. Always thinking that Randy.

Randy confesses to Green T enjoying a cartoonish flair. He acknowledges that he often strives for the outrageous. He says, “A lot of my builds are very overstated high-impact vehicles. I like to design outside the traditional design box so that the end result stands out.” He laughs self-deprecatingly saying, “My stuff is mostly impractical and outrageous. That’s what makes them what they are.”

Randy believes in remaining faithful to the old school roots of hot rod building. In no place in Green T’s build does this evidence itself more than in the powertrain.

That 324 cu. in. 1956 Olds engine that deserved matching taillights has been seriously worked to put out a conservatively estimated 400 horsepower. It benefits from a custom ground Engle cam, 11 ½ to 1 compression and a very rare Weiand high rise intake manifold that took Randy years to find. Carburetion comes courtesy of six Ford 94 carburetors.

A 1937 LaSalle Transmission and a Halibrand 301 quick change rear end qualify as “Unobtainium” (Hard to find:) but Randy located them to nicely round out a true old school execution.

Original 1927 T body

Green T sits on a 1932 Ford chassis narrowed in the front, widened in the middle, narrowed in the back and Z’d to lower the back 13 inches.

When asked about how many hours went into the build Randy says, “There’s no clock when you’re building a car of this caliber.” There are never-ending but necessary lost hours demanded for me to design in the beauty or function of a part. Randy says, “First you find a way to make a part better. You spend a month to bring it to life. Then you get a better idea, throw this one in the garbage, and start over. It happened all the time.”

No matter how much time we have to do something, life always seems to bring us up short when the deadline arrives. So for  all of the 21-years spent creating Green T, it had not yet been driven when show time arrived. Randy says, “It was a grind at the end. It still isn’t exactly finished but I had made sure it was mechanically perfect.  No time for trial and error. My son fired it up. I timed it and he drove it around the block several times.” Randy asked his son how their 21-year project performed. His son responded, “It’s perfect dad.” Randy says, “That made everything worthwhile and perfect for me.” Next stop, The Greenwich Concours.

Green T early in the build

Genius does not come without what might politely be called personal “character.” Viewers of an episode of Jesse James’ Monster garage witness Randy expressing himself when he felt his work was not being respected.

James had five all-star East Coast hot rod builders join him for a build based on a 1929 Ford Model A sedan.

Randy says that a steady elevation of tension between he and Jesse developed over how the project should be carried out. With the tension becoming palpable, Randy found a way to resolve the issue. He says, “I felt he displayed no respect for other craftsmen and the talent they brought to the project. I had enough. So I faked a heart attack to get off the show.”

Whether it is his hot rods or his television persona, if it involves Randy, clearly, the results are heart stopping.

By |2021-11-11T13:09:33+00:00November 11th, 2021|Comments Off on Cars We Love & Who We Are #23