Photo by Monique Schoenfeld, Town Crier
Every year at the Los Altos Fall Festival, 60 classic cars owned by local residents fill one of the plazas. Carefully restored or maintained in showroom condition, many of these cars have won awards at the best car shows in the country.
Why do so many classic car hobbyists - gearheads, as they are called by fellow hobbyists - choose to live here? It's simple: this area is a great place to live if you enjoy automobiles. Whether you like to restore them, show them, race them or just drive and enjoy them, there isn't a better place anywhere.
For starters, we have a great climate and great roads. This is one of the few places in the country where cars, even rare and unusual collector cars, can be driven year-round.
And no place else has roads like Northern California. Winding two-lane blacktops reach some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Route 1 through the Big Sur; the wine valleys of Napa, Sonoma, Alexander and Anderson and along the Russian River; and Route 1 through Bodega Bay to Mendocino are just a few. Or drive up Page Mill to Highway 35, then out to the coast on Highway 84.
It's no wonder the roads on television car commercials all look familiar. Our roads are so good, the whole world dreams of driving them.
Los Altos is also centrally located to world-class automobile events. Take car shows, for example. Next month, the first major concours de elegance (a contest of elegance) of the season will be held in Hillsboro. In June, the second concours will take place on the Stanford campus. In August, the Pebble Beach concours, one of the three best in the world, will be held on the Monterey peninsula. And in September, British cars from all over Northern California will be displayed at El Camino Park in Palo Alto. For the hot rodder set, Pleasanton, Oakland and South San Francisco are host to the largest custom car shows held anywhere in the world.
If you'd like to experience the thrill of track racing, internationally renowned stock car and open-wheel events are held at Laguna Seca near Monterey and Sears Point near Sonoma every month from May to November.
If you want to drive a race car yourself, the Skip Barber and Russell Racing Schools in Monterey and Novato will put you in a real open-wheel race car and show you what it's like to drive fast on a racetrack.
Want to do it in your street car? Thunder Hill Race School north of Sacramento offers a street-driving school.
Want to race a car of your own? Two vintage-racing organizations for race cars more than 25 years old use Laguna Seca, Sears Point and Thunder Hill for amateur racing events.
These are only a few of the reasons I publish a car magazine from Los Altos.
And through this column in coming months, I'm looking forward to sharing these experiences with you. Join me on the road.
Gary Anderson is editor and publisher of British Car Magazine, published bimonthly and distributed internationally from offices in Los Altos (949-9680; www.britishcar.com). He and his wife Genie, who is also a certified gearhead and manages the finances of their business, have lived in Los Altos since 1985. At last count, they owned two classic cars, a race car, a modern sports convertible and a sport-ute for towing.