Rain or shine, Caffeine and Octane is a monthly auto show in Kennesaw that not only allows auto enthusiasts to show off their most prized collectibles but also has created a diverse culture of car owners who dedicate Sunday mornings to sharing their passion.
This free show brings motorheads and spectators from as far away as Australia and England to Town Center at Cobb on the first Sunday of every month, creating an environment that unites people of all backgrounds. Bruce Piefke, CEO of Caffeine and Octane, wanted to form a brand that represented the commitment, friendship and bonding over the common interest of cars.
Caffeine and Octane began in 2005 when a group of auto enthusiasts decided to meet on the weekends to talk about their cars. Everything was planned by word-of-mouth, and the event grew rapidly. The group soon realized it needed a bigger space.
Eight years ago, Piefke was offered the chance to buy Caffeine and Octane, and he spent two years coming up with a plan. The first event under his leadership changed his outlook on what he wanted it to become. That Sunday morning, the weather was brutal — 36 degrees and flash flood warnings, he said. He believed nobody would show but was pleasantly surprised to see about 100 cars already there when he arrived. There were groups of men huddled together under tents at 6:45 a.m. Now 2,000 to 3,000 car owners attend the show each month.
The event evolved from a car show to an experience in which the entire community can immerse itself. From the first show, Piefke realized there was more value than people simply coming to look at cars. They might come to Caffeine and Octane to see their dream cars, like a Lamborghini, and see the station wagon in which their mom drove them to elementary school, he said.
A unique aspect of Caffeine and Octane is the wide selection of cars represented. At these shows, every kind of car imaginable is exhibited — vintage Chevrolet pickup trucks and Chevelles, Volkswagens, Ford Mustangs and Thunderbirds, Nissan 370Zs, Toyota minivans, Datsun 280Zs, Corvettes, Ferraris and Jaguars. Piefke said he tries to change it up every month to feature something new, so every car owner can feel included. The January show included VIP-style Japanese right-hand-drive cars as a new addition.
The levels of customization on the vehicles vary, depending on the car owner’s abilities and experience. Steve Burrell changed the entire appearance of the vintage 1987 Toyota Minivan LE he displays at shows. “I had to come up with something I could do within my skill set, and the car was too damaged to do a lot, so my idea was to get a half gate and cover up the dents,” he said. “I’ve been messing with cars my whole life as far as body repairs, and this was a massive amount of work. I was just winging it, thinking, what can I do next?”
For many, their cars have become a part of who they are. Walt Bailey has had his Datsun 280Z for 40 years, and when he bought it, it was totaled. Bailey said the girl who owned the car had wrecked it and left it on the beach, where she lived. He bought it when he was 36 and has replaced all the metal and customized the rear end. Now, he drives his car all across the United States and plans to head to Miami in March for another show.
Many car owners bond over modifying their vehicles in unique and innovative ways. D.J. Hurst said he most enjoys talking to people and finding out why they got into cars. He said he spent a few years customizing cars, including a Corvette that was modified with wheels, an engine and seats from other models.
Two years ago, Piefke began a television show highlighting the stories of people who show their cars at Caffeine and Octane; the 65-plus episodes have been shown in 150 countries, and the new season can be seen on MotorTrendTV. Many automotive TV shows showcase the building of cars, but “Caffeine and Octane” focuses on personal experiences, including lifelong relationships they’ve forged with fellow car enthusiasts.
Piefke also recently bought the legendary Lanier National Speedway, so the brand officially has a new 60-acre home now called Caffeine and Octane Lanier Raceway.
– Claire Becknell is a third-year journalism and emerging media student at Kennesaw State University. She believes local media is important in modern journalism and is grateful to write for Around Kennesaw.
Steve Burrell says
Great article! Well-written. Paints a very accurate picture of the awesome Caffeine and Octane show, from it’s inception to present day.