On Saturday, July 13, the parking lot of Irvine’s FivePoint Amphitheatre became the staging ground for Summer Hype Fest. This car show rendered an otherwise banal parking lot into a sea of souped-up cars. The event, which also featured vendors of car modification gear and other accessories, drew in hundreds of car aficionados, photographers, and their families and friends. And while Irvine is certainly no stranger when it comes to showcases of exotics [see Irvine Weekly’s coverage of the Marconi Automotive Museum], evidently the city casts a cloud over the muscle car community, as I would soon discover.

Interestingly, this reporter — whose knowledge of the car community is admittedly not very extensive — almost wasn’t able to locate Summer Hype Fest. The event’s Facebook page identified the address of the showcase / festival as being located at 6950 Marine Way, in The Orange County Great Park. However, according to good ol’ Google Maps, that specific address indicates that the show should have been located right next to The Nursery by South Winds; so, after driving around a fairly desolate nursery, looking for a hidden car show, for a little while, I began a series of trial-and-error searches by systematically pulling into each of The Orange County Great Park’s parking lots, and inquiring of random soccer moms and little league players, “Hey, have you seen a car show around here?”

(Scott Feinblatt)

After exhausting all of the entryways off of Ridge Valley, I headed back to Marine Way and eventually saw a posterboard sign with a Sharpie-drawn “Summer Hype Fest” and an arrow. As I followed the direction of the arrow, I discovered a line of cars turning off, where another piece of posterboard indicated the festival’s location. I wondered if everyone else in the line had experienced the same location hunt as I had or if they were in possession of an inside track. Once I’d parked, I began my walk toward the sea of cars, which stretched into the distance.

(Scott Feinblatt)

I quickly lost myself in them, forgetting about the hunt I’d just undergone. Even for someone like me, who lacks insight into what makes one tricked out car better than another (beyond aesthetics), the spectacle was awe-inspiring. Some displays were more creative than others. A life-sized Darth Vader stood next to a black C8 Corvette; an inflatable alien appeared to be driving a black and metallic-colored car, of which I didn’t catch the make; and some of the vehicles stood apart from the massive showcase, against a desolate landscape leading up to a mountainous horizon.

Summer Hype Fest was promoted by Santa Ana-based CarPhysics LLC. To get a bit more information about the scene, I made my way to the far end of the car collection, where a CarPhysics tent, nestled close to a DJ stage, shielded the company’s team from the glaring sun. The company is run by Jesse Avitia and David Segura. Avitia joined me for a short walk into the sun, away from the loud hip-hop that was blasting out of the stage’s amps, so I could ask him a bit about the show. Avitia revealed that while he and Segura had once partnered with car show promoter Clean Culture, this was their first show running things. Their background was in photographing cars, and they eventually graduated to doing promotion. Most of the promotion for this show had come from their Instagram account (@carphysics), where they have 91k followers, from their website, and from Facebook. The crowd that had come to marvel at the vehicles on display was comprised of both folks that followed CarPhysics’ social media as well as family members, friends, and friends of friends of the various companies, sponsors, and solo riders, whose vehicles made up the showcase. Avitia pointed out that the community surrounding car shows was pretty tight. He said, “Literally, everyone’s closer in the car community; we’re pretty much a family.”

(Scott Feinblatt)

Among the family of people checking out the cars and chatting it up with automotive reps was Nicole Kaiser. When asked how she got into cars, she said, “I had friends that had nice cars, and they just taught me how to appreciate them.” Kaiser said she’d been to around 40 car shows and pointed out that the Summer Hype Fest was a respectable-sized one, by comparison. And though she had friends who were hosting the show, she pointed out the main appeal was the cars and introducing friends to the community.

Of the the 500 or so cars at this show, Avitia indicated some of the highlights. He said, “I mean there’s a lot of beautiful cars. We’ve got some Lambos, got some Porsches over there,” pointing in one direction, “a Liberty Walk GTR over there, got a couple of Ferraris…” When asked about his involvement in car show promotion over the years, he said, “Our first show was at Santa Anita. Second show was at Dodger Stadium. Third show was at Pomona Fairplex.”

(Scott Feinblatt)

I asked him how holding a show in Irvine compared, and he sighed, “It’s pretty hard doing a lot of stuff in Irvine due to all of the state ref [generally: laws which target souped up cars for illegal modifications] that’s been going on. And the Irvine PD are kind of a pain to deal with.” Avitia clarified, “They all think we’re all the same…at a lot of places, [motorheads] do burnouts, like at plazas, they do burnouts at local shops, which is not good. It looks bad for our community…[but] we’re not that kind of people, not here.”

After speaking with Avitia, I wandered around some more, checking out the show. There were, indeed, many people exchanging familial greetings with vendors and other attendees. To be sure, there were also plenty of random stragglers and families just there to take in the sights, but I didn’t observe any burnouts taking place. And short of one instance in which I observed two muscleheads trying to shout one another down — over something I didn’t quite catch — the scene maintained a respectable vibe and polite decorum prevailed.