Travel Blog

Meet the Iconic Cars of Santa Cruz County

When it comes to iconic cars, all roads lead to Santa Cruz County. Cruise around town, and you’ll spot a variety of restored classics that will delight car buffs, gearheads, and Instagram husbands. Plus, beyond providing a fetching backdrop for social media pics, these timeless vehicles often offer a peek into the region’s cultural history. From surfboard-adorned Woodies to a delivery truck topped with a giant apple juice jug, here are seven spots to get revved up with classic autos.

Shadowbrook

With a mini tram that descends a scenic hillside overlooking Capitola Village to a dining room with babbling brook and mature trees sprouting through its dining room roof, Shadowbrook does everything on a grand scale. It’s little wonder that when the owners sought a car to shuttle diners to and from nearby hotels and homes—a solution to Capitola’s tight parking—they didn’t go with understated. The next time you’re craving classic menu items and cocktails, opt to arrive at the venerable restaurant in style via a green 1950 Dodge Meadowbrook or 1966 Yellow Checker Cab. The two restored taxis run every day during the busy summer season (Memorial Day – Labor Day) within a three-mile radius. Rides are complimentary, but tips are appreciated. Enthusiastic drivers often don newsboy caps and bow ties, and have become photography pros from snapping pics of dates, groups, and families. Just be sure to buckle up on the Checker Cab. It hides a souped-up V-8 Corvette engine under the hood!

Lester Estate Wines

One of the joys of visiting this famed Pleasant Valley vineyard is experiencing its serene, picturesque landscape. In addition to a tasting room which is open on select weekends throughout the year, guests can sign up for a safari-style tour of the rolling, oak and madrone-dotted property via a restored 1981 Land Rover Defender. The estate’s late owner, Dan Lester, was an avid international traveler and bon vivant, and the tour honors his spirit with a traditional South African sundowner, when wine and vittles are enjoyed atop a rugged vehicle in the countryside at sunset. At Lester Estates, guests are shuttled via the Land Rover to two scenic locations—a remote hillside overlooking the valley and a quiet meadow bounded by a redwood grove—where they sample wines paired with bites prepared by the winery’s resident chef. Safari tours are sold out for 2019, but guests are encouraged to check the website in spring 2020 for additional dates.

Snap Taco

The playful dining room at Downtown Santa Cruz’s latest taco spot is adorned with a fiesta of colorful objects, the most striking being a shiny blue convertible VW bug. Sitting amidst a collection of mini cabanas, the two-door centerpiece welcome tots (and their parents) to play and pose for pics while awaiting trays of internationally inspired tacos—think Tiki BBQ pork with pineapple salsa and braised beef with pickled red onion—that are just as vivid as their surroundings. How did owners Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis, the duo behind the Penny Ice Creamery, get a full-size VW bug into the middle of the dining room? It was a snap! They just rolled through the restaurant’s garage-like, roll-up door which opens onto bustling Pacific Street.

Bargetto Winery

Greeting guests to Bargetto’s Soquel winery and tasting room is a vintage truck which a reminder of the landmark winery’s legacy. Founded on the day Prohibition was repealed, December 5, 1933, Bargetto is the oldest winery in the region. The 1936 Dodge truck was purchased new by co-founder Giovanni “John” Bargetto, and was originally used to deliver wine to the surrounding area. And, file this under “they don’t make ‘em like they used to:” the workhorse kept on trucking into the 1970s, hauling pomace from grape pressings.

Photo courtesy of S. Martinelli’s & Co.

Martinelli’s

To commemorate their 150th anniversary in 2017, the beloved juice producer Martinelli’s restored the last of their original delivery trucks, a 1932 Ford Model B flatbed. During the Great Depression, the company truck—emblazoned with the company’s memorable slogan, “Drink Your Apple a Day”—would transport apples, and deliver bottles to local vendors. The truck would also make special appearances at fairs, swapping the flatbed’s container stakes for an oversized replica of a Martinelli’s jug. Today, the restored vehicle sports a new engine and fresh coat of paint, and can often be seen at local parades and events.  

Brew Cruz

With 13 independent, craft breweries spread throughout the county, responsible beer lovers leave the driving to Brew Cruz. Its public tours shuttle visitors to local breweries and taprooms via a gleaming, 1964 split-window VW Bus (parked at The Dream Inn). In addition to learning about the local brew scene from knowledgeable drivers, participants also receive drink discounts, complimentary water, and access to a Bluetooth stereo to craft the perfect soundtrack for your journey. Have a larger group? Book Betty Jane, a tricked out 1989 Thomas International school bus with a custom, lounge-like interior—including a cooler and snacks—which can accommodate up to 15 passengers.

Woodies on the Wharf

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Woodies on the Wharf is a beloved annual summer event that transforms the Santa Cruz Wharf into a waterfront expo for over 200 pristine, restored Woodies. What started as a casual meet-up between local Woody enthusiasts in 1994 has grown to become the largest event in Santa Cruz. Admission is free, and the public is invited to stroll a diverse collection of vintage, wood-paneled beauties while enjoying live music as well as fresh seafood from eateries that are just as classic as the sleek cars parked outfront.