The Perimeter Mall parking lot was full. Like, Christmas Eve shopping full. Cars lined the lot for what seemed like miles, filling up hundreds and hundreds of spaces as people milled throughout the lot with coffee, cameras, children and a keen interest in all categories of motor vehicles.

None of the thousands of people walking up and down the aisles of cars, however, were going into the mall – at least not yet. It was about 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Nov. 6., and the mall wasn’t open. The people gathered in the parking lot were there for a different kind of holiday – the Caffeine and Octane car show.

Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal shows off his "red, red and more red" Corvette at the car show. (Photo Dyana Bagby)
Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal shows off his “red, red and more red” Corvette at the car show. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

The show attracts some 10,000 people once a month to Dunwoody, according to organizers, and on this date, dubbed Dunwoody Day, there were some 2,500 cars – exotic, classic, muscle, you name it – on display for car enthusiasts who travel from around the state, and even the country, to gaze upon shiny, rare and beloved vehicles.

“The hotels are full, the restaurants are busy, and we know people will visit the mall after the show,” said Katie Williams, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Dunwoody.

Williams said the CVBD is working to promote the popular car show as a weekend getaway for car enthusiasts to not only peek at the latest models, and the older ones, too, but to also visit Dunwoody and the city’s other sites. While no economic study has been completed to show how much money the show brings into the city, anecdotal data from area business owners say the show is always one of their best days.

Thousands of people showed up to look over all kinds of cars at Dunwoody Day at the Caffeine and Octane car show Nov. 6. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

“This show is an economic driver for our economy,” Williams said.

Heyward Wescott, chair of the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber, said he sees nothing but dollar signs for businesses in the area associated with the car show.

“I believe other businesses will start hanging their hats on this event,” he said.

Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal was on hand for Dunwoody Day at the car show with his 2011 convertible red Corvette. The car has just about 30,000 miles on it and is, what Shortal said, “his last fling at youth.”

This is the third Corvette for the retired Marine brigadier general – at one time he had a 1963 Stingray and a 1979 white model.

The red Corvette is a dream car for him, he said. His attraction to it? “Red, red, red and more red,” he said with a smile. The car has a red leather interior and a white top. He drives the beloved car sometimes, but never in the rain.

One of the cars on display.
One of the cars on display.

The car show itself is “fabulous,” Shortal said, and gives people from elsewhere a chance to see what Dunwoody is really like.
The show is also the star of a new show to premiere Feb. 5 on the Velocity channel, named, you guessed it, “Caffeine and Octane.”
Ed Coughlin, producer for the show (and who drives a practical Subaru Outback), was directing a scene on Nov. 6 in which a host and participants sat around a bar area, discussing cars they admired the most.

“This is a true car guy show,” Coughlin said between shots. “This show is for the people who can’t be here, but can now watch it.”
There are eight half-hour shows being produced for the Velocity channel and in each show the producers select a couple of their favorite cars and then film the back story of the car’s owner and the vehicle itself.

In this particular episode, Coughlin said the show was following the story of Don Panoz of Panoz Motorsports. At this show, Panoz had his Panoz Avezzano pre-production prototype on display, the first new Panoz in 16 years, valued at $170,000.

Bruce Peifke, producer of Caffeine and Octane, stands next to the $170,000 Panoz Avezzano pre-production prototype. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

For Bruce Peifke, a proud Porsche owner and producer of Caffeine and Octane, the show’s organic growth is what amazes him.

The show moved to Dunwoody about two years ago, and he said he hopes the city becomes its permanent home.

“People from every walk of life come here. Families, single people, old people, young people,” he said. “There are car enthusiasts from all over the world.”

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.