We often hear how Los Angeles is the center of American automotive culture. From world-renown locales like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the Petersen Automotive Museum to Angela’s Crest canyon cruises, many see California as the end-all-be-all when it comes to car culture. Those out west are loud and proud about their cars, but did you know Porsche of Colorado Springs allocated more of the Porsche 918 than any other dealership in the United States? In typical Colorado fashion, we may not be shouting from the mountain tops (except in the case of Pikes Peak). Still, we’ve always been a cornerstone of American car culture. Our state is the place for cars, from world-renowned events to smaller, more focused communities. It’s hard to argue otherwise when we get 300 days of sunshine each year.

Since the car’s birth in the late 1800s, we’ve supported the automobile. The first car built in Denver and sold outside the state was an electric car from the Fritlche Electric Car company, which produced cars from 1907-1920 here in Denver. These expensive electrics were available before most people even had access to electricity. 

Still, Oliver Fritlche would tour the country in his 100-mile-per-charge electric and famously drive from Lincoln, Nebraska, to NYC in just under a month in late 1907. Once the electric starter on gas vehicles became the standard, Fritchle and his car company would soon fade, but that wasn’t the end for production cars in Colorado. 

In 1914, Henry Ford built a Model T production plant on South Broadway. This plant would stay in business for over ten years and help to cement Colorado as a car town. Years later, in 1926, Walter Chrysler would lease one of his first franchises at 1000 Broadway. This building would continue to be a dealership through the 1960s when the owners’ Temple Buell Jr. and Fo Farland would become the first Ferrari dealers in the Rocky Mountain Region and briefly ran a Formula 1 team, but that’s a story for another day.

Our state has always supported the production car, as we continue to see many manufacturers camouflaging new models for high-altitude testing on the western slope. 

Aside from production cars, Colorado was known for famous racetracks. One of the most forgotten was the one-mile Overland Park Racetrack that once sat where Overland Golf Course is today. Another was the Continental Divide Raceway in Castle Rock. In the 1950s, Continental Divide was one of the premier racetracks in the United States, with old-timers telling me the straightaway was the longest in the United States (at the time). Colorado continues to have legendary tracks like Bandimere Speedway nestled up against the mountains and Pikes Peak Hill Climb, which has run legends to the summit at 14,115ft since 1916 and brought worldwide attention to our automobiles.

If you’re trying to get out of the sun, we also have many museums dedicated to transportation and the automobile, like the Forney Museum of Transportation with over 400 classic vehicles, the Shelby Museum up in Boulder, and even the Penrose Heritage Museum in the Springs. While Coloradans are making automotive history, these places stand as monuments to where we’ve come from and the shoulders of giants on which we stand.

Production models, racetracks, and museums help businesses make money, but smaller car communities keep the passion alive. With the Colorado Cars and Coffee team, we’ve seen many communities grow together. Whatever your taste, Colorado has it. Whether driving a pre-60s, seven-figure icon over 1000 miles in the Colorado Grand, running in dirt hill climbs with the Colorado Hill Climb Association, or filling the parking lot at Lafayette Cars and Coffee, every aspect of car culture has a community to help you grow.

These communities quickly become small families, as we see with groups like the Colorado Karting Tour helping young drivers to find their nerve in wheel-to-wheel karting or Drift Colorado working to welcome new members and those interested in drifting. 

If you’re going for a cruise or out at High Plains, the people are what make Colorado Car Culture great. Coloradans should continue to grow their passion for cars and respect for our beautiful state. 

I’m sure your appreciation for car culture in Colorado is different than mine. Still, the communities we build and the friendships we form make Colorado car culture the best in the country. While states like California and Texas are loud in their appreciation of cars, we’ve always been a bit more subdued, and that’s how we like it. 

After all, there’s only one American Stig, and he lives in Boulder.

Author Bio:

Pat is a lifelong history and automotive enthusiast, born in Colorado and the shadow of Pikes Peak. The mountain called in 2019, and he answered. He’s now worked for the Hill Climb for the past 4 years with no signs of stopping. He spends his days honing knowledge of the classic Europeans and how to run a showroom at Farland Classic Restoration in Englewood. The daily driver is a 1987 BMW 325e; please don’t honk when you pass him. Check out Twitter for his most insane automotive ramblings @PatsCurtins.