If you aren’t paying attention to the Minnesota car scene, it is time you start! Minnesota currently stakes claim to one of the best Cars & Coffee shows in the Midwest, some top-flight performance shops, an impressive list of exotics roaming the streets and whispers of hyper-cars soon to make an appearance.
There is no one better to break it all down for us than photographer to the car stars, Alex Bellus.
Alex, let’s start with Minnesota Cars & Coffee (MN C&C) which takes place the first Saturday of every month at the Automotorplex in Chanhassen, MN.
Mid-America Cartell: About how many cars come out on a given Saturday and how much has this show grown over the past two years?
Alex: MN C&C has pretty much hit capacity for the current venue, the AutoMotorPlex, in Chanhassen and the volunteers that staff the event have had to start turning away cars by 8:30 or 9:00 AM when the weather is nice because we’ve already reached the limit of about 1,000 cars. With those cars usually comes several thousand spectators as well. I’ve been photographing the event since it first started in a coffee shop parking lot with about 25-30 cars so I’ve seen it grow a ton over the past 6 or 7 years. Like clockwork, it runs from about 7:00 AM to 11:00 on the first Saturday of every month, April through October.
Mid-America CarTell: What kind of variety of cars should one expect?
Alex: There’s a huge diversity of cars that come out each month. Pretty much anyone can show their car as long as it’s clean and somewhat unique. You’ll see everything from well-executed JDM cars to rat rods and muscle cars, as well as a strong contingent of German cars, especially, BMWs, Audis and Porsches. Regardless of weather, you’ll usually see a few super cars come out like Ford GTs, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, or McLarens, even when there is snow on the ground!
Mid-America CarTell: What are some of the most exciting cars that have come out this year?
Alex: It was a rough start to the year. We had a snow storm a day or two before the April event, May was good but kind of chilly, and June had torrential rains that flooded parts of the MotorPlex. That being said, there were three Aventadors (two roadsters and a coupe), as well as a 1,400 HP Ford GT that braved the rain in June. May was a good month for MN C&C. In addition to a really unique and rare 1950s Devin race car as well as a stunning Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster, an Underground Racing twin-turbo Gallardo Superleggera and a priceless 1960 Ferrari 250 GTB SWB are perennial fan favorites that also showed up. Another car I always look forward to seeing is this really mean sounding, blue two-tone Pantera with a fully built engine.
Mid-America CarTell: Are there any cars you’ve seen over the past years that are MIA thus far this season?
Alex: There are a few that I’d love to see again. For instance, about 3 years ago, someone brought a really rare Ruf CTR2 Sport which has since gone to a garage in Malaysia; in addition to a Ruf BTR that made it out to a few events last year. I’ve also seen a Lamborghini Miura or two over the years that I’d love another chance to see. In terms of more modern stuff, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen any Carrera GTs at MN C&C. There’s also a sweet Ultima GTR that usually shows up when the weather is nice.
Mid-America CarTell: We’ve heard rumors about the legendary and fresh off of goldRush Rally Bleugatti as well as a P1 and 918 making an appearance at MN C&C this year. What have you been hearing?
Alex: That sounds about right. I’m hoping Bleugatti will be at the July event and a P1 might be there to join it as well. I’m guessing we won’t start seeing any 918s until this fall though. I’ve also heard rumors of a local collector having a Porsche 959 as well as a McLaren F1. I’ve never seen either of these in person but if the owner happens to be reading this, call me! Let’s set up a shoot!
Mid-America CarTell: We can’t talk MN C&C without talking IMOLA Motorsports. You’re their go to photographer so fill us in on their amazing new facility and a few of their recent projects.
Alex: IMOLA’s new shop in Plymouth is about three times bigger than their old shop. They’ve now incorporated a dedicated detailing bay, a race shop, and plenty of storage space. It’s still a work in progress but hopefully there’s room for a dyno and a paint shop as well. They’ve been busy as usual with an assortment of projects including building and maintaining a fleet of shop and customer-owned race cars. Every time I go over there, it seems like they’re servicing something new. Last time I was there, they were working on a really rare Shelby Series 1 and a Ferrari 550 Maranello.
Mid-America CarTell: Any IMOLA projects we should be on the lookout for?
Alex: I’ve been looking forward to shooting their Porsche 997 Turbo with authentic RSR motorsports parts and body panels that they’ve been working on for a while. Can’t wait to see it finished. They’ve also been servicing a bunch more exotics like Aventadors, McLarens, and a slew of Ferraris as well.
Mid-America CarTell: Alex, most Midwest enthusiasts will never see an Aventador in the flesh,let alone have one captive to photograph. So let me get this straight…you were able to shoot THREE of them at the same damn time! How did that come about?
Alex: I’ve been working with IMOLA for a few years now, occasionally shooting the Aventador that gets stored in their shop since the owner is out of room in his garage. Beyond that, it was just a matter of being introduced to the owners of the two Roadsters by Luis Fraguada who is one of the co-creators of MN C&C, and giving up a Friday evening to make the shoot happen. Both of the Aventador Roadster owners were University of Minnesota alumni so shooting on campus was a natural choice. Making those three cars look good was easy, but the hard part was dodging campus security while finding unique spots to get the right shots. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m a life-long car guy who works in the automotive industry and that I spend my free time (as a photographer) as well as racing cars.
Mid-America CarTell: What an epic shoot!
Alex: Thanks! It’s always a pleasure to spread the word about the MN car scene and to share my work.
*UPDATE* Over the 4th of July holiday weekend the Bleugatti did indeed make it to MN C&C. See the complete photoset on Alex’s blog.