Architecture Rally: A California Road Trip

An eventful rally with an eclectic mix of cars touring an eclectic selection of houses!

Architecture Rally: A California Road Trip

Winding through an uncharacteristically green neighborhood just outside Bakersfield, CA, a group of sports car drivers parked in a row and wandered up a shaded driveway. Rounding a bend at the top of the driveway, Bill Baker’s Jaguar E-Type (purchased on Collecting Cars) was perfectly backgrounded by Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Albin House’. 

Traveling with a group by car is always fun, even more so with such an eclectic mix of vehicles. A handful of press cars provided directly from manufacturers were the newest vehicles on the rally, a BMW M3, Porsche Panamera 4s E-Hybrid, and Volvo V60 Polestar Recharge. Two g-body 911s, an E46 330i, an E39 540i wagon, and a classic Mustang were all in attendance among others. Performance differences between each vehicle made for good conversation during each coffee and donut stop en route to Bakersfield. 

With all the cars lined up outside, the group gathered up in the main entrance for a bit of background on the house, from our host David Coffey. The home, named The Albin House after the family who commissioned Lloyd-Wright, sits on a grassy shaded hilltop, a rarity in Bakersfield. Lloyd-Wright also designed all the furniture which still remains inside the home to this day. All odd angles and open spaces that lead into reading nooks and office spaces. A time capsule from another time, to say the least. 

After an extensive stroll around the grounds, the group was invited to sit and enjoy a catered lunch in the backyard. Fresh sandwiches and a killer potato poblano soup left us fortified for the next leg. A short drive delivered us to David Coffey’s own home, a Richard Neutra designed structure. David allowed our curious group to clamber all over his finely curated home. The Ducati behind the house was only a tease for what David had squirreled away in his shed. Vespas, Himalayas, and even the rolling shell of a Crossley. 

The afternoon wore on and the group was ready for a soft landing before dinner. Beautifully sinuous stretches of road were a treat as we charged towards Kernville, CA, for our overnight stay. No one was pulled over (though it was close) and everyone arrived to dinner at the Kernville Brewery right on time for a local brew, and some pub food. Dinner conversations were a highlight, along with a few cold beers of course. 

Post meal festivities moved from the brewery, down the street to the local tavern. The karaoke list was full and the drinks flowing. The locals were exceptionally welcoming, with a notable mention to the proprietor of said saloon who happened to own a Porsche 356 restoration shop. 

The next morning we stumbled across the motel parking lot for a genuine greasy spoon diner breakfast at Cheryl’s. Full up on eggs and hash browns, the group lined up and headed for the hills. Our hosts from The Motoring Club and Journal plotted a less-than-direct route back to Los Angeles, in the name of technical twists. I’d been quite impressed with the Volvo V60 Polestar Recharge until I made one key mistake, I swapped seats with the driver of a brand new Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid. The V60 was very good, and felt very sporty for a Volvo, but driven back-to-back against the Panamera, there was no comparison. 

Where I would find myself trail braking the V60, the Panamera was already brake vectoring and rotating towards the apex. The Volvo provided a dollop of e-boost out of the corners, but the Panamera delivered a solid boot kick in the pants, truly rocketing away from each corner. When I finally caught up with the V60 the brakes were smoking and I really didn’t want to swap back from the Porsche. 

That said, the Volvo was a competent touring wagon with a healthy helping of sportiness. The T8 motor seemed to provide torque no matter where you were in the rev range. The 8-speed transmission ensured I was never wanting for another ratio. Steering-wheel mounted shifter paddles made the experience a bit more engaging. 

A group of farm stands at the base of the mountain we had just descended offered local jams and honey, all of which we sampled and purchased. The perfect come-down from a truly epic over-the-mountain route. The group bid farewells and splintered into pods cruising down I-5 back to LA. An eventful rally in all the right ways, until next time. 

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY JONATHAN HARPER