cruisin nationals

Original “Batman” TV Series Car to be on Display

Santa Maria, CA—Hundreds of vintage customized automobiles will roll into Santa Maria once again for the three-day “Cruisin’ Nationals” event held May 27 through May 29 at the Santa Maria Fairpark. The event is open to American-made autos that were manufactured prior to 1961.

“You will not be disappointed in the 2016 Cruisin’ Nationals,” said Penny Pichette, the event’s director and widow of Rich Pichette, who founded the event 35 years ago. After losing Rich to Alzheimer’s in 2010, Penny, together with her team, has made sure that the Cruisin’ Nationals event has stayed vibrant while benefitting Alzheimer’s research in one way or another. This year, a benefit auction is planned for Saturday and Sunday. Two “memorial” cars will also be on display: A 1954 Mercury Roadster in honor of Rich Pichette and the original “Batmobile” in memory of George Barris, who created the Batmobile used in the 1966 “Batman” TV series.

Pichette adds that 800 auto entries are expected at the 2016 event with cars from as far away as New Jersey and Texas as well as an entry owned by James Hetfield of the band Metallica. Hetfield’s entry is called “Aquarius.”

wck_2016_frontOther highlights include a Friday night “cruise” and a “skate deck” display and sale, which features skateboards used as canvasses for artwork. Live bands throughout the weekend and presentations by living legends known for their auto-kustomizing craft are also planned.

The car honoring Rich Pichette has been named “Memories.” It is a work in progress in order to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s. “Some of the best-known individuals in the kustoms community are collaborating to produce this ‘one-off’ 1954 Mercury Roadster kustom vehicle,” Penny Pichette said. She added that the car will continue to tour both indoor and outdoor auto shows with the goal of benefitting Alzheimer’s disease research. At the end of the car’s touring life it will be auctioned off with all proceeds going directly to the National Alzheimer’s Association.

As a tribute to George Barris, who died in November of 2015, the “Batmobile” will be brought to the event by his family. Designed exclusively for the hit 1966 “Batman” TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward, this automotive wonder was styled and engineered with many different special effects innovations by Barris Kustom Industries. Originally it started off as a $250,000 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura concept car. With a deadline of three weeks, this Lincoln was transformed into the world’s most famous car.

An event overview and prices are listed below. Tickets may be purchased at the gate on the day of the event or in advance via


Event Overview:

-The public is invited to cheer on the “Santa Maria City Cruise” on Friday, May 27 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The route begins at Stowell Road and South Broadway and continues to West Main Street. All participating autos must be officially registered.

-On Saturday, May 28 at 8 a.m. spectators are invited to Santa Maria Fairpark to enjoy auto-related vendors, a model car show, live music, the “legends of kustomizing” and an auction benefitting Alzheimer’s research and families impacted by the disease. Admission is $15 for adults; $10 for seniors ages 60 and older; $5 for active military with identification; and free for kids aged 10 and younger.

-On Sunday, May 29 spectators are invited to Santa Maria Fairpark to enjoy the swap meet at 7 a.m. All other exhibitions and events open at 8 a.m. The auction and live music will continue on this day. Admission is $15 for adults; $10 for seniors aged 60 and older; $5 for active military with identification; and free for children aged 10 and younger.


History of West Coast Kustoms

Rich and Penny Pichette began their kustoms journey by hosting monthly cruise nights at the Jet Drive-In that they owned in Sunnymead, California. In 1981, Rich created West Coast Kustoms, a group of kustom car enthusiasts who would caravan to various locations and rally together. When the group started to attract greater numbers of members from both Northern and Southern California, Rich Pichette sought out a mid-state location for an annual rally. In 1982, the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce responded to his inquiries. For the next 27 years, Paso Robles was home to the West Coast Kustoms “Cruisin’ Nationals” event. In 2009, the event moved to Santa Maria where it is still going strong today. After a debilitating battle with Alzheimer’s, Rich Pichette died in July of 2010. Penny Pichette and the couple’s many longtime friends continue Rich’s legacy through their dedication to West Coast Kustoms.