A California Coastal Car Caper
Found: A Hidden Gem in Paso Robles
If you're ever out in sunny Paso Robles, the fascinating Woodland Auto Display and adjacent Estrella Warbirds Museum are absolutely worth a visit.
By Dave Wolin
Sat, Apr 17, 2021 05:59 AM PST
Photos by Dave Wolin
If you live in southern California, read LACar regularly, and recently have been jonesing about breaking loose at taking a (long-delayed) weekend trip, you might want to check out the central coast and head for Paso Robles.
It’s only about a 3 1/2 hour drive from LA, and the California Office of Tourism would certainly appreciate it.
OK look, you CAN take (boring old) Interstate 5 to Lost Hills and follow Highway 46 past the James Dean Memorial Intersection on into Paso Robles. But you really want to drive up Highway 101 through Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, it’s a bit slower but far more “interesting” driving-wise.
And now that things are starting to open up, you probably should make a hotel reservation ahead. There’s no shortage of hotels in the area with prices ranging from the Economy Inn at $117 per night on up to the top of the line Inn Paradiso at $795 per night (that’s per Trip Advisor).
There are also a goodly number of quaint B&B's and Airbnb accommodations in the local area.
Wherever you decide to stay, be sure to budget at least half a day of your visit for stopping by some of the local wineries as well as visiting Paso Robles’ charmingly eclectic downtown.
But, for car people (and you know who you are) the highlight of your visit will surely be the Woodland Auto Display and the adjacent Estrella Warbirds Museum.
Right off Highway 46, just south of the Paso Robles Airport, the 17,000 sq. ft. facility offers a world class collection of exotic cars, hot rods and race cars, many of which will be familiar to Central Valley race fans.
Owned by long time racer Dick Woodland (think Kearney Bowl, Ascot and many others California speedways), the Woodland Auto Display has dozens of cars and tons of fascinating memorabilia on display under its 17,000 square foot roof.
Cars range from a gorgeous 300SL “Gullwing” Mercedes to an infinitesimal Isetta with a full-finned '57 Chrysler right there as well. The race cars range from early Supermodifieds to sprint cars, midgets, Indy cars, stock cars and more.
One of the most interesting was the Davey Allison NASCAR Cup Car, recently returned from an extended display in Charlotte. And the motoring photography and along with all memorabilia covering the walls is an attraction in itself.
The adjacent Estrella Warbirds exhibit has wide assortment of vintage aircraft from World War II to current, plus missiles, trucks, and military memorabilia.
Both are open Thursday through Sunday, 10 AM to 4 PM. Admission is $12 for adults, $5 children 6-12, free for children under 6, and $10 for seniors and veterans.
If you’re in the neighborhood around lunch time. checkout Joe's One-Niner restaurant at the airport terminal. You’ll find plenty of good food and lots of cool airplanes to watch and get some exercise while your party “refuels”. -DW
More information on the Woodland Auto Display and Estrella Warbirds can be found at www.ewarbirds.org.
Featured photo: Portion of the race car collection at the Woodland Auto Display.
About The Author
Dave Wolin has years of experience in the automotive performance industry and professional racing. As a driver and a team owner, he’s won SCCA and IMSA races and championships in events as diverse as the Baja 1000 and Pikes Peak Hillclimb. While still racing, he’s also the Executive Director of the Racing History Project. An LA-area refugee, Dave lives in a cabin in the woods outside Yosemite National Park with his wife Jane, an uncountable number of standard and exotic pets, and a garage (that dwarfs his house) full of enough racing projects to last out the century.