I have just returned home from last week’s extravaganza of car events at Monterey, California, often referred to collectively as the Monterey Car Week. This package of events started out in 1950 as a combination of sports car races through the woods at Pebble Beach and a concours show competition. On safety grounds, the races were split off from the concours in the mid-50s and the nearby Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca race track was built while the concours, which are held on the 18th hole of the Pebble Beach golf course has gone on from strength to strength.
It’s true that this week is largely involved with cars and racing from previous eras. But, even within those limitations, this week has become arguably the most important week for car guys in North America. The Monterey Reunion is claimed to be second only to the Goodwood Revival in England and the Concours may well be the most important competition of its kind in the world. The week has grown far beyond these original two events and the money value of the cars being raced, on show and at auction runs into the multi multi millions – it boggles the mind.
One specialist magazine, Keith Martin’s Sports Car Market, publishes an “Insider’s Guide” to the week. In it they list three rallies of collectible cars in addition to the cornerstone Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, nine concours including the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and no fewer than six big-buck auctions. Oh yes, and three “Cars as Art” marketplaces.
It’s impossible for one person to see everything. Now that it’s over and I look back at the week, I realize that I missed more than I saw – and I’m regretting that if I had been a bit more organized I might have seen more than I did in my four days there.
I did have a plan and I did follow it. If I made a mistake, it was relying on that advance plan too much and not reviewing it each night and regrouping before the next day’s activities.
My first day was Thursday. I drove out to Pebble Beach to see the start of the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, a 120-km rally over the roads in the area including a lap around the Laguna Seca track. A large proportion of the cars entered in the Concours were entered in the Tour so it was an good opportunity for anyone to see these cars up close (and no admission ticket required). The Gooding auction had set up camp here and I was able to pick up my credentials for it at the same time.
After that, went down to the golf course lodge to pick up my credentials for the Concours and then I drove back a few kilometres to the race registration in a local hotel on the other side of Monterey and picked my credentials for the races. Next, according to plan, I drove down the few kilometres to Carmel where the Tour cars were scheduled to arrive and park on the main drag, Ocean Avenue. This turned out to be a bad idea. It was another excellent opportunity for the general public to see this big selection of the Concours cars up close without paying admission. Parking is very limited in Carmel at the best of times, so after cruising the streets fruitlessly and getting father and farther from my objective destination, I gave up.
I turned on my GPS and plugged in the address for the RM Auction which was located in a big hotel complex in downtown Monterey. This time I was able to find a free parking spot near the hotel – and pick up my credentials for the RM auction. The preview had already begun and I was able to hang out there and check out the cars being offered for sale.
After that I packed up and drove back to my motel in Gilroy, some 50 minutes away. And that was just the first day.
The second day was the first official day of the race events at Monterey, so I drove straight to the track and checked in. I couldn’t get my photo vest until after the next photographers’ briefing at noon, so I wandered around the paddock checking out the 500 plus vintage cars assembled there.
After lunch, with my newly-issued photo vest, I headed out to the corkscrew to take photos. Late that afternoon I returned to the site of the RM auction to watch the first of two evenings of sales.
Unfortunately I didn’t realize that my RM credential was only good for the preview area and that I was not going to be able to rub shoulders with actual bidders. I hung out in the bar, where video of the auction was available and made some new friends (not any of the glitterati).
Saturday, was more-or-less a repeat of Friday. I went to the race track in the morning and took pictures, mostly up in the carousel again, and after the racing was done, I drove back over to the Gooding Auction (where I was able to gain entrance to the actual auction) and check out the cars on offer and watch the bidding. I didn’t dare order any of the food or drink on offer, fearing that the prices might be set for the one-per-centers in attendance and well out of my price bracket.
I stopped at McDonalds on the way back to Gilroy and had some chips and a sundae.
Sunday was the big day. I was determined to not leave the Concours too early like I felt that I had in previous years. I was up before dawn and after a quick breakfast at McDonalds, I drove over to Pebble Beach. The parking in this residential park-like community is a nightmare and it took me forever to find a parking place and take the shuttle over the site of the event. I made the mistake of stopping by the media tent and letting myself get distracted for half an hour. By the time I got down to the field (the 18th hole area) nearly all the cars had been driven onto the field and parked in place and the grounds were filled with various people – entrants and their family and friends, judges, VIPs, media and the general public. I had hoped to be able to get some photos of the cars without people being crowded around them but that was not to be.
I did stay longer than in previous years but I left well before noon – took the long shuttle ride back out to my car – found a back way out of the Pacific Grove forest (with some help from my GPS) and wound my way back to the race track. There I was bit surprised to find the media parking lot half empty and when I got into place to shoot that there were a much smaller crowd of photographers than on Saturday. It looks like many others make Saturday their priority day at the race track and reserve Sunday for the big Concours and other events going on that day.
My flight home left San Jose at 6:55 am so I was up about three and hustling to get to the airport on time. With the time difference and half-an-hour at the border crossing, it was early evening when I got home here. It was a long exhausting four days plus, but worth it.
I plan to write more this weekend with additional parts to follow...