Every August the otherwise sleepy little seaside town of Monterey California becomes the exciting, fun and showcase center of the entire automotive world. Wayne Carinie of “Chasing Classic Cars” called it “The greatest car show in the world”. For one full week there is so much to do and see that is impossible see everything. Some of this years’ events included The Automobilla Auction, The Little Car Show, Concorso Italiano, The Quail Gathering, The Concourse of Lemons and the grand finale on Sunday, the legendary Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. (French, literally “a competition of elegance”)
Auctions are also a major part of the Monterey scene. Gooding, RM, and Mecum are just some of the auctions held during the week. Gooding’s auctions, held at Pebble Beach on Saturday and Sunday, set a new record for total sales at an auction.
The origin of Monterey Car Week can be traced back to 1950 when a group from Sports Car Club of America – West Coast, teamed up with Del Monte Properties Company. Since then the Pebble Beach Road Race, Concours and other events, has grown from 10,000 spectators to an estimated 150,000 spectators this year.
This was my first trip up the coast to Car Week in Monterey. For several years I had only looked at pictures, watched highlights on TV and listened to stories from my car obsessed friends about this bigger than life car event. For once a bunch of car guys were right! Monterey is impossible to capture in just words or pictures. The excitement and raw electricity is something you will have to feel for yourself.
If you plan in advance this trip can be very affordable. During Car Week, Hotels are at a premium. Three hundred and fifty dollars a night room rates are not uncommon for even a modest room. However, I was with a group of car people who had “been there and done that” so they booked their rooms (and a few extra rooms) the day after last years events and secured room rates of sixty dollars a night.
I didn’t go for the entire week. I hitched a ride with a friend and arrived on Wednesday night, had dinner with my car friends and walked around the town. Thursday morning I attended the Concourse On The Avenue in Carmel-by-the sea. There were million dollar cars placed, with great care, in the middle of town on both sides of the main street. The line of cars went on for about three city blocks. This was a free preview with most of the cars that would be competing in Pebble Beach on Sunday. It’s a $200.00 ticket on Sunday. Fortunately I had friends with passes.
The cars were great to see. What was not so great were the parking and the crowds. However, it was worth it in more ways than one. There was a bonus show that was not advertised. As I walked a few blocks to the center of town, it was hard to miss the show that was not on the avenue. The cars in the parking lots and parked on the street were a sight to see by themselves. I took my time walking to the center of town, stopping and looking at all the vintage Mustangs, Corvettes, T-Birds, Oldsmobiles and several all original Cobras. A car show with-in a car show…beautiful!
Friday I stayed in Pacific Grove, a town not to far from all the action and yet it still keeps its small town charm. Friday morning I walked just a few blocks from where I was staying to The Pacific Grove Car show and rally. Often times in So Cal we see the same cars at all the local events. This show was like a breath of fresh air, literally. While my friends and family were dealing with the 100 degree August heat back home: it was a cool and breezy 70 degrees in Pacific Grove. I spent the day looking at cars in this little friendly town and swapping car stories with their owners. Friday night; more cars and good food at the Baja Filling Station Cruse Night.
Saturday morning I was joined by my girlfriend, Cheryl, who loves classic cars too. We started the day at “The Concourse dLeMons” (Concourse of Lemons) Self titled “The worst car show in the world”, it’s a silly celebration of cars like Pacers, Gremlin’s, Pinto’s, Vaga’s and other cars competing for the worst in class prize. Some of the cars are so well done its hard to call them lemons. This unique car show is all about the fun! The judges let you know that they take bribes… usually in the form of food or wine. Here is their web site: http://www.concoursdlemons.com We did some sight seeing and ate lunch at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. Serving a wide variety of fresh sea food in a water front atmosphere, it is “Great Grub!”. We spent Saturday night at the Gooding and Company Car auction on the Pebble Beach site where we watched millionaires buy cars like it was monopoly money. Three million for this car… $7 million for that car 11.7 million for a used Mercedes Benz. Wow, that’s more than I make in a week! When your still a working man or woman it’s hard to relate to those kinds of numbers. There were several world record prices set at the auction.
Sunday was the main event. The town was packed with people and cars. There was no parking at the golf course so we had to park on the coast… did I say had too? The view looked like a painting. We took a bus ride for about 10 minutes until we arrived at The Pebble Beach Golf Course. Truly, this was an outstanding sight as the bus door opened. Beautiful pieces of mechanical art work lined the breath taking 18TH hole. Each car holds a rich history, and I do mean RICH. The 220 cars in the show had a combined estimated worth of over 250 million dollars. Several of the owners stood by their cars and answered questions and told stores about them. It was almost like the Mustang Nationals, only the cars were (in most cases) longer and had a higher price tag. There was still the same sense of pride of ownership, sharing and caring about cars. It was definitely an experience that I will never forget. We will be back next year.