Monterey: Days of Sheer Automotive Overload
By Winston Goodfellow
To highlight how overwhelming the annual Monterey whirlwind has become, the most frequently heard comment after the dust had settled was how worn out everyone was from the week's proceedings. Either we’re all getting older, or (as I prefer to think!) it just shows how much stuff is truly packed into those several days.
McCall Motorworks Revival Wednesday evening was smaller than the past few years in terms of motorcars, airplanes and jet aircraft to view, but host Gordon McCall said that was by design. “Less” gave the evening a more enjoyable, intimate feel and the object that I spent more time with than any other was a nifty pocket camera that Hasselblad was showing. Another tasty morsel amongst the many on display was the one-off DB9 Zagato Volante done for collector Peter Read. Weeks before the car’s unveiling Andrea Zagato told me, “I wanted to do something quite different from our traditional design language,” and he succeeded: this Aston’s vibe is a throwback to stately, uber open-top cruisers like Ferrari’s 365 California from the 1960s.
On Thursday I headed to the hills east of Monterey to take in the Pebble Beach Tour, as it is now too crowded to truly enjoy seeing the cars roll into Carmel late morning. While driving the route looking for a location to stop and watch, every half mile or so people were patiently waiting to see the parade of sparkling entrants come roaring (in the case of Peter Kalikow’s 212 Vignale) or putting by (the big banger pre-World War I machinery). As one who judged the “Elegance in Motion” award when Pebble started the Tour, this year’s crew had no easy task, picking the winner out of that large field.
Parties populated the peninsula Thursday evening, with two in particular standing out. Chip Connor’s invite-only bash in Carmel Valley had a number of people saying it was the best they’d been to, while those at Lincoln Motorcar Company’s exclusive soiree on Carmel Bay were extolling much the same. Making Lincoln’s affair unique, it truly was on the bay, held aboard the 145-foot motoryacht “Fighting Irish” that was anchored off the picturesque shoreline.
For Friday’s The Quail at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, the event expanded the size of the field so cars would not be so closely packed together. That definitely gave it a more comfortable feel, and highlights included a tasty display of Astons, a class for American designer Pete Brock (Shelby Mustang GT350, Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe [the eventual Best of Show winner], BRE Datsuns, De Tomaso P70, and more), and an interview on the awards ramp where Lamborghini’s Valentino Balboni, former sales manager Ubaldo Sgarzi, and original Miura S owner (and The Quail’s chairman) Sir Michael Kadoorie swapped stories about the old days, and paid homage to Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary.
That afternoon Michael Schumacher surprised everyone by doing an interview on the ramp (his attendance was the peninsula’s best kept secret leading up to the week). Joining him was Jean Todt, and as Alain De Cadenet finished up questioning the two, the session was opened up to the admiring public standing close by. For a good ten minutes, the seven-time F1 champion and current FIA head fielded queries with great equanimity.
Auctions and parties were everywhere Friday night; I avoided them all for a reasonable bedtime so I could get an early start Saturday morning to head out to Laguna Seca Raceway. Chevrolet’s Corvette was celebrating its 60th anniversary, and there were a good number of Vette endurance racers and show cars, plus several hundred examples from the C-1 (1953-1962) up to the soon-to-be-on-sale C-7. In addition to the Corvettes, the pits were overflowing with pre- and postwar machinery; an Alfa P3 and 33/2 were two of the more memorable standouts.
That evening RM treated viewers to one of the best auctions I’ve seen. A great group of cars, good strong bidding, and a record price ($27.5 million) for a one-of-ten Ferrari 275 NART Spyder that was successfully bid on for a client by someone I know well in Geneva. With so many central banks continuing their expansionary monetary policies, I suspect prices on A-list cars like the NART will continue their meteoric upward trek for the foreseeable future (more on this can be found in the most recent entry of my blog, TheGoodfellowPerspective.com).
My Sunday started early. As a former Pebble chief class judge and organizing committee member, I like to arrive at the crack of dawn to witness the cars rolling onto the field. I drove in with Richard Adatto (who was judging one of the European Classic classes), and getting to Pebble while it’s still dark is absolute magic, feeling the energy build as the Lawn slowly fills with cars, getting a vibe for what the show will be like, and having the fun of trying to pick out potential best in class and best of show winners as they are put in place.
For those who have not had the good fortune to go on the bi-annual Alfa Romeo 8C Tour, nearly 30 8Cs running this year’s multi-day jaunt made for spectacular viewing at the far end of the field. Personal favorites scattered throughout Pebble’s other classes included 1960’s sensational one-off Alfa Romeo Superflow, a delectable and incredibly elegant unique Ferrari 250 GT from ‘55, an Auburn Speedster (I’ve seen them before, but this one really bit me), four imposing Prince Heinrich Benzes from 1908-1910, a 1940 Tatra T87, and the yellow P1 in McLaren’s spacious pavilion that overlooked the field (the P1 looks much better in person than in photos). Best in Show went to a lovely one-off 1934 Packard Dietrich Convertible Victoria.
That night the Gooding tent was overflowing with people and money, and I watched in amazement as two bidders got into a wallet fight over a Porsche 911 L and bid it up to nearly $600,000 (all in price).
With so many other events not mentioned here, how do you enjoy much automotive lunacy packed into the space of a few days? Two tips should help. First, if you’re going to be on the peninsula for four or more days, look at renting a house or condo. It really makes everything so much more enjoyable and cost effective—especially if you’re sharing the place with friends. Second, pace yourself by carefully choosing what to do. On Thursday Carmel is now so crowded with the mad crush of people that want to watch the Tour roll into town, that I became the envy of friends and colleagues when informing them I went to the condo during that time and took a nap.
As one who has done Monterey for 35+ years straight, trust me when I say such periodic breaks make everything so much easier, and enjoyable!
Images courtesy of Gooding & Company, Mike Maez, Shamrock Motoring Images, Massimo Delbo’, Winston Goodfellow, www.evankleinfilms.com, Tip Weiss and John Lamm