Under the Hood
Car week in Monterey County cranks up the RPMs.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
They travel from distant parts to share their stories: tales of racing across continents before seatbelts; of Brits touring to find fashion when London had none; of separating movie stars, iconoclasts and car-buying barons from whole trunks full of money. Sure, the racing scars have been sanded away, the wine-spills of elites who inhabit their own tax atmosphere have been steam-cleaned out, but the stories still stir with every twitch of the ignition.
They also tell our stories in the gleaming reflection: of swift industrialization, commercialization and status, of personal values and the freedom of the road, of what the future might look like.
They’re also damn cool to stare at, these curves that provoke possibility, this engineering that merits worship, and those colors that require some rethinking of the wardrobe.
Here, glimpse at the best places to hear the stories, find a reflection, and stare away, for both the well-heeled and the heel-to-toe crew:
TOUR D’ ELEGANCE
They seem to appear out of nowhere along the most beautiful roads in the county – forested Aguajito Road, windswept Highway 1, sunny Carmel Valley Road. They are made of metal and plastic, fabric and engineering. They are the world’s finest folding chairs and ice chests.
They materialize for the best free (if most fleeting) Car Week event, a parade of the star cars of the Concours d’Elegance, 157 in all. Keep an eye out for the silver Aston Martin DB5 that once carried James Bond. (See story, pg. 31.)
7am/cars line up on Portola Road, Pebble Beach; 8:30am/departure. 11:30am-noon/cars are parked along Ocean Avenue, Carmel. Download a map of the route at pebblebeachconcours.net. 622-1700.
RUSSO AND STEELE MONTEREY
There aren’t too many cars from 1992 that get much play at these high-end events. The ’92 Movie Batmobile, however, turns heads like Kim Bassinger’s Vicki Vale. Here the roadster, like the 1934 two-tone Tommy Bahama-styled Ford Cabriolet or a magnetically bizarre Ed “Big Daddy” Roth creation, qualifies as a custom, one of three interesting categories of car that make for a diverse crop of eye-catching autos. European sport cars (ranging from a 1972 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV to a 1994 Lola T9400 Indy Car) and “American muscle” (including everything from a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr to a 1969 Mustang Boss) make up the other two categories. While the auction is closed to bidders only, the preview at Calle Principal’s parking structure is among the better free events all week.
6-9pm/charity benefit; 10am-5pm Thu, 10am-10pm Fri-Sat/free preview; 5-10pm Fri-Sat/auction. Preview: parking structure, Calle Principal one-half block south of the Marriott. Auction: Second Floor, Monterey Marriott. $75/bidder. 602-252-2697 or russoandsteele.com.
BLACKHAWK EXHIBITION SALE
On a Pebble Beach island fraught with weighty entrance fees and exclusivity, this event is free and open to the public. Both discerning buyers who prefer the opportunity to inspect cars free of pressure and publicity and dreamers meditating more on rent than Rolls Royces can peruse the big tent on Peter Hay. Don Williams, lifelong devout car-man and exhibition mastermind for the last 18 years, says his strategy to swinging car deals – a low-key atmosphere and extremely rare vehicles (like his Zagato Aston Martin with the outside headlight, the only one of its kind) – pays off. His gross sales clear $100 million a year.
9am-8pm/Thu-Sun. Peter Hay Golf Course, 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach. Free. (925) 736-3444 or blackhawkcollection.com.
CHRISTIE’S EXCEPTIONAL MOTOR CARS
This, from Ferrari magazine: “The two-seat Berlinetta Lusso will remain one of the most graceful of the attainable Ferraris. It was never produced in great numbers, and the modest concessions it made to road-going comfort made it a specialized bridge between the increasingly luxurious production road cars and the full house competition 250 GTOs.” Steve McQueen’s own is on the block here, headlining a sparkling set of collecters’ gems open for peeks all day.
10am-4pm/viewing; 6:30pm/auction. Monterey Jet Center, 300 Skypark Dr., Monterey, 372-9311 or christies.com.
RM MONTEREY SPORTS AND CLASSIC CAR AUCTION
It has pedals, white-wall tires no bigger than a mountain bike’s and a cylinder strap gas tank. In short, it isn’t your average Harley. Moreover, the 1908 Harley Davidson Motorcycle Strap Tank, while entirely hypnotizing to consider, may be only the fifth most intriguing vehicle that the noted and knowledgeable collector David Uihlein is bringing to the Portola Plaza Hotel this week. Thankfully, RM’s commitment to a balance between sports cars and classic cars ensures plenty to gawk at should the crowds around Uihlein’s 1905 Fiat Rear Entry Tonneau or 1933 Alfa Romeo Monza Spider Recreation grow pushy. Both the Europeans (picture an angel white 1933 Delage DS8 Coupe Roadster by Devillars), and Americans (imagine a devilishly red 1964 Dodge Hemi Charger Concept Car) are well-represented.
A striking automotive poster, art and memorabilia collection, gathered by David Lawrence, provides further complexity to an event as free-wheeling and festive as it is up-and-coming.
6-9pm Thu/gala reception. 9am-5pm Thu-Fri/preview; 5pm-midnight Fri-Sat/sale. Portola Plaza Hotel and the Monterey Conference Center, 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey. $40/three-day event pass; $100/catalog; $150/bidder registration. 1-800-211-4371 rmauctions.com.
THE QUAIL, A MOTORSPORTS GATHERING
The Quail hasn’t become the toughest ticket in car week by trying to beat the Concours and Concorsos at their own game – the Quail has done so by carving out its own style of sumptuousness. Its automotive pedigree is still very impressive – this year’s regiment of cars celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Ferrari 250 GT Series 1 Cabriolet, the 75th anniversary of the Monte-Carlo Rally and 50 years of Laguna Seca Raceway speed and excitement (through a savvy partnership with Seca leadership) – but other key components of this party help it sell out 3,000 spots annually. There are boutique wine booths and designer cocktail stations, specialty champagne and microbeers, mist-cooled massages and a series of bistro-style cuisine stations plopped in each corner of the driving range – two Italian, two French and one Californian. Meanwhile, Bonhams and Butterfields conducts the rare jewelry, automobilia and fine classic car auctions and expert drivers run the Land Rover Experience Driving School.
10am-3pm. Quail Lodge, 8000 Valley Greens Dr., Carmel. $200; sold out. 877-734-4628 or quaillodge.com.
The sprawling party with the view of the Monterey Riviera is actually two epic parties in one. First there is the nonstop stage scene, where the finest of the featured marques – Maseratis, Siata 8Vs, Fiat 8Vs, Countachs, Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolets, Ferrari California Spyders and more – purr by, special awards are presented by automotive magazines, and people like Pasquale Esposito perform. That’s also where a special presentation of cars designed by the the arch-enemy of ugly, Ugo Zagato, and a runway fashion show trumpet Italy’s native gift for design. Away from the stage, among the majority of the 1,000 cars estimated to park on the fairways, it’s another party altogether, built around festivalesque interaction and mutual admiration. The dual moods collaborate to make the Concorse to the largest Italian car show in the world. Organizers expect 10,000 people.
9:30am-5pm. Bayonet Blackhorse Golf Course, 1 McClure Way, Seaside. $100/in advance; $150/day of; free/child (under 12). 899-2118 or concorso.com.
KHAKI’S ANNUAL FERRARI EVENT
Italian artwork – Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and other Italian automobiles, many fresh from the Concorso – canvas the parking lot, often with the owners holding serve on their vehicle. The cache of great restaurants waiting in the Barnyard, ready to build upon the cheese-and-wine momentum, and the fact that proceeds go to charity, make this event a sleeper hit.
4:30-7pm. Barnyard Shopping Center parking lot, Rio Road and Highway 1, Carmel. Free; $20 donation for food and wine. 625-8106.
13TH ANNUAL PACIFIC GROVE CONCOURS AUTO RALLY
Up to 250 “rally cars” and over 8,000 spectators turn out for this resolutely Pagrovian piece of car week – another great way for locals to get their own free glimpse of the typically more-spendy spectacle. The cruise along the crags between Lovers Point and Asilomar rivals the Tour d’ Elegance; the down-home barbecue (which includes Skip Barber Racing School raffles and awards to participating cars that stand out) knows no equal.
1-5:30pm/car staging along Lighthouse; 6pm/cruise starts; 7pm/dinner; 8pm/awards presentation. Staging: Lighthouse Avenue; dinner: Chautauqua Hall, 16th Street and Central, Pacific Grove. $80/drive; $15-$20/dinner. pgautorally.org.
CARMEL VINTAGE CAR PARADE AND DISPLAY
Chrome was meant for midday. This park and primp for the village people includes a parade through the hospitable hamlet, some time to admire the gleem and a luncheon on the grass.
11:30am-1pm. Ocean Avenue and Devendorf Park, Carmel. 626-1255 or carmelcalifornia.com.
ROLEX MONTEREY HISTORIC AUTOMOBILE RACES
Bobby Unser and Emerson Fittipaldi have been members of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America for around 20 years between them (since 1994 and 2001, respectively), but they’ve never raced one another or their classmates in supercharged Scion tC sport coupes. That changes Saturday as part of the headline event in an ever-evolving concours weekend at Laguna Seca. Think of it as a champions matchup a la the Jimmy Connors-John McEnroe exhibitions of the late ‘90s, only one where Mats Wilander, Bjorn Borg and a dozen other legends show up with their own rackets. That’s because here Al Unser, Sr. (class of ’91), Johnny Rutherford (’96), Bobby Rahal (’04), Parnelli Jones (’92) and a handful of other greats will also race Scions for a $25,000 prize to go to the winner’s charity of choice. Meanwhile, another massive fleet of historic vehicles, some 400-plus all told, will again descend on the golden hills between Monterey and Salinas to race old Ferraris, Masseratis and Alfa Romeos and honor Indy Roadster History. (For more, see special pullout in this issue.)
12:05pm Sat/legends race; 8am-5pm Thu-Sun. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Highway 68, Monterey. $45-$65/day pass; $95/two-day; $125/three-day; free/children under 12; 1-800-327-SECA or montereyhistoric.com
PEBBLE BEACH CONCOURS D’ ELEGANCE
Many call car collecting a “hobby.” Right. And stamp collectors and taxodermists party like this all the time. The most striking part of this year’s sky-high society shindig happens 4:30pm Sunday, when the very best of the $200 million worth of the rarest cars in the world float up to the stage to receive their best in show honors.
In addition to ‘07’s best, this year also celebrates the height of hobby with tributes to the 1932 Ford, classic pre- and post-war Aston Martins, and Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg. The Astons are slotted to star, with 37 super-exclusive models like the 1934 Aston Martin Ulster Team vehicle owned by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, renowned Aston guru Neil Murray’s 1922 Green Pea (the oldest racing Aston in existence), and a handful of rare Zagato Astons.
Of course the ’32 Fords and Duesenbergs include some doozies themselves, like a 1938 Phantom Corsair Duesenberg completely customized by Russ Heinz (ketchup money is good money), here on loan from the National Automotive Museum. One of the first cars designed in wind tunnel, the one-off called “The Flying Wombat” in 1954’s Young at Heart also pimps a modern climate control and crash padded dash. Meanwhile, while Gretta Garbo, Clark Gable and Gary Cooper would’ve loved to attend, the Duesenbergs they once owned will.
A short drive up the 18th, a squadron of ’32 Fords will redefine originality and help broaden the Concours appeal to that many more with a healthy car hobby.
7:30am/gates open; 9am/judging starts; 10:30am/show opens; 4:30pm/best in show. $150/in advance; $175/day of show; free/children 12 and under; $400/Club d’Elegance package. 622-1700 or pebblebeachconcours.net.