Monterey 2015 – Good, Bad, Ugly II
We’ve posted our take on the joys and frustrations of getting to Monterey, and what to watch out for if you attend Concorso Italiano. What about the rest? Here’s an abridged guide to how to make the most out of your trip.
By the time you read this, the selection of Best in Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will be common knowledge, but you can’t really write about Monterey Car Week without mentioning it, so we’ll get it out of the way.
Obligatory image of Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Best in Show. 1924 Isotta Fraschini (“Fras-Keenie”) Tipo8A Cabriolet, coachwork by Ramseier & Cie Worblaufen. (Easy for you to say.) Nice car. As you can see from the attribution, we didn’t take the picture.
Where else but Monterey in August could you find yourself crawling in traffic on a two-lane country road, and get passed by not one, but two Bugatti Veyrons going the other way, nose to bumper.
No denying it. The cars are great. We’ve said before that you could sleep in your car and still see and hear some of the most beautiful, significant, fast and expensive cars in the world at Monterey, But really, who’s going to do that? If you’re not, then before you make your plans, you ought to know what you are up against.
Accommodations – The Bad
Don’t get us wrong. You can have a great experience staying in Monterey for the duration of the festivities. But be prepared.
August is Christmas for Monterey hostelries. To make up for low occupancy rates the rest of the year the rate at the place where we stayed was three times what it was a week later. Nice rooms in Monterey itself can cost over a thousand dollars a night during Car Week.
We used to trade driving time for room cost. That’s a devil’s bargain though. The Motel 6 in Watsonville, 33 miles from the Lodge at Pebble Beach up US 1 is the most reasonable. Yelp has some nasty comments about the clientele, but it was an acceptable place to crash. You don’t stay at a hotel near Monterey during Car Week to spend time in the pool. The problem is that those rooms sell out pretty fast.
Most everything else is north along US101, from Salinas, about 25 miles from the Lodge, to Gilroy about 28 miles farther, and Morgan Hill, about 11 miles more. No matter which route you take, both those drives involve stretches of road posted at 55 miles per hour, with double yellow lines for miles. If you find yourself behind a dawdler, you’d better pack a large cooler of patience.
Another thing about driving: despite all the high speed machinery on the road, everyone up there seems paranoid. It’s as if they are all driving with their cruise control set at the posted limit. It tends to jam things up. Of course that’s when traffic is moving at all, which is not always the case. So don’t trust Google Maps’ drive times. During Car Week they are a joke.
We will only divulge the location of our former secret press headquarters under extreme duress. It is 49 miles from the Lodge, but the price is about one tenth the lowest you’ll find in Monterey. It’s not listed on Travelocity, and trust us – you get what you pay for.
Our secret press headquarters, 2009. Marlon Brando’s 1953 film The Wild One was based on a real event that took place in this town.
There was no motorcycle gang riot during our stay. The manager does welcome bikers. Don’t get on her wrong side though. A misplaced key (no fancy card reader locks here) and a night spent sleeping in the car because we couldn’t rouse her at 11:00, had us deciding that regardless of the low rent, her quirks were just too quirky.
You only need check Yelp to find the shortcomings of that Motel 6 in Watsonville. What they don’t tell you about the motel in Salinas illustrates what attendees at the Monterey car events will tolerate to be within 25 miles of the Lodge for “only” $183 a night. In the morning there’s coffee, but not in the room, and not so much as a donut in the lobby, no refrigerator, iron, nor microwave; a silver dollar size stain on the only chair in the room, barely sufficient light at the sink to shave by, intermittent elevator service (and us with a 3rd floor room), and a maintenance crew that uses a gas-powered leaf blower to sweep the decks. If you plan on partying and sleeping in, this is not your place.
On top of that, they discarded the kitchenware we’d brought anticipating that restaurants wouldn’t be open at 5:00 AM. The one Siri recommended opens at 7:00. They did not remake the bed and provide a new bath mat (one day), and the small, uncomfortable pillows smelled of . . . well, I don’t know what. Our photographer’s room had been smoked in, despite the “no smoking” label, and there was no fresh soap in the evening.
Accommodations – The Good
You have to really plan ahead, and compromise.
If you want to take in the whole Monterey experience, you’ll either need accommodations a long way from Monterey, a really good friend who lives on the Peninsula – and a patron at Rolex, or a hefty financial commitment. Still, if you can limit your aspirations to the signature events, it’s possible to see the good stuff on a budget.
The best events are the Tour d’Elegance, the Motorsport Gathering at the Quail, The Historic Road Race Reunion at Laguna Seca, Concorso Italiano, the Gooding & Co or RM Auctions, and the Pebble Beach Concours. If you can get into the Quail, you don’t need any advice from us, so you needn’t read further.
If you are going to the Concours on Sunday, you’ll see all the cars, so you can skip the Tour. You can’t see the races and the Concorso, or the races and Pebble Beach at the same time, so make your choices and plan to stay just two nights. All you Los Angelinos do what we did for next year.
You have to search a little, but some of the booking websites can make reservations as much as a year in advance. You need to find out when the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is being held the following year (in 2016 it’s 8/21) and book as early as you can. It probably won’t save you on a bed but if you wait it will be too late.
Make reservations at a well-reviewed hotel in the Monterey area for Saturday and Sunday night. We found a nice place in Pacific Grove. Make your reservations for Saturday and Sunday night, and drive up early Saturday for the Concorso. Go to Gooding’s auction Saturday and Sunday night, and the Pebble Beach Concours on Sunday. This saved us about a quarter of what we paid for five days at that flea trap in Salinas this year, and we’ll be within bicycling distance of the Lodge at Pebble Beach.
You can’t be everywhere at once. Be content to attend either all of one auction or bits of several. If you do that, and stay several days, it’s possible to watch parts of maybe five different auctions. Check the on-line consignment lists to see where the cars that catch your interest will be bid. Some charge admission fees for spectators. The slick $100 two-volume catalog from Gooding gets you into that event. You won’t get into the RM auction without a bidder’s paddle. Watch it on the big screens.
Gooding & Co.’s slick two-volume catalog devotes as many as twelve full-color presentation-quality pages to marquee consignments. For $100 plus tax, it gets you and a companion into the hall with the high-rollers bidding on them.
It’s a matter of taste, but we’re put off by the livestock auction circus atmosphere of such auctions as Mecum, Barrett-Jackson, and Russo & Steele, with their rapid-fire high-volume auctioneering. If that doesn’t bother you, go for it.
Did we say the prices at the Concorso concessions are outrageous? How about $10 for a hot dog at Gooding & Co? We waited forever when the $15 sliders we ordered were accidentally delivered to someone else. On Sunday you’ll be riding the business-class shuttles back to your car – in the dark.
The highest bids at Monterey have been going to consignments at RM Southeby’s lately. They grudgingly gave us press access to the previews (you may have to pay $100 to get up close to some cars). This year their marquee lot was a 1964 Ferrari 250LM with an extensive racing history that sold for $17.6 million with fees. It was not on public display when we were there.
The 1956 Ferrari 250GT Tour de France Competizione above won the TdF that year, and the factory team lightweight 1953 Jaguar C-type below was raced successfully (three 1st place finishes at Goodwood) by Scottish racing team Ecurre Ecosse. Both sold for $13.2 million including fees.
Gooding & Co. spreads a green carpet over acres of wood chips (not to mention the parking area and walkways) and sets up enormous aluminum and white canvas pavilions at the Equestrian Center above the Lodge at Pebble Beach.
The lighting and concessions are first-rate. (When they finally arrived, our sliders were fresh and hot, and to compensate for the mix-up, they gave our table three huge $5.00 chocolate chip cookies.) As bidding gets late (The final hammer falls around 10:30), Charley Ross (David Gooding: “The best auctioneer in the business,” with no argument from us.) cautions those in attendance to be careful when signaling for their free bag of kettle corn, so that they do not inadvertently bid on a multi-million-dollar car.
The cars are spectacular.
Very few Ferraris had bodywork by Bertone. Giuseppi “Nuccio” Bertone commissioned this car for himself on the Ferrari 250 SWB Berlinetta chassis. The stunning coupe sold for $16.5 million with fees.
Even those for whom Ferraris are just expensive Italian cars that celebrities occasionally crash may know this one, in spite of themselves. It’s a real 250 GT SWB California Spider, the model immortalized in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It sold for $16.83 million, including commission, etc.
1967 was a great year for cars. Among the flashes of brilliance was the Toyota 2000GT, a car constructed by Yamaha for Toyota that competed in price, specifications and performance with the contemporary Porsche 911S. Only 351 of these cars were built, a production comparable to rare and desirable Ferraris like the 250 GT Lusso. A few convertibles were built for product placement in the Sean Connery Bond film, You Only Live Twice.
The car above is a rare left-hand drive 2000GT. Regardless of trends and million dollar expectations, it sold for $803,000 after fees.
Still, one has to wonder about how such values are decided, with this car selling for more than eleven front-engine V12 Ferraris at the same auction, including a bit more than two four-cam, six-carburetor 365GTB/4 Daytonas, often called the last of the great front-engine Ferrari sports racers.
Another value anomaly is the “barn-find.” We can understand the attraction of a well-preserved car if the original car was significant, but if it’s a beat up car that’s not particularly rare, and the upholstery can’t be sat upon, where’s the value?
Nearly 1,000 copies of the Ferrari 250 GT/E were made. If any Ferrari can be classified as “ordinary” this dirty barn find is close. You can’t really call it original, since the first owner had it repainted. Someone paid $418,000 to take it home. Another similar car at the same auction, properly restored, cost the buyer nearly twice that, so perhaps even a costly restoration might be worth the expense – if the owner does not keep it as is.
Only two examples of of this Fiat 600 Eden Roc were built. This is the one that was displayed (inset) while on loan to the Petersen Automotive Museum. Where you’d look to confirm it we do not know, but it’s a pretty safe bet that no other Fiat 600 ever sold for more than the buyer paid for this one – $660,000.
Sunday, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
There is no getting around it. Parking for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance sucks. You can take a Taxi, Uber or Lyft; or hire a limo (if they are not already taken) but otherwise you park at one of the seaside lots at Spanish Bay and ride the shuttle buses. They are nice buses. They even have seat belts. But you are their prisoner for the day.
A nice variety of consignments greeted us at the Gooding & Co. Pavilion Sunday morning when we got off the shuttle bus. It was a good deal darker then. The nicer temporary restrooms are behind the hedge and screen on the right.
If you spring for the Club d’Elegance ($500 per car last I checked) you get VIP parking, which this year was near where the Shuttle buses stop. They may still have luxury cars that shuttle you from there to the Lodge. Other perks used to include one free poster of the Concours, signed by the artist, a commemorative paperweight, and catered breakfast and lunch.
Try to get to the parking around 6:00 or 6:30. That puts you at the lot nearest the Lodge, for the shortest ride to the Equestrian Center. No, the shuttles do not take you to the Lodge. It’s a bit of a hike from there (about a half mile), but once past the Golf Academy it’s downhill.
The predawn trudge to the Lodge. Don’t leave your tickets in the car. Remember, you’ll be climbing back up that hill after a day walking the eighteenth fairway.
Concessions at Pebble Beach were somewhat more reasonable than at Gooding & Co. The menus changed later (this is a little before 7:00) with more choices. There is nowhere to sit and eat – nowhere. The commemorative program is $40. They hand out pocket guides to the cars on exhibit so you don’t really need it.
Parking near the lodge and stores is scarce, but if you have reason to drive there, fill up before you go. It was $5.00 for a gallon of regular unleaded at the Lodge pumps ($5.25 for 91 octane), compared to $4.00 in Salinas.
As you trudge down past the hospitality pavilions of the various concessionaires like Infiniti, Cadillac, Kia, Tesla, or whoever, they will offer you stuff to eat and drink. Infiniti usually does it best with a catered snack spread later in the day, but that involves climbing the hill. One year they had one of those TV chefs preparing a nice entrée with two wines to sample.
There is a restaurant by the Will Call at the “Bag Drop” (They play golf here, too, you know – just not this Sunday.) with a very limited menu, but it is real food (not a “breakfast sandwich”), and you can sit down while they serve you at your table, so if you budget for it, you may justify it.
Even if you had the advantage of the luxury shuttles to the Lodge, you still have a long walk to the 18th Fairway. This is the practice green, 6:53 AM, with concept cars and start-up prototypes on display. There are more restaurants in the Lodge, behind.
Between the practice green and the actual entrance to the 18th Fairway where you get a lanyard to hang your pass on, it’s another downhill walk past the booths where they sell the poster, program, and chances to win a car, a Rolex, and jewelry. It’s all for charity. They raise over a million dollars for local causes.
On the Fairway
If you get to the 18th Fairway early enough, you get to watch some of the cars arrive. This can be an aural experience as well as a visual one.
Early arrivals get to watch some of the cars drive in and stage. Here an Auburn Speedster, probably the 1928 8-115 of Al and Barbara Mason, attracts admiring looks and shutter snaps.
You can infer a lot about the target audience from the menus at the concession stands. From the above, you might expect many of them to be hung over. And they are not poor, if a bottle of Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque 2006 and two glasses costs $325, plus tip.
The Concours honors particular marques each year, and this year was duPont’s, turn, among others. This is the winner of Class D and Classic Car Club of America Award, one three examples of the Model H built, owned by Richard Riegel, Bedford Hills, New York.
2nd Place in Class D went to this 1929 Model G Special Sedan with coachwork by Merrimac owned by Lammot J. duPont of McLean, Virginia. Six of the marque were entered by duPonts. Curiously, none of the literature mentions any family affiliations.
Apparently their 1929 duPont LeMans Replica Boattail Speedster was nominated by the Petersen Museum but not accepted. Their spectacular 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Vanvooren Cabriolet was. The French gave it to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as a wedding gift. It won the French Cup, and took second in Class J-2 to the car below, the 1937 Delahaye 145 Franay Cabriolet of Sam and Emily Mann, which also won Most Elegant Convertible and a nomination for Best in Show.
Got to Have Ferraris
After a Ferrari won Best in Show last year, what could they do for a follow-up? They brought back some of the Ferraris that raced in the original Pebble Beach Road Races “among the pines” starting in 1950. On Friday, those cars participated in a “parade” at a spirited pace around some of the roads on which the race was staged.
Ferraris that participated in the original Pebble Beach Road Races stage for a drive around the original course.
Winner, Class M-3 for Pebble Beach Road Race Ferraris, 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Pinin Farina Spyder Series I of Thomas R. Peck.
2nd Place: 1952 340 Mexico Vignale Spyder of Les Wexner. Mr Wexner also owns the third-place car, the 1955 857S Scaglietti Spyder below.
Among the other special classes this year were Custom Mercurys from 1949 – 51. The custom shop in the Streetscape of the Petersen Museum used to have one of these “lead sleds” undergoing customization. A Petersen event celebrating these cars featured a rendering of Bob Hirohata’s chopped ’51. It was here on the grass at the Concours, along with the James Dean car from Rebel Without a Cause and others.
One of the cars that set the standard. The Barris Brothers chopped the top of Bob Hirohata’s ’51 Mercury Coupe and removed the B-pilar.
James Dean was more of a sports car guy than a custom aficionado, and he died before this mildly customized ‘49 appeared with him on screen in Rebel Without a Cause, but that did not prevent it from becoming one of the most famous movie cars in history.
Faces in the Crowd
There’s no telling who you’ll run into at Monterey – literally. In 2006 we were at the RM Auction, turned around abruptly, and smacked into Reggie Jackson, who had been selling some of his collection.
If you read our July 25, 2014 blog on Shelby’s Step-child, the Shelby Mustang GT350, you’ll know the significance of this guy. Chuck Cantwell is the Chevrolet guy who Carroll Shelby recruited to run the development program for the car when he couldn’t be bothered to do it himself.
The car Chuck drove in the Tour, SFM5S003, the street prototype. There’s a story about the first Cobra being repainted over and over to fool the press into thinking there were a lot of cars. In a similar deception, this car has steel wheels on one side and Cragar semi-mags on the other, so that photos implied there were two prototype street cars.
The one incident that would have been ripe for name-dropping remains undocumented. Our first year at Monterey our camera battery died before we witnessed Brock “The Assassin” Yates bantering with Cannonball co-driver Dan Gurney and Automobile design critic Robert Cumberford about his class-winning dirt track racer, the Eliminator.
Left: Concours Judge and automotive designer Chris Bangle, responsible for BMW’s controversial “flame surfacing” look, particularly the ugly cut line on the trunk of the E65 7-series of 2001 – 2008.
Right: Three-time CART National Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner (as driver and team owner) Bobby Rahal answers questions about his GT350.
Tail of Two Stutz
Generally a preservation class car is one that has been lovingly cared for over many years, while a barn find is a car that has been neglected for a similar length of time. At the Tour d’Elegance, and later on the Fairway, we got a look at a car that blurs that line.
Collector, Restorer, and Chasing Classic Cars host Wayne Carini relates the story of his 1921 Stutz Model K Bearcat to the Concours judges, while his TV crew captures the scene.
In 1921 an Army surgeon, Dr. William A. Hagins, bought a new Stutz Bearcat. He enjoyed the sporty runabout for ten years, and when it began to run a little rough he took it home, put it up on bricks and removed the head. It turned out to be nothing more than a little carbon build-up, but before the repairs were completed, he passed away. He left his estate to his caretakers, who didn’t touch it. A retired Army officer who was hunting on the property discovered the car, and Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars acquired it.
A rare chance to see what a barn find might have looked like when new. The car on top is Wayne’s 1921 K, the winner of the FIVA prewar preservation trophy, while the one on the bottom is the First Place car in Class B for Vintage Cars, a 1920 Stutz H Bearcat. The only major difference is under the hood, where the Model K engine has a detachable head. Wayne had no explanation for the running board-mounted seat.
All that was required to recommission the car was a new head gasket, a fan belt, and new tires. Everything else about the car is original and as-found, except for the dust and critter droppings. We heard the car idle, and it’s as smooth and sweet a sound as you are likely to hear from a 94 year-old sports car.
We spoke briefly with Mr. Carini as he was waiting for the Judges, and as we’ve learned over twelve years going to Monterey, the people involved with these cars are as eager to talk about them as you would be about your own project car. We are drawn to these events by the beauty, engineering sophistication, and dazzling presentation, but it’s the stories that stay with us.
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