Forget the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Forget any major motor show. If you’re going to do one motoring-related trip every year I’d save my pennies and do the Monterey Car Week. It was my first time this year and I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not going sooner.
What’s Monterey Car Week you ask? Well basically it’s an excuse for collectors and owners of the finest cars in the world to come together to one of the most picturesque coastal towns in California for a week of motoring festivities.
Out of everything I’ve seen and been to, Monterey Car Week was one of my favourite motoring related experiences. There were some parts of it I didn’t really enjoy, but overall it was one of the best weeks I’ve had.
Most of Car Week is based around the various car shows held throughout the week. There’s the McCall Jet Centre show which kicks off the week. Then there’s the Concourso Italiano, The Quail, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Tickets to these events are, quite frankly, too much. Tickets to The Quail are around US$600, while the Pebble Beach Concours are a more reasonable US$500. You can recoup some of the cost with the free food and drinks on offer (at The Quail anyway) but it’s not really worth paying for it.
The shows themselves were great fun. If I were to pay for one it’d be The Quail. The selection of cars on display there was something else. I can’t say I’ve been anywhere where there have been 12 Koenigseggs, 12 Paganis, three 250 GT Califonias, and so much free champagne before.
Regarded by many as the ‘most prestigious of its kind in the world’, in reality the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was quite a let down. Okay sure, the classic cars (pre-70s stuff) were of the highest caliber. These cars were the best of the best and were literally in concours condition.
But I’m not a fan of standing on grass looking at cars with rich snooty Americans in ostentatious hats. I was done with the show after about an hour, which isn’t great if you’ve just paid $500 to get in. Good thing the scenery overlooking the 18th fairway of the famous Pebble Beach golf course was pretty.
Unlike The Quail, which had a mixture of classics and modern cars, the Pebble Beach Concours was unapologetically vintage. They did have a ‘Concept Lawn’ where manufactures should show off their latest cars but with the exception of a couple of cars, they were cars we’ve already seen before. Either at other motor shows or at The Quail earlier in the week.
The Concours was still an enjoyable show, probably more enjoyable if you’re into that sort of thing, but only for a short period of time. But that’s fine because Car Week isn’t only about the fancy shows. It’s about the people and the cars too.
Here’s where Car Week differs from everything else; the cars you see at the shows actually drive around. Okay, not ALL the cars drive around obviously. The concept cars and some of the priceless classics never made it past the perfectly trimmed lawns of the golf course but there were still plenty of mouth-watering cars to be seen around Monterey.
One of the first cars I saw as I arrived at the town of Carmel-by-the-sea was the Bugatti EB110 SS and Veyron Supersport combo. Around the corner was a red Porsche 911 GT2 RS, parked casually. Another day a yellow McLaren P1 was parked up in race mode, of course.
The hotels are a great place to check as well. Valet space becomes a battleground for who has the best car at the hotel and who’s car gets sent to an auxiliary lot. What that means is you’re always guaranteed to see the best stuff at the front. Cars like several Ferrari F12tdfs, Porsche 918, and Jaguar XJ220 could be seen at the various hotels in Monterey.
It wasn’t uncommon to see classic cars driving on the roads too, especially with several rallies and drives happening throughout the week. It also helped Mercedes-AMG were celebrating their 50th Anniversary and Ferrari were celebrating their 70th this year.
That meant owners of those brands brought some of their best and rarest cars out. Until Car Week I had forgotten the Ferrari Sergio, a 1 of 6 special edition Ferrari based on the 458 Spider, existed. Same with the F60 America, a special model built to commemorate 60 years of Ferrari in North America. Only 10 of these were built using the F12 as a base.
How about seeing three 250 GTOs at the same place? Two were displayed for the 70th Ferrari celebrations on the first fairway at Pebble Beach while the third was at the Concours. The owners of both GTOs at the Ferrari lawn drove the cars in and out themselves. No fancy transporter trucks here.
It was the same case with most of the cars at other shows. The cars would actually drive in and out of the venue so even if you don’t have tickets to see the show there’s still a chance to see the show cars driving around.
There was never a dull day during Car Week. With great people to hang out with, incredible cars to gawk at, and breathtaking views all around, it was right up as one of the best weeks of my life. I’d highly recommend going to Car Week at least once in your life to see what all the madness is about.