My Car Quest

December 16, 2017

A Connoisseur’s Monterey Car Week

Wherein a motoring scribe describes four days in a motoring paradise…

by Wallace Wyss –

Four days is not enough. That became abundantly clear when you look how many activities are packed into Monterey Car week. As the parachute boys used to say, one has to “hit the ground running” in order to see as much as you can in the time allotted.

I landed in town –the town being the tiny village of Carmel–on Thursday, at noon. This is by far the most daunting event to go to because there are ten times as many cars in town that day than the town is designed for. I only had to park one mile away and hoof it but my poor wife wouldn’t have been able to make it if I hadn’t dropped her off first.

Tour d'Elegance

Part of the fun is the Tour d’Elegance through Carmel, which takes place on Thursday. As the car owners are dining, the unwashed masses can admire their tin. One frets about dents with exposure to the unschooled, but hey, it’s bringing more people into the tent, is it not? This is a Jaguar with Italian coachwork….

So after the long trek, I found myself on the main street with a wide variety of cars parked from the Tour d’Elegance, most of the cars destined for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance later in the week.The deal is participate in this show on the streets and you get extra points which could figure in a concours win.

What makes this event fun is 1.) it’s free and 2.) you get to observe the reactions of ordinary people—including tourists who had scheduled a trip to the Peninsula long before and had no idea of the arrival of Monterey Car Week–to the sight of cars that they had never heard of, or envisioned, everything from hand-built prewar luxury cars to a custom Pontiac bodied in Italy. That’s entertaining in itself, seeing their reactions. “Gobsmacked” is the adjective that comes to mind.

Tour d'Elegance

I can’t imagine driving anything wilder than a P3 (or is it P3/4 or 412?) on the street but this yellow bomb on the Tour had regular license plates..

Pontiac Farago

There were a small amount of Detroiters in the Sixties who had connections with Italy, and one of them Paul Farago, who had this Pontiac rebodied in Europe. Looks like it would sell today! The car was brought by his nephew who is a good steward of the family’s history in influencing Detroit styling.

Friday morning was the Quail, offering in a tranquil valley a very rich sampling of historic cars and some brand new ones. This is not a “run what you brung” show but a “curated one” where, if a car is there, there is a reason for it being there, even though occasionally you see a custom, like one of Terry Cook’s pseudo-prewar classic hot rods like modern day interpretations of French streamline moderne. There’s even Porsches redone by Singer, which are interesting because basically they are customs but you might say “customs” for the cost-is-no-object customer.

The Quail A Motor Sport Gathering

At the Quail, there is plenty of room to view the cars, not cheek by jowl crowds at some of the venues.

The event costs over $600 for a ticket, which are sold months in advance, and limited in availability, but I have to say in a way it’s worth it because of the “curated” cars (not too many of any one model) and the way the automakers displaying their new cars go to great lengths to put you in the mood (couches, music, free drinks) as you enter their little slice o’ heaven.

The Quail a Motor Sport Gathering

Could this be where the Tailfin originated? We think it’s a Delahaye, and the tailfin is modest compared to the ’59 Cadillac. Unfortunately styling in front incorporates the proboscis inspired by the Norval whale

This event is in Carmel Valley and I was glad I went at the opening moment because as I drove out later I saw the most horrendous traffic jam, filled with such like as Bugattis, Lamborghini Miuras and the like, all cars that yearn for the open road and not liking traffic jams and I am sure the owners were regretting they stopped for breakfast first (though I noticed they weren’t opening the three restaurants on site until 11 am…..)

Ferrari

This was a model that is so rare, even a Ferrari author like me doesn’t know the model. Perhaps Aperta? This was the one that was first shown without a windscreen but I guess they had to do that for production.

On Saturday was Concorso Italiano, a very casual concours over in Seaside on the a golf course that was once part of a sprawling military base. It’s not a curated show, in the sense that there is no selection process, you just pay the entry fee and buy a spot but the great thing about this show is that they try earnestly to not just be snobby and favor one marque over another (they didn’t invite Ferrari clubs to come until they had been in existence for five years). So the result is you see an odd ball like a Fiat Topolino.

Concorso Italiano

Well, can’t say the Art & Books booth at Concorso was elegant but we found new fans…

Most interesting to me this year was the Iso Fidia, a four door sedan designed by Giugiaro at Ghia, that was shown mid-restoration, no interior, you could see the raw wiring and it served as a a warning to those who buy unrestored cars—i.e. “This is what it’s going to take to do it right.” See the slide show at the end with photos by Mike Gulett.

Iso Fidia

Iso Fidia under restoration – see more photos at the end – photo by Mike Gulett

I also like to see the presence of a wrecking yard that has smashed classics because, let’s face it, not all of us can afford to buy one new.

They had a new artist this year, and I humbly have to admit his work is better than mine, but my own art booth there kept the wife busy. Our highest selling work was a canvas of a pre-war “streamline modern Figoni et Falaschi Delahaye, while the Ferrari canvases didn’t sell (though the paper ones did).

Really entertaining at Concorso is the running commentary, interviews of owners whose clubs in attendance had voted “best such-and-such brand there” or some such, because the knowledge of emcees Keith Martin (publisher of Sports Car Market Magazine) and Matt Stone, former Motor Trend editor, and Miles Kitchen, an engineer who knows his nuts and bolts, is so vast they can always come up with a bit of history to augment what the owner says.

Concorso Italiano

The beauty of Concorso is that they are trying to reach out to all cars that celebrate Italian design even mass market cars like the original Topolinos. Check the luggage rack!

Plus they had ladies strutting the latest in Italian fashion and even a speedboat that had a connection with Italy.

Saturday night I put on my slacks, dress shirt, two tone shoes and double breasted white blazer and mixed in with the high rollers at the Rolls Royce party, at a stone edifice that looks like something Jay Gatsby would have lived in, on the ocean’s edge, with a pool, outdoor fireplaces, catered food, and very little mention of The Product, not like the Bentley House, which had a room devoted to showing you the leather choices and even dashboards which could be designed to commemorate life’s greatest moments (like the time you climbed Kilimanjaro …).

Saturday night, I also tried to get into the much touted 70-car Ferrari display, but first at the clubhouse Ferrari was renting for VIP customers, there was no chance of the media entering (who be the media? Do you have $895?). So I tried to find out when we can see the 70 cars and got no answer.

Ferrari 250 GTO Art by Wallace Wyss

Ferrari 250 GTO Art by Wallace Wyss

Saturday evening is also the day of the Automotive Fine Art Society art preview, which takes place in a large tent on the same turf as the Pebble Beach concours and almost every artist there was present to show and explain, if need be, their latest work. I was completely befuddled by a stack of wood, a sculpture by Dennis Hoyt, that was supposed to represent a car and cost $45,000 –was this some sort of cosmic joke–but then forgot about it as I fell in love with the work of James Dietz, a historical painter (who has won awards for the historical accuracy of his paintings) who had one sort of sci-fi canvas featuring a prewar car. Then another painter had wild almost tropical colors and told me bravely “I’ve never been afraid of color.”

Being a painter myself. I could understand what he was saying but remain intimidated. You can buy an art work right there, but I presume they delay you from picking it up until after the concours because that way throughout the concours, anyone with a concours ticket can go to the show.

Sunday afternoon I went back to the 70 Years of Ferrari show, only 100 feet from the concours. It was worth it. The 70-car display was very roomy, the cars at least 10-30 ft. apart from each other on a vast golf green, and very well “curated” with at least half the cars rare rare models (I counted three 250GTOs, each worth at least $50 million depending on racing heritage) and very few cars that would be regular “used cars.”

They also had some limited edition models like the Aperta, and cars that you’ve heard about but have very little chance of ever seeing in person. I appreciated the small identifying signs, which didn’t block off the views of the cars, a sin at other shows. Alas there were no owners present when I was there, so no chance to see the engines, but then again it would be hard to get a good photo of the car if everyone had the lids lifted.

Sunday morning I caught a shuttle to Pebble so early that I actually entered the vaunted event without anyone asking for my ticket! I saw 100 people already there (the legendary “Dawn Patrol”) lined up chock-a-block along a small asphalt driveway, as each concours entrant rolled by to their assigned place. The lighting was gloomy due to clouds and ocean fog, but my digital camera took no notice and took the pictures, photos are no longer prisoners of the film speed.

Only a few cars were on the water’s edge, haven’t determined how they choose these, but I noticed Bruce Meyer’s SWB Berlinetta, a car with LeMans history, a couple GTOs and a 250LM. There were also Ferraris known not by racing history but more by Who Owned Them like the Ingrid Bergmann/Roberto Rossolini coupe, a one-off by Pininfarina and the 400 Superamerica in Kelly green paint ordered new by Giovanni Agnelli. In the rest of the concours there were no less than four different classes containing Ferraris.

Mercedes

Mercedes had a two seater prototype on the “dream car lawn” at Pebble that had a bonnet that looked big enough for a V16. I personally like this “greedy: styling but am sure the eco-types will protest a car that looks like it will guzzle gas like nobody’s business…

Very oddball, re: “authentic history” was the inclusion of custom cars at the far end, some of which had splendid craftsmanship but really you wonder now, 50 to 60 years later, what were the owners/builders thinking? They look like leftover props for ‘50s sci-fi movies, except for the sports car/hot rod by GM engineer Herb Adams with Euro styling, which I believe I photographed for a magazine some 50 years ago!

Now ya think an old car veteran scribe like me would have seen everything before but I saw two things at Pebble I hadn’t seen before. One was an old prewar car with a polished aluminum deck stem to stern that had a luggage rack suspended above the body, and another was a Delahaye with curved tailfins, (similar to the BAT prototypes by Bertone). Too bad at least two of the Delahayes had prominent proboscis, the result of a public fascination with the Norval whale back then, so basically they put whale noses on classic cars! Go figure.

I tried in vain to gain access to the hospitality suites at Pebble, where, if you succeed, you are treated royally, but motoring scribes are, as it turns out, far lower on the pecking order than large dealers who sell millions of dollars worth of cars for the brand sponsor of the suite.

McLaren did invite me in to their tent, on the grounds of the concours green, and it astounded me that their tent is so big, when Ferrari has no such tent on the green, indicating perhaps how aggressively they are courting the Ferrari buyers.

I think that Monterey, with its sort of “curated” demographics (hotel prices like $480 a night with a 4-night minimum tend to weed out the middle class), is threatening major auto shows with the ability to field monied prospects who want to see what’s new in new models and/or concept cars, and there were several such cars there, mostly at Pebble on the “dream car lawn” in front of the Lodge but also scattered about Pebble Beach.

In the concepts, I couldn’t take Mercedes long nose two seater seriously, like they are bringing back the long, long bonnet, but I personally always like that design theme. The electric powered Bentley had a glitzy interior, but overall the shape is reminiscent of a Camaro convertible that cost about 1/10th the price. The Aston Martin Zagato convertible was nicely shaped, but it’s a shape about the imitation ‘50s Oldsmobile-style fluted tail lamps.

I was impressed by a four door sedan called a Faraday (isn’t that some name going back to the beginning of electricity, like Tesla?) and some other electric car. I view these non-combustible engine cars as The Enemy, a prognosticator of our autonomous electric powered automotive future but then who am I to stop progress, right?

There was still time Sunday to squeeze in the race track, at under $70, one of the bargains of Car Week, and there I saw some interesting cars in the pits, though one wonders “Are they real?” (I have to check out the Cobra Daytona coupe, was I looking at one of the six or a replica?) The track also has a vast arcade of tents where you can buy books, model cars and souvenir clothing. Parking, if you park on the hills that surround the track, is precarious and your car gets dirty, which is why the more pristine-minded avoid the track.

This year, there being only so many hours in a day, I missed all the auctions, though in previous years I enjoyed the RM which has some of the cars in the hotel’s square (it’s circular, though) and you can walk around and kick tires of the cars about to go through.

I packed it in Sunday night, realizing as I left the Monterey Peninsula that I was re-entering ordinary civilization. That wonderful dream environment evaporated by the time I hit the 101 freeway. I had seen everything I expected to see and even a few things I didn’t. True, I had spent $1,000 (even with media passes) but I can once again look back and say “I was there” for another year.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss, author of 19 books and fine artist, says he will be adding paintings made of what he saw at Monterey to his stock of fine art prints. For a list of completed works, write Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com

 
 
 

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

 

 

Iso Fidia at Concorso Italiano

The Pete Whitehead owned Iso Fidia in the process of being restored by Maurice Mentens. Based on what I saw this will be the best Iso Fidia in the world when done.

Mike Gulett

Summary
A Connoisseur’s Monterey Car Week
Article Name
A Connoisseur’s Monterey Car Week
Description
One car guy's adventures during Monterey Car Week with photos!
Author

Comments

  1. ADRIAN SULTANA says:

    Hi Wallace loved your piece on Monterey the blue Ferrari is a SERGIO six car special run pre-sold to super-rich Ferraristi
    Based on 458 mechanicals Ferrari sold them for 3.5 million one changed hands for 5.3 recently
    your blue car is based in Southern California.
    Warm Regards
    Adrian (gratefully well-off Ferrarista Sydney,Australia)

  2. wallace wyss says:

    I got confused over the blue car’s name because there was also a one off for a private customer that inspired a short run series (I’ll send a painting of it to MCQ). Wasn’t this blue car first shown without a windscreen? How they planned to do that in production must have been insurmountable…I have to say they chose the cars well for the 70-car display, though I missed the presence of a 330LMB and the 400SA bodied race car, blue, that was briefly raced

    • Diamote Randal says:

      Hi there Wallace,

      Do you know if the intent is to sell that Iso Fidia once it is restored?

      • I am the person who is restoring the Fidia and I can say with certainty that this car will not be for sale in the near future. I wish I could send you to another but unfortunately they’re not around very much. 😎 But thank you for the interest, it’s my first Fidia and it has been quite an adventure to do it right. If you like to know more about it just ask.

        Maurice Mentens

        • Diamote Randal says:

          What a nice job you have done on this car. I have always liked the Fida, and you don’t see many of them nowadays, especially in great condition. I owned a Grifo years ago, and I always regret selling that car. I could have driven it for the last 30 years and replaced the engine several times, and still had a great savings account. I miss the sound of that 351 C when it was running!

  3. Regarding your comment: Mercedes had a two seater prototype on the “dream car lawn” at Pebble that had a bonnet that looked big enough for a V16. I personally like this “greedy: styling but am sure the eco-types will protest a car that looks like it will guzzle gas like nobody’s business…

    Wally, those “eco-types” will be excited to know this Mercedes/Maybach concept is 100% electric.

    Observation: Men LOVED this design, most saying they would own one if gas-powered, still many saying even if electric they would love to roll up in it.

    • wallace wyss says:

      Hi Cindy:
      I think having a 10 ft.long hood that had naught underneath but an electric motor would be a bit of a fraud. I think we are entering a golden age where the last few performance cars will be built , cars with 1,000 hp. and 16 cylinders (Bugatti already there…) so the luxury car companies should build these Duesenberg SJs while they have the market. In a few years the youngins growing up won’t even remember there were such grand cars; even as today when I mention “typewriter” or “film camera” to young folks I get blank looks. Of course there is that market niche who likes luxury cars that silently glide around but I still think that design deserves a V12 or V16 that, fitted with open pipes for show purposes, could RHUMPA-RHUMPHA around Laguna to show us what it’s got…

      • I agree, they should offer this body style, which seriously appealed to many, with a screaming gas-burning performance engine under the bonnet. Alas, there are probably greater incentives at the manufacturer level to build eco-friendly vehicles at this time. I’d buy a Tesla is it had a V8! I suppose it is meritable that there is consideration for the air my grandchildren will breathe years from now.

  4. Roger Rousset says:

    Thanks for the great description of the week!!!
    Wallace, I’m enjoying the two books I bought from you and the print is already to be gifted by me to a good friend that has the car you presented. Keep going to the show…for me your booth it’s one of the highlights.
    Roger R

    • wallace wyss says:

      Hey Roger, don’t be shy. We ship out our prints.
      Write us your e-mail and we can send the three page list of what we have (then we e-mail pictures of those you want to see) , plus in the new few weeks, I will make paintings of my favorite cars at the show, so far have selected the rear of the black art deco Bugatti, the BMW Z4 successor and a couple of the Ferraris. I regret that I didn’t know about the booth of the new artist at Concorso, whose work was in the program. I hope you got over to the AFAS tent at Pebble, they have a preview party on Saturday (starts at 4 pm) that is open to those with a Pebble Beach ticket. I will be doing a separate story on the art work of the AFAS at Pebble, I am really glad to see art having a major role at Pebble..

  5. The yellow Ferrari is a 412P, owned by a collector from Cincinnati. Placed 3rd at the Pebble Beach Concours.

  6. wallace wyss says:

    Was that the one owned by Dean Martin Jr. featured in Mototr Trend?

    • I’m not certain, but I believe it is. It was later owned by Cincinnati financier Carl Lindner and I remember seeing it roaring down the street when I was in high school. I’m not sure where the car went after Lindner’s ownership, but it is now back in Cincinnati with another banker.

    • Dave Sheehy says:

      I’ve confirmed that it was the Dino Martin (Dean Martin, Jr.) car. I got a bit confused when watching video of the concours and saw a 412P with blue wheels – I thought “oh no, that’s not the car that I thought it was. That’s not the Cincinnati car”, but then I learned that there were two 412’s at the show and I even saw the Cincinnati owner in a video clip watching the car with the blue wheels being judged.

  7. Mike Clarke says:

    My father took me to the first Monterey historic races back in the mid seventies and I’ve been going back to Monterey car week ever since. This year I noticed a number of changes over the week. The cost of the hotels, and events seem to have really jumped in price.

    What was once the average car lovers weekend has turned into the upper classes elite week of choice. Ticket prices for these exclusive events running $400 – $1000.00 average hotel rooms averaging 500.00. but there are still bargain events like

    Laguna Seca $90, still great after all these years
    Pebble Beach tour in Carmel, free possibly the best show
    The little car show in Pacific Grove, free relaxed, upbeat fun show
    Concorso Italiano ticket prices higher at $200.00 and attendance lower
    Werk’s Porsche show very popular and growing
    Legends of the Autobahn priced right $20.00 but really should be combined with the Werks show, people can’t we just get along?

    Fastest growing event is the Exotics on Cannery row. Free.
    Only in it’s second year this event draws thousands and is very popular for the younger crowd. I give the organizers of this event credit for being able to amass the largest display of modern exotic cars I have ever seen. Where else can you see ten Koenigseggs or eight Pagani’s all in one place? This event allows the average guy to see some of the wildest rides in the world and hear them start up.

    The older money wanting to make events more exclusive and difficult to attend, the younger money wanting to show off their cars. Monterey keeps changing but still offers up the ultimate in car shows for all.

    • wallace wyss says:

      Alas I skipped the Cannery Row show because I thought, as per the pitter patter on FerrariChat.com that it would only be middle of the road 308s, 328s, i.e. cars you can see at a high end used car lot. Next year I will go to that. I agree with your general consensus, the whole Monterey weekend is fragmenting, with the elites raising prices on their events sufficient so as to deter the lookee-loos (unwashed masses) and then new events starting at the bottom end (the we drive our cars) food chain. I look at everything in the context of “Is it worth driving five hours?” and it’s getting so the low cost events are almost worth it considering what you see. Next year it is going to cost a lot more to see everything because the Pebble Beach weekend is moving and I don’t know if it’s going to be one day away from Concorso or the same weekend as the vintage races? You will have to stay over two weekends to see it all. The sooner someone gets out a comprehensive calendar, the sooner we can make our reservations (though at the Dead Hooker hotel, you don’t need one…)

  8. Monterey Car Week is the biggest week of the year for Monterey County in terms of money flowing in and people visiting from out of town.

    Locals who own restaurants or hotels love it as do local car enthusiasts. Everyone else tends to not like this week and may leave town or stay home and avoid the worst traffic of the year.

    The hotels take the opportunity to raise their rates to the highest they can and at least one hotel this year increased the minimum stay from 3 days to 5 days forcing the club I belong to to move to another hotel.

    The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering continues to raise prices ($650 per person to attend and $800 per car to show). They also raised the number of attendees to 5,000 up from 3,000 not that long ago. They started using shuttles with remote parking. This did not work very well because at 11AM on Friday (the day of the event) on the road to The Quail there was bumper to bumper traffic from The Quail entrance to Highway 1 (5 miles) and onto Highway 1. This was likely 1-2 hours to get from Highway 1 to the entrance to The Quail.

    I was driving in the opposite direction and I saw Lamborghinis, Ferraris, McLarens and one Ferrari F40 in that traffic in addition to the local workers (gardeners, seafood delivery trucks etc…). All of these people were spending 1-2 hours longer in traffic than they planned. The people in the expensive cars had bought 1 or 2 of these expensive tickets and were spending valuable time in their cars instead of on the field at The Quail. The working people and other commuters spent that 1-2 hours of wasted time going to or from work.

    I hope the management of The Quail can correct this problem next year. One hint – don’t put shuttle parking past the entrance to the event from the direction most attendees will be coming from because all who go to those parking lots are required to spend all of that time in the traffic jam and drive past the entrance. It would make sense to put the shuttle parking lots at convenient locations (say near Highway 1) for attendees and greatly reduce the traffic going to the event in the last few miles.

    And anyone attending the Bonhams auction was also stuck in that massive traffic jam. I wonder what Bonhams management thought?

    • Mike Clarke says:

      Good points on the parking Mike, but the Quail knows that those shuttle buses will only make one maybe two trips before they too get stuck in the traffic jam, then the customer will then slap the blame on the Quail for delivering them to the event late.

      You have to wonder what the Quail management thought the outcome would be increasing the event from 3000 to 5000.

      In years past even when CI was outgrowing the site there was never a issue getting in, just leaving. The one thing I did notice is that the CHP were stopping traffic at the entrance of the Quail and then directing them into the event one by one, slowing everything down. I have found over the years that whenever the CHP is called out to “direct ” traffic they usually just slow it down and create traffic jams. Remember when they used to stand out on hwy one and Carmel valley road? it was a mess.

      The solution is for the growing Quail event to move to the Blackhorse golf course and the shrinking CI show to return to the Quail. 🙂

      • wallace wyss says:

        What about moving the auction that takes place near the Quail on the same day–then that parking lot could be for the Quail? I think their customers were inconvenienced by the traffic jam as well..

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