My Car Quest

October 22, 2018

One Man’s Monterey Car Week

Wherein our old hand jumps into the mouth of the wolf…

by Wallace Wyss –

The week long Monterey Car week has now spread over to two weekends but I chose the Wednesday before Pebble Beach to head up North from Los Angeles. My mount was a LaCrosse Avenir (sounds like aviator, don’t it?), a plush luxury Buick with of course portholes like a proper Buick. And wood on the dash like a Roller or Bentley.

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

Some cars were downright ugly. It is, translating the name, a “contest of elegance” but I can’t see something this ugly winning Best of Show. Still, one of the great things about Pebble is that they allow in cars that, true, are ugly but may be significant historically… Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – photo by Wallace Wyss

I should have gone to the McCall aviation party, a very interesting combination of WWII airplanes, modern biz jets and classic cars, with appetizers, beautiful ladies serving them, but in the zeal to find accomodations, I didn’t have time, and even then had to end up quartered in East Podunk, just far away where they’ve heard of Monterey but not Car Week.

Endured Route 5’s studied boringness and got to the crossover to Paso Robles where the landscape appears green again instead of faded brown.

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

The one time Pininfarina Modulo is a running car now. Not many pushmobiles make it to running car status. Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – photo by Wallace Wyss

Arriving Wednesday made it possible to reach Automobilia at the Embassy Suites in Seaside. This is a memorabilia show with model cars, sculpture, old books and magazines. It is echoed later by Auto Retro over at Pebble Beach but that takes place at a separate hotel from the Del Monte Lodge and is harder to find, and you supposedly need a Pebble ticket to enter. Pebble also has a forum there with many famous speakers, but I couldn’t squeeze time enough to make either venue.

On Thursday morning, I pulled right into the little village of Carmel, which architecturally is a bit Harry Potterish, a contrivance they struck upon even 50 years ago as a way to pull in the tourists. They could have gone Olde West like most California small towns but went British instead.

Thursday is a good day to start off Monterey Car Week because one part of the Pebble Beach concours involves those whose cars have been accepted participating in a rally ‘round the Peninsula.

Turns out if you are a concours participant, they give you points for going on the tour, points you can use to combat any points you get for an eagle eyed judge spotting something wrong in your restoration, like say, English tools in the tool kit of a German car.

I have to say, as an artist, that this show has the most potential for an inspirational scene because one after another the cars pour into town. They vary from grand boulevardiers, to full bore race cars, having been driven around the peninsula only to come to rest in this village where they are surrounded by friendly fans. Meanwhile the owners go to a picnic lunch. I enjoy seeing the crowds’ reaction to some of the cars, some of the crowd being mere tourists who happened to be in Carmel when Car Week hit and I hear comments like “Look, Maude, that there car has a gold lady on the radiator…”

Concorso Italiano - photo by Bruce Caron

Concorso Italiano – photo by Bruce Caron

But I am equally bowled over, by the flamboyance of the art deco French cars, or British ones, this year a Daimler drophead attracted my eye, though in race cars there was the additional music to the ears of a racing fan of a full blooded racing engine occupied yanking away cars blocking driveways. I was lucky I found a spot only 4 blocks south. But be prepared for a walk.

Trouble with this event is that there’s no parking. Now Uber and Lyft exist, and if I had a modern phone I could have called them, but alas, I still be a flip phone guy, cut off from the modern world. I only had to walk four blocks.

Concorso Italiano - photo by Bruce Caron

Concorso Italiano – photo by Bruce Caron

There’s a spot of humor at this event and this time it was a Cadillac of the ‘50s, stretched dual cowl convertible where the passengers looked like John Kennedy and wasn’t sure about the other one (not Jackie…).

We also toodled over to Cannery Row where we looked longingly at fish specialties but didn’t like the prices, and then went to Pebble to pick up race credentials and over to the Rolex Revival races. Alas, no all area photo pass was granted so didn’t take a race shot but did shoot cars in the pits and was entertained by the detailed histories on display boards of some cars, which have actually been raced over 60 years now.

Concorso Italiano - photo by Bruce Caron

Concorso Italiano – photo by Bruce Caron

Was surprised to see a genuine Cobra Daytona coupe being raced, those being about $6 million at least. I did query some mechanic servicing the GT40 X1 roadster telling him that my old acquaintance and Shelby team veteran Steele Therkelson swore he was graveside when that car was cut up and interred (so Shelby wouldn’t have to pay customs duties) so how could it be in front of me?

The Laguna Seca race track, now called WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, has a nice mid-way where there’s the latest car books, some interesting T-shirt art, and enough memorabilia for almost any brand. Ford used the race to roll out a Gulf -liveried Ford GT which could be a good option because in ’06 those that paid the extra $13,000 for the Gulf livery paint job are reaping the reward now of their cars being worth $100,000 more than the other ‘06s.

I was looking for a scene to inspire a painting and think I found it with a team running Bugattis, at least the cars being all the same color French Blue. I also ran across Harley Cluxton, an exotic car dealer from Scottsdale, and asked him about the X1 Ford GT spyder I’d seen and told him that I thought it was buried. He, a multiple GT40 owner (he bought the one that won Lemans twice), agreed with me that the story is shaky and that if the car ever is exalted at a race or auction, this may come up.

Concorso Italiano - photo by Bruce Caron

Concorso Italiano – photo by Bruce Caron

I also brought up the Ford vs Ferrari feature Fox is making now and told him their plot line was Shelby and his ace driver Ken Miles inventing the GT40 and we both shook our heads over Hollywood’s wanton disregard of history. In point of fact Shelby was left out of the development of the first GT40 because Ford figured he was too unschooled to deal with such a complex car.

Then it was off to Pebble Beach where out back of the Del Monte Lodge BMW premiered a coupe prototype realistic enough to be next year’s 8 series coupe, and the same evening went to Acura’s party to celebrate a slightly dolled up NSX, at some country club with a to-die-for view and wonderful food. Tried to talk to Dan Neil, of the Wall Street Journal but he sushed me up so he could soak in the songs of Jewel, a blonde songstress.

Poked my head into the McLaren lodge but was told to come back the next day. Never went back, guess they will have to go it alone without me.

Friday August 24th 10 a.m.

Then on Friday came the Trial by Fire, where I endured two German car gatherings, one at a country club where you had to drive on a path only wide enough for golf carts, with resultant expensive sounding scraping of mag wheels (sorry, Buick). And the cars on display weren’t that special. I asked where the Porsches were and they said “not here” so then I went to another country club, with more driving on paths only meant for golf carts, and more agony for my test car’s mag wheels.

(You can imagine the Porsche owners with $600 apiece mags but maybe they got in the front door and only the spectators had to run the gauntlet).

The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering

The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering – photo by Bruce Caron

The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering -  photo by Bruce Caron

The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering – photo by Bruce Caron

Now in year’s past this space would be filled with a lengthy description of a concours over in Carmel Valley, one occurring on Friday, which I can say from last year is splendorous in the quality of their displays. Alas, they deemed me to be of insufficiently high ranking in the world of communications to be issued a pass (to an event that cost $650 person and $850 per car) so if you want to see what went on there, it’s on the net. If only I could remember its name (Cookoo Lodge? Sparrow Lodge?).

The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering -  photo by Bruce Caron

The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering – photo by Bruce Caron

The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering -  photo by Bruce Caron

The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering – photo by Bruce Caron

Saturday August 25th 5 am.

Saturday was the Concorso Italiano, where I switch hats from a reporter on the beat to that of a fine artist (beret?) and I was pleased to see not much artwork for sale there, which meant less competition. But lots of high end exotic cars, mostly Ferrari, were being displayed by private owners.

There were some low end ones as well, like the Fiat Topolino with period luggage on the back and various cars of more obscure margins. It’s a bit shocking when you see one display for a business which sells wrecked exotics. To see a Ferrari thoroughly hit front back and sideways that they say can be fixed is hopeful but I don’t have the confidence myself (talk about buying a fixer upper!). The event’s sound system is good and you can hear the pitter patter of the knowledgeable announcers like Keith Martin and Matt Stone no matter where you are.

There was a bit of fashionista including narrated fashion shows, with clothes from Italy, and I was in love with the stringback driving gloves but didn’t dare ask the price…

At Chez Wyss Art & Books emporium, we had several repeat customers from previous years. Two partners who restore cars bought no less than 18 prints and I sold two canvases, one of a Mako Shark II Corvette, the other of a two Ferrari GTOs. A nasty cloud came up around 3 pm and a lot of the exhibitors made a hasty exit but Monterey veterans knew it was only a cloud showing off, and sure enough the sun came out again, but we really know there was another exotic car event on Cannery Row and some the most fanatical Ferraristis wanted to make that show too!

I think it was that evening that I popped over to the RM auction which is a fun one to walk through and see the cars ready to sell in the Town Square (well, it’s not square but has nice cobblestones) and I saw in person a Michelotti designed Daytona targa Ferrari and a James Young-wrought Silver Cloud sedanca de ville, two of my favorites.

This time they had a whole display inside of private treaty cars, where I gather you bid and can retain the privacy of not having the price of the sale announced. One of the most promoted headliners sold well, the Ferrari 250GTO for somewhere around $48 million making it the most expensive car sold at auction in the US and maybe the world. They had that car on its own stage and you entered the room through a hallway decorated with pictures of the real car during its racing career. Since there were only 39 GTOs made you can see that the demand exceeds availability!

While at the RM I ran across Alain de Cadenet, a movie star handsome former race driver, writer and bon vivant, who I also brought up to date on Fox filming Ford vs. Ferrari and he agreed with me that it sounds like the direction they’re going (with Shelby and Miles inventing the GT40 from scratch) is bit of a stretch, but we both agreed “That’s Hollywood!”

I also went to the Bonhams auction over by the Lodge That Shall Have No Name (at least in my story) and was entranced by some convertible that looked ‘50s America based but with an Eye-talian bodywork the giveway being American gauges. Made you wonder if Italian bodywork would have caught on more if the Big Three would have gone for it more (though they did in tiny ways, Cadillac Broughams, and Chrysler Imperials having their Italian periods…)

Alas I missed the Gooding auction which by the design of their tent has an open to the sun portion, but going there at their Pebble Beach location would have meant a walk and both the Missus and I are both having locomotion problems.

5 a.m. Sunday,Aug. 26th

Sunday during Car Week is always my Day of Reckoning logigistically. The day that separates the men from the boys. At Sparrow’s Fart I went to my super secret hiding place in the Del Monte forest and got over to Pebble Beach, ticket in hand by around 7 am. I think it was not my crooked teeth smile but my wonderful Ice Cream summer suit (you had to have sunglasses to look at it) that nobody asked me who I was or for a ticket when I walked out onto the green. I knew the dark clouds were a feint again and I was right, but by the time the sun came out, I’d shot most of my pictures.

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

It isn’t revealed whether automakers pay to be on the “dream car lawn” before you get into the concours itself, but several automakers were represented by prototypes. This appears to be a BMW. Pebble Beach – photo by Wallace Wyss

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

Full skirts are a part of Streamline Moderne but the really rare ones are fully skirted, front and rear. This is a Bugatti at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – photo by Wallace Wyss

I am pleased, as a budding fashionista, to say that more spectators and participants there are wearing period clothing that suits the era of their cars. Lord March over at Goodwood even has a clothing guide, which I approve of. After all, Pebble is only one day a year, can we even as spectators leave the blue jeans and Adidas sweatshirts at home? I was planning on taking an ascot but as I live in the Inland Empire, they never heard of it, or them (even Ascot has banned them, which I plan to take issue with…)

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

At Pebble Beach a few hundred feet from the Concours, Ferrari had a display of 40-50 classic Ferrari open cars, including one over 60 years old. Pebble Beach – photo by Wallace Wyss

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

Detail of a Sedanca de Ville body where the front portion of the roof retracts leaving a permanent roof for rear seat passengers. The landau bars are a bit much since originally they were hinges to go with the folding roof. Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – photo by Wallace Wyss

Each year at Pebble, while I enjoy the Italian sports cars, I am ever more seduced by the swoopy prewar cars of the Streamline Moderne school, mostly Delages and Delahayes but there were also some British cars with pretty curvilinear bodywork as well. This year they honored Tucker and there was a whole row of the failed competitor to Detroit cars, I wish they would have had a display on Alex Tremulis designing it, I enjoyed talking to him when he was a judge on a Motor Trend car of the year jury 50 years or so ago. Back then, the bespectacled bearded man struck me as sort of a Dr. Zarkoff character. I am sure that if you would have asked him to design a flying car, he’d go do it, nothing intimidated him. Good thing he was on Our Side during the war…

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

Why a picture of a man in this Testa Rossa? Well, the picture is of Phil Hill, who probably piloted this car when new. We wonder what the judges thought of the unorthodox tie-in with a former racer…Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – photo by Wallace Wyss

I left Pebble at noon, knowing it would be increasingly crowded with less photo opportunities and I had a five hour date with Route 5.

I heard an Alfa won though I was impressed more by the Marmon with all the world’s chrome on the grille.

THE AFAS SHOW

There is a splendid building there on the same green as the concours, and it’s for the AFAS. They have a preview on the day before Pebble.

Refreshments are served but I couldn’t close down my art booth fast enough to make it on time for the vittles but still got to meet the artists and ask what’s new.

Bill Motta was in a walker, the victim of a stroke. He says he lost use of his right hand but with all the knowledge of the world in painting, I am hoping he teaches his left hand to do the same work, or maybe he’ll come up with a new style.

Stan Sikorski had three dimensional car sculptures with license plates forming the body, real plates that went on real car.

Bearded Dan McCrary was the only one showing paintings of rusty cars, even parts of rusty cars, and I could see he’s a rat rodder underneath, who needs chrome and paint anyway.

Wallace Wyss

Tom Wolfe or Col. Sanders? The author in concours trim.

Had a long talk with James Dietz, the always dapper silver haired former illustrator and his war scenes were meticulous. We had a long talk about why his name on the painting looks like a logo, I suspect it was when he was a commercial artist he didn’t want customers to confuse his work with any other artists.

Ken Eberts really got in the spirit by wearing a locomotive engineer’s cap and striped overalls, because his lead work had an old car and a train behind it and to show how trains were his first love he has a picture of he and his bride taking that same train on a trip long long ago.

At least of the artists were using that new (or is it old) trick of having the car poke itself out of the box around the picture, which probably causes the picture matter some problem but hey, it’s dynamic, like that car is a thoroughbred and wants to GO.

Klaus Wegger told me why his super-realistic pictures are so meticulous. He uses hundreds of pictures to do the detailing on every nut and bolt.

Another artist with sculptures displayed some books on old racing cars from the early teens like the Thomas Flyer. His sculptures show his zeal for depicting these cars and he even gives a nod to the movie The Great Race, a fictional account of such a race.

Stanley Rose and I conferred about the depiction of race drivers and pit crew. We agreed that in real racing photos not everyone is looking at the camera, some of them have work to do!

One artist generously showed his work drawings for his painting, which is very educational, showing neophytes that artists sometimes go through a lot of agony of composition before opening the first tube of paint!

Barry Rowe told me he never uses white as it’s too bright and always prefers shades that are more found in nature like yellow a “warm” color.

One newer painter, Yaln Janov, paints on linen that is brown, looking like burlap but says that’s what canvas looks like before it’s dyed for painting. So his paintings have a certain rawness.

What’s great about this preview, which goes on from about 4 pm to 8 pm the night before the concours is that you get to talk to each of the artists and writers, and find out their motivations.

By the way some of the artists exhibiting have splendid books to display of their art, and often those books are available. You must get one to be a proper devotee.

As I left town, I remembered with a pang of regret that once again I didn’t make an appearance at Clint Eastwood’s Mission Inn Ranch, where usually the highlight of my Monterey Car Week is dinner on the deck as the sheep graze. I don’t think they missed me…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist and author. For a complete list of fine art prints of his work, write Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com or text your e-mail address to 213-344-6496.

 
 
 

 

 

Concorso Italiano - photo by Bruce Caron

Concorso Italiano – photo by Bruce Caron

Concorso Italiano - photo by Bruce Caron

Concorso Italiano – photo by Bruce Caron

Summary
One Man’s Monterey Car Week
Article Name
One Man’s Monterey Car Week
Description
A few days in Monterey during Monterey Car Week.
Author

Comments

  1. Dietrich Hatlapa says:

    Excellent piece, thank you Wallace!

    Dietrich Hatlapa

  2. There we go some Iso’s 😎

  3. Rob Krantz says:

    Thank you for the fun and interesting review!

  4. Wallace Wyss says:

    Thanks to Bruce Caron, you took better pictures than I and have an eye for composition. Someday I’d like to see all your shots from Monterey, maybe base a painting on one.

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