My Car Quest

November 14, 2019

A Connoisseur’s Travels: Four Days During Monterey Car Week 2019

by Wallace Wyss –

Ya ever heard the phrase “hit the ground running?” Well, that’s the way I describe Monterey Car Week. It started out as a weekend and then grew and grew until now you can make a week of it. But I elected, because I was bringing along guests, to make a mere four days of it. I figure that was as much as I can handle with the ol heart redlined.

For a trusty steed, I chose a Cadillac XT4 SUV which though it had a four cylinder (turbocharged no less) was up to the task of hauling four adults and innumerable works of art 1,000 miles round trip.

My guests weren’t car people but I thought they would enjoy the Peninsula with its cool temps and spectacular view. Plus I could have them work my art & books booth at Concorso…

James Hetfield Car

This car at the McCall event is classic styled but built recently for James Hetfield, a musician who likes the classic style but the modern drive trains.

WEDNESDAY: AUTOMOBILIA

On Wednesday we arrived in time to catch the tail end of Automoblia, a two day show that runs at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside, near Monterey from Tuesday through Wednesday.

They bill themselves as the “largest automobilia show in America.” It’s geared toward memorabilia–old posters, racing or PR photos, club badges, and even some actual car bits like those hard-to-find Marchal or Cibie or Lucas foglamps.

Among the vintage books I found my own book. Some of the other books offered by Horton’s there at Automobilia were signed copies, which makes them ever so more collectable.

There were at least three automotive fine artists, one being a local Salinas man who it’s been fun to see grow in talent from year to year. His prices for portraits of cars in oil are now in the four digit category.

James Caldwell

James Caldwell

There were model cars of all different scale, some in the hundreds of dollars, definitely not what you want your kidlet bashing into the furniture. I fell in love with a leather racing helmet at one booth but me thinks the scrutineers at Laguna Seca might frown on their safety rating, since this style predates the fiberglass ones. This show cost a mere $20 admission price, the bargain of Monterey Car Week.

WEDNESDAY: MCCALL AVIATION PARTY

On the Wednesday of Car Week there’s a proper party on the tarmac in front of a big hanger at the Monterey airport. It has maybe 20-30 vintage cars, a few new ones, and some airplanes, both old (WWII era) and new jets. Everybody is dressed to the nines, (short of tuxedos), there’s music and appetizers. There is usually some exotic car, a new one, being unveiled, but I was put off by a new VW prototype that looked like an old Meyers Manx dune buggy. Even if it’s electric, (beaches and ecology do. I admit, go together rather nicely) I thought it is far from elegant. And is anybody going to write Bruce Meyers a check for inventing the Meyers Manx way back when if this goes into production?

McCalls

VW showed this dune buggy concept, all electric, but if Bruce Meyers isn’t around to protest, I say he coined the shape.

McCall Event

The McCall Aviation party sets the tone for the whole week, exotic cars, beautiful ladies, appetizers. old and new airplanes….

RETROMOBILE, ANY DAY EXCEPT SUNDAY

On Thursday, I found time to make my way to Retroauto, a show that runs Thursday through Saturday at Pebble’s other lesser known hotel, the Inn at Spanish Bay.

It could be called Pebble Beach’s own version of Automobilia though some may have the opinion it’s aimed at a more affluent enthusiast. And unlike Automobilia it’s free. This second hotel can be hard to find but it’ only a mile from the truly well hidden Pacific Grove entrance to the exclusive community of Pebble beach.

RetroAuto claims that they offer “an elegant and thoughtfully curated collection of exhibitors,” which not only have genuinely vintage items but new luxury goods with automotive themes.

I met with several vendors I always enjoy seeing like Chelsea Motoring Literature with all their original pamphlets. L’Art d’Automobile, once domiciled in a penthouse in Manhattan, was there from their home in Texas with magnificent racing posters. The founder, Jacques Vaucher, was once a racer himself.

When it comes to photography you can’t find a better studio photographer than Michael Furman, who had a booth selling his splendid books.

The superstar artist of this show is Tim Layzell, who, in case you missed them, has many past posters he has done for Pebble Beach. One guy I got a kick out of was Al Dimauro with his custom leather jackets, well suited to Monterey temperatures. There were at least a dozen more vendors.

In sum, Retro is a class act and you can’t beat the price.

THURSDAY: THE TOUR HITS CARMEL

There are actually two free car shows in Carmel during Car Week, but I made sure I was going to be there Thursday morning so we could attend the second free show.

Tour d'Elegance

Ouch! Someone at the tour stop in Carmel already had the quick repair. Maybe the tour is more spirited driving than we thought

We knew we had to get to that little village very early because of parking. It’s only a tiny village so when 10,000 or so spectators line the main street to see what’s billed as the Tour d’Elegance, parking is hard to find. We might have got the last one at 7:30 am! The event was originally set up as advance publicity for the PB concours, basically a lunch break of volunteer concours entrants who go on a tour of the Peninsula, the tour ending in Carmel where they all have a nice lunch and the assembled crowd oohs and ahhs at their show cars.

Lamborghini Miura

Lamborghini Miura in Carmel for the Tour D’Elegance

LAGUNA SECA

At some point I went to the racetrack on my own. This used to be the high point of my Monterey Car Week, back when I was shooting race cars. But years ago I abandoned the long lenses along with film cameras and switched to a point-and-shoot.

Porsche at Laguna Seca

Porsche at Laguna Seca

What makes the pit stop displays entertaining is the elaborate signs car owners post with their cars history; essentially bios of who raced it before, why the car was developed, etc. The track publishes a list of which classes race and when so you need not miss your favorites.

Alfa Romeo at Laguna Seca

Alfa Romeo at Laguna Seca

The track also has a sort of midway of tents where you can find fine art, very artful t-shirts, model cars and books. I love the way Nicholas Huntzinger, of Switzerland, is progressing year by year, now with some fine art to go with his graphically dynamic shirts.

I saw one automaker capitalizing off the crowd along the midway. It was Rover, who had built a little hill and you could sign up to drive a Rover up the hill. Not enough of a hill for me, but I appreciate the chance to go off-road, even if it’s only for 100 feet.

Very clever indeed was Chevrolet with a 2020 mid-engine Corvette tucked away in a small booth near the building that houses pit row. They not only had a new Corvette coupe but a second 2020 with a cutaway body so you could admire how it was made. Their booth was crowded all day. I predict this car, at roughly $60,000, will wreak havoc on used Ferrari V8 prices.

FRIDAY: THE QUAIL

Years ago, when I first heard of The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, I wondered why the Quail was created because I thought “well, there is already a Pebble Beach. Why do they need another fancy concours?”

Only this time, in 2019, I get it. This show is a lot more than a contest of the most elegant cars. It has become more of a social occasion, equivalent, say, to opening day at Ascot (a thoroughbred racetrack in England).

This is a show created not only for men who are steeped in car culture but for the women to come and show off their finery. I wouldn’t doubt, after seeing the clothes worn by the spectators at the Quail, that many garments were bespoke tailored specifically for the occasion.

And then there’s the food. I only partook of one meal but there were at least three gourmet restaurants and when I finally arrived (after a one hour traffic jam) everybody was already dining and socializing. Oh, some were looking at the cars but it is obvious that the Quail is much more of a major social occasion than a car show.
The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering has a lot of exclusivity to sell; like there are only 6,000 spectators, limited at some point in ticket sales so it won’t get too crowded. The number of cars appears smaller than the 250 they claim but it’s such an electric mix—from hot rods to one-off coachbuilt built cars, to new creations.

The Quail

At The Quail, new cars are on stages, where they come across very dramatically.

And let me tell you about the Quail’s increasing status in unveiling new creations. True, the DeTomaso P72, a new German developed prototype using the Italian company’s name, already appeared at Goodwood but at the Quail, in that setting with that clientele, it looked right. It had so to speak, found its home (and maybe some potential buyers).

Remember when luxury car makers debuted their car at shows like the LA International auto show? Well, they have been dropping out of such shows for years and I say, after seeing the perfect match between the cars shown and the audience paying to see them that the Quail, and Monterey Car Week in general, is a better investment for Rolls, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc. than the major auto shows where, let’s face it, few onlookers can take out a checkbook and order your car.

The Quail

Not made in Italy, but Michigan, by Herb Adams, a celebrated engineer for Pontiac in the GTO days. I first did a story on it 53 years ago….

At Pebble any automaker displays are outside the concours but at the Quail automakers have booths right there at the show, and very comfortable booths they are indeed with leather couches, refreshments, magazines, all the comforts of home (if you live on Fifth Avenue y’might say….)

Among the prototypes shown there were Lamborghini’s new Aventador Roadster, which the rumor mill was saying was completely Sold Out Before Its Monterey Car Week Debut.

The Bentley prototype called the EXP 100GT was a bit over the top with its headlights were bizarre and boasting a grille that was big enough for a Mack truck.

This year’s Quail had no less than 11 concept cars, including not only the Bentley, the 1,600 hp Bugatti Centodieci and the 2,000 hp Lotus Evija hypercar among others.
As I walked in, the head of Bugatti, Stephan Winkelman, in his impossibly tight suit, was expounding on the reason for their latest car, which I believe is the most expensive new car in history as well has the one with the most hp on tap.

Right at the entrance I saw the Ferrari P80/C, a car I recognized because I made a painting of it. I wasn’t quite sure if it was done by Ferrari themselves or Pininfarina (or are they no longer invited to submit designs). You can tell it’s not a street car because of the lack of headlights.

Ferrari P80/C

At entrance to the Quail, a Ferrari called the P80/C, wasn’t sure whether it was presented by Ferrari Design or Pininfarina, once their main supplier of new designs.

Capturing the Spirit of the Quail award was a 1957 Ferrari 335 S, one of only four ever made. This was a “bad luck” car in that it comes to mind when you think of the fact Alfonso de Portago was driving one when he crashed at the 1957 Mille Miglia in Italy, killing nine spectators as well as himself and his navigator. Hey, like the James Dean Porsche 550, we have to look beyond one car.

Singer Vehicle Design was there with an even larger booth than before. They specialize in re-doing Porsche 964s in their own way and it’s amazing that they find ever more customers who will want one of their cars, which may be ten years old chronologically, because they are not about restoration in the traditional sense but draw from both the past and the future to create the ultimate car, confounding Porsche which can’t compete with their modern cars.

De Tomaso P72 at The Quail

At the Quail I presented the De Tomaso P72 designer with a print of my own painting of the P72 on the streets of Paris. Sort of like bringing coals to Newcastle (print available…)

If there was a trend observable there among the prototypes, it was that the mid-engined car with Lambo style lift up doors is now The Rule. Now I wonder if we can even say mid-engined any more because if it’s an electric motor that’s propelling it, it has to be called mid-motored since an electric motor is not an engine.

One thing I saw few examples of there was art. I think this show’s demographics, if you could obtain them, would show net worths of a million and change plus ownership of a million dollar home. In short the kind of clientele you want to reach if you paint motorcars. But yet I saw no artist’s tent.

Lest we forget, the Quail is still maintaining its focus on being a contest. There were 12 categories, including Pre-War Sports and Racing Cars, Post-War Sports Cars (1945-1960), Post-War Sports Cars (1961-1975), the Great Ferraris, Supercars, Custom Coachwork and Sports and Racing Motorcycles. A prewar car won, 1931 Stutz DV 32 Convertible Victoria by Le Baron, though with the Quail you can’t predict it will always be a prewar car that wins as you once could at Pebble.

They are also up for celebrating anniversaries of cars, and this year at the Quail there were anniversaries for the 25th Anniversary of the McLaren F1, the first 100 Years of Bentley Motors and A Tribute to the Electric Car Movement. One odd thing about the show is that they are constantly expanding what they will invite; including this year, I was surprised to see a 1949 Mercury Coupe.

Porsche at The Quail

The Porsche display at the Quail was over the top, with background scenery. Methinks this is a better bet for automakers than mainline big city automobile shows.

The Art Center College, the premier school for up-and-coming auto designers, also had a booth there and presented an award to an ACS grad so in a way the show is tied in with designs of the future as well as the past.

Just as Pebble has an auction taking place only a short walk from the concours, the Quail had the 22nd Annual Bonhams Motorcar Auction on the western grounds, accessible by golf cart.

Acura

An Acura concept car. Acura has one of the nicest dinners during Car Week. Maybe your dealer can get you on the list next year.

The Quail must have an incredibly educated committee selecting from among the thousand or more applicants who want to enter their car, in that they select the most interesting cars like not only a Countach but Periscopia, one of the early Countachs that had a periscope rear view mirror.

Among the businesses with booths was a yacht maker, and I thought, why not? Owners of luxury cars live a life style that doesn’t stop at cars. Too bad there’s no bay within viewing distance to park the boats on.

CONCORSO ITALIANO

This is a concours, yes, but one where the cars are selected by the clubs, such as the DeTomaso Club, the Ferrari Club, etc.

It’s a celebration of all things Italian, including motorcycles, clothing (two fashion shows) and Italian music and food. It takes place on a golf course that is on what used to be called Fort Ord military reservation. There’s still remnants of the Army around, and best not get a ticket here; it’s a Federal offense!

I arrived at the venue Saturday morning with my crew. I was wearing a reporter’s hat, but kept a watchful eye on my minions selling my fine art.

The organizer has moved the show from an adjacent stretch of green and it worked out though some may have only seen half the show, not aware that the show continued just over the small hill.

I was in the Ferrari section but just over the hill was an equally large Lamborghini section. The big superstar of Concorso was a genuine prototype, the DeTomaso P72. It’s an Italian name designed by a car company based in Germany and funded by the Chinese. Ya can’t get more International!

The great thing about this show is that they host not only expensive GT cars owned by private owners but even sub-economy cars, Fiat 500 models and even smaller, like the BMW Isetta “bubble car”. The Isettas were BMW powered and originally designed by Iso.

One puzzling thing was the presence of not one but two recent model Ferraris that had been hit and hit hard. Then you found they were being sold by an auto salvage firm. Makes sense to me, getting a $200K Ferrari for half the price just because it’s had a bit of a bad tumble.

Ferrari at Concorso Italiano

Crashed Ferrari at Concorso Italiano – photo by Mike Gulett

In Ferraris they had a 250 GTO which I thought was real until after the event someone pointed out the dimensional differences between it and the real thing. It was rumored to be a rebody of a vintage Ferrari, not a replica. And V12 Ferrari powered. I’m sure the P3/4 was a replica as donor frames similar to P3/4s don’t exist but it made for the most macho replica you could drive on the street.

The most interesting car I caught at Concorso was a late model Ferrari coupe cut down into a spyder (with a skimpy “bikini” top like a Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder) this one converted from a solid roofed car by a California dentist who tried to have a celebrated firm do it on his car first. They dropped the ball so he did his own design and it’s quite fetching. Where did he get his design smarts? He attended Art Center College of Design at night. He’s taking orders on three different models of Ferrari. Price? Not counting the initial price of the stock coupe, it was over $300K!

Concorso’s longtime lead speaker, Keith Martin, had suffered a stroke just a short time before the event, but relief speakers Matt Stone and Miles Kitchen were able to entertain the crowd and fill in gaps in history just as well as Keith and we pray for his comeback appearance.

Iso at Concorso Italiano

Iso at Concorso Italiano – photo by Mike Gulett

We beat it out of there to go to a Ferrari-owner party at the Crossroads Shopping Center on Highway 1 but it looked too Cars ‘n Coffee-ish for me (and cost $70 or more to go inside the restaurant) so we decamped to Clint Eastwoods Mission Ranch once again. But though it was less cold than the first time we had visited, the prospect of an hour-long wait for an outdoor table deterred us (and you really have to dine outside there to enjoy the ambiance unless Clint is inside tickling the ivories) so we headed for Gilroy, the small town where we were staying, where a restaurant we had discovered in Gilroy had huge plates, maybe 13″ across.

SUNDAY: THE PIECE DE RESISTANCE, PEBBLE BEACH

The next day was Pebble. I hammered on my crew to get up early so we could get to Pebble Beach in time. “In time” meant before the cars were surrounded six deep by spectators.

The more than 200 cars are spread out between the 17th and 18th holes of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links. This is the 69th concours so they have it pretty well dialed in as far as handling the flood of traffic. Driving in is still a monumental task but they’ve made it simple by allowing you to park along the famous 17 mile drive and simply hitch a ride in by bus. For free.

Bentley

Bentley

Bentley

Bentley – are those Corvair taillights?

Only the bus is free, but the concours cost over $300 a ticket if you buy it before the day of the event but the fee zooms up past $400 on the day itself.

THE DREAM CAR LAWN

Before you even enter the Pebble Beach concours there is a free show of sorts, on what I call the “dream car lawn.” Now some of the cars are one-off prototypes, showing the farthest stretch of imagination on what could be coming a few years from now. Others are merely new models due on the market in months. This was the first year I saw a prototype on display still in mufti—a Lexus LC500 convertible—painted in the same camouflage automakers use when on-road testing to discourage those pesky spy photographers.

Bugatti

Bugatti on the Dream Car Lawn

One of the flashiest prototypes was DeTomaso’s P72, which had lines not unlike a ‘60s Ferrari P3/4 and an interior that had all the antique finishes of copper or brass, similar flash to Pagani, or what you could call “Steampunk.”

That dream car lawn, I presume, is to whet the appetites of those who hadn’t yet bought a ticket to the big show, a mere 100 feet down toward the sea. Fortunately two of my group of four elected to just see the dream cars. This year the competitive field saw a truly International representation of owners, from 17 countries and 31 states.

Each year they not only have cars of existing and long forgotten brands but choose to honor specific cars or car builders with anniversaries. For instance there were a raft of Bugatti Grand Prix cars and then displays devoted to celebrating the 100 year birthdays of two Italian coachbuilders, Touring and Zagato.

Bentley was the most honored, as you could tell by the fact that only Bentleys were in the last row, the row on the cliffside edge where the grass turns to beachside.

In fact there were so many Bentleys that they amounted to roughly a quarter of all the cars on the field, with six classes and some special groupings, filling six complete classes that include several special groupings. Entries ranged from the earliest surviving 3 Liter to a multitude of racing greats and postwar cars.

At past Pebbles, started out by visiting the Automotive Fine Art Society tent, but alas that’s been converted to some other purpose. (The AFAS was ably represented in Carmel by New Masters Gallery) So I chugged on down the field, which is more or less chronological, the oldest cars closest to the lodge. The judging seemed to be going on from early morning, with each owner having to start his or her car, and answer various questions (most had fancy scrapbooks detailing the car’s history and restoration).

With so many Bentleys on the field this year it was pretty sure a Bentley would win Best of Show, and this time it was a 1931 Bentley 8 Liter Gurney Nutting Sports Tourer owned by Michael Kadoorie of Hong Kong.

But nominations for that award included a real prize of “streamline modern” prewar styling, a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Figoni and Falaschi Teardrop Cabriolet, a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Erdmann and Rossi Special Cabriolet and a postwar sports car, an 1962 Aston Martin DB4GT GTZ bodied by Carrozziera Zagato.

Now some spectators walk the field looking for the prettiest car, but I was looking for a car to inspire a painting, and found it in a gold Ferrari 250GT California spyder with closed headlamps. Never seen that color on an old Ferrari before but it made my day.

But I was also looking for some I had never seen before. Toiling in the auto historian ranks for some decades now, I like to think I’ve seen at least a picture of almost everything but each year Pebble proves me there are chinks in my education. For instance this year there was a Bentley, in a light gold, that was very bland in styling, and seemed to have Corvair taillights! Who would commit such a sacrilege? Well, the coach builder was Graber of Switzerland and the story was it was the last coachbuilt Bentley on the S3 chassis. The car strongly resembled some Alvis cars they were building at the time and if I were the buyer back then I would have objected they bodied my Bentley to look like a cheaper car.

Another thing I like to do is glory in the details. For instance I am a sucker for wicker picnic baskets, especially vintage ones that look like they were created for the car.

SARTORIAL EXCELLENCE

As far as I know, Pebble hasn’t yet gone so far as Lord March, creator of the Goodwood Revival, who issues clothing suggestions for period styles to be worn to his events (and even salts the crowd with actors dressed in vintage styles). But I saw a few gents and ladies dressed in 20’s through ‘50s garb. I like to think that my all white ensemble, inspired by my friend Tom Wolfe, added to the ambiance, particularly my white gloves….

Wallace Wyss at Pebble Beach

Wallace Wyss at Pebble Beach

Part of the “rules” at Pebble are that each car must be able to start, as this discourages “trailer queens” i.e. cars that are never driven. Well, when the Howmet Turbine, a ‘60s race car with a jet engine was started, the crowd was so thick I couldn’t get a picture (where’s my selfie stick?) Suffice to say that the crowds are titillated by something different.

Some stay at Pebble Beach for the judging, when each class winner rolls across the wooden stage to applause. When the Best of Show is announced there is rain in confetti or somesuch, like a ticker tape parade for one car. That is a great moment to photograph.

But I couldn’t because half my crew, on vacation from New Yawk City, wanted to go to another classic venue, the Hearst Castle, 2½ hours South through the wilds of Big Sur. So we saddled up and headed out, sad to leave behind so many treasures not examined in detail.

Among the events missed from sheer lack of time were the two German car events, the first tour through Carmel, the speeches at AutoRetro by world class experts and all the auctions, but you can’t be everywhere at once so I thought it was a good four day run…oh, and my salesmen said a customer promised to commission a portrait of their Testa Rossa at the Concorso so that added a little silver lining to the pain of leaving early….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist specializing in postwar sports cars. For a list of prints available of his works, write mendoart7@gmail.com.

 
 
 

 

 

Summary
A Connoisseur’s Travels: Four Days During Monterey Car Week 2019
Article Name
A Connoisseur’s Travels: Four Days During Monterey Car Week 2019
Description
It was a busy few days at Monterey Car Week but one cannot see it all.
Author

Comments

  1. Arthur Salo says

    Actually, those “Corvair” tail lights on the Bentley look terrific. Sixty years ago when I was fifteen, I worked one summer for my uncle Rob in his upholstery shop, “Bob’s Antique Upholstery Shop in Delmar, NY.. He had been an upholsterer since he was fifteen and could do wonderful work on antique cars since he remembered what they looked like originally. He even recalled putting canvas vats under the rear seat of a Pierce Arrow during the days of prohibition. He had a burgundy Nash Healey with 1952 Chevy tail lights. However, the English Nash Healey as interesting as it is is certainly not an English Bentley.

Speak Your Mind

*

fsge6ed6.txt