Monterey Car Week is pure madness and insanity, but there is no escaping it. No matter where you live in the world, once you attend, you are hooked.
I can vouch for that. I’ve traveled from Belgium to northern California for the past 13 years.
And no matter how much I might look forward to attending, once you arrive you wish it was over, yet when it is, you’re already looking forward to returning next year.
Over the years I’ve seen this week grow bigger and bigger with more events, more commitments and way more people. Yet every I’m truly glad to be able to return to the Monterey Peninsula and just enjoy seeing the staggering amount of quality rare cars.
But as the years go by, I also looking more and more forward to the social aspect of the trip, seeing old car-geek friends and meeting new ones.
You kick off with the Carmel Concours, which truly deserves a spot on your calendar. Forget about taking pictures, way too busy. Just enjoy a surprisingly large number of top and/or interesting cars at this free show and chat with friends. Chances are high you might not run into each other for the rest of the week.
Wednesday is in general auction preview day, so take your pick. With half-a-dozen sales, there’s something for everyone’s taste.
As a photographer, my highlight of the week, hands down, is the Tour d’Elegance. If there is one day you should not miss, here it is! Seeing some of the most beautiful cars actually for once being driven on the road along the ocean is just gorgeous.
This year, due to the severe forest fires near Big Sur, they had cut back the route from its usual 70 miles to “only” 35. As a result, and with a route that would hard for the old race cars, it was announced that the tour would be optional instead of being used as the tie-breaker should vehicles receive the same points from the judges Sunday at Pebble Beach.
My immediate fear was that a high percentage of car owners would withdraw from the Tour. Some did. But more than 120 did not, still more than adequate to put on a great show.
Friday has gotten nearly ridiculous regarding what to do. There are simply too many shows and horrendous traffic surrounding them, so you need to just pick one and stay there. I’ve done The Quail basically every year I’ve attended, and it has grown with an incredible field of cars and strong manufacturers’ support.
I always schedule Saturday of Monterey Car Week for Laguna Seca. Cars are meant to be driven, and what better way then to see them than bolting down, side by side, through the Corkscrew?
Sunday, of course the big day, the one why most people are there. This year they started checking tickets at 5:15 in the morning. It’s called Dawn Patrol and more than one hundred people are there an hour before sunrise, waiting to see the cars drive onto the show field at Pebble Beach.
Now the fun and the madness begin. Even though the field officially opens at 9 a.m., by 8 a huge crowd is present and even with more than 200 cars on the field, it’s difficult to see them all the way you would like to.
This year the Delahaye Figoni et Falaschi cars just took my breath away. Those amazing wild curves from the art deco period are truly masterpieces on wheels.
So I was among those surprised at 5 p.m. when a Lancia Astura was called up to receive Best of Show honors. I couldn’t see how it was possible it could could beat one of the Delahayes.
Another Monterey Car Week has passed. I’m glad the madhouse is over. But now I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Photography by Dirk de Jager