Expert Tips To Make Monterey Week Unforgettable
With no region in the world host to so many classic car events at the same time, a pilgrimage to Monterey has become a required activity for enthusiasts.
But with so many events on offer, it’s often difficult to plan your schedule—so we asked four experts what they felt were tips every Monterey attendee should know.
We asked Motor Trend’s Jason Cammisa, RM Sotheby’s auctioneer Max Girardo, Porsche factory racing driver Patrick Long, and legendary designer/engineer Peter Brock for their tips on what to do during the Monterey week.
Experiencing a Concours
When he’s not starring in Petrolicious videos, Jason Cammisa is the Senior Features Editor at the world-renowned Motor Trend magazine. With a number of Monterey trips under his belt, his first suggestion happens early in the week, at the Carmel Concours on August 11.
"Lots of cool cars that you don't often get to see up close. But they're typically not out of this world expensive, which is a nice change," Cammisa says. "It's easy to walk around, look, eat, and talk to the owners."
Peter Brock, who first attended the Pebble Beach festivities in 1950, also suggested the event was worth a visit: "Great cars and it’s free," he says.
Cammisa also suggests an interesting alternative concours: the Concours d’Le Mons. Focusing on oddball and unloved machines, it’s often where you’ll see collectors and enthusiasts mingling with a smile on their faces—after all, bribing the judges is encouraged.
"Silly, wacky, and just plain rare cars show up, and it's a welcome break from the serious, snooty concours events," he says. "If, that is, you have a sense of humor."
If you want to see the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance cars moving, however, Brock says your best bet is to ensure you’re able to watch the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance to pass by.
"The Pebble Beach Concours does a "tour" for those who participate that runs way down the coast and around the Carmel area," he says. "A great way—and also free—to see some real classics on the road."
Where to see the best race cars?
The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 2015 earns top marks every year for the quality of its entries and overall atmosphere, although the event is one of the pricier ($600 per ticket) of the week. Still, Patrick Long says that there’s a lot to see.
"The Quail is such a fun day," Long says. "If I could only attend one, I would say the Quail because it's sort of a blend and has a lot of variety."
Brock recommends getting to Monterey early and attending the Monterey Pre-Reunion on August 8-9. "The best racing is the ‘Pre Historics’ the week before the official race week at Laguna Seca," Brock says.
Each year, more than 300 race cars hit the track in order to work out all the bugs and issues before the largest race weekend of the year at the Monterey Historic Motorsports Reunion. Once you’re at Laguna Seca for either event, Long recommends leaving the stands and taking a walk through the paddock—after all, you might just spy some unicorn-grade machinery.
If you’re into a certain German automaker, Long suggests taking a trip to the Werks Reunion.
"I think the Werks Reunion is the best up and coming event and is sure to become a flagship during the week, but this, of course, is for the Porsche folk."
As the man at the front of the room during RM Sotheby’s auctions, Max Girardo sells many of the world’s most desirable cars. Last year during the company’s multi-day Monterey sale, he swung the hammer on more than $143 million worth of machinery.
"If you’re not in the market for a car, the auction previews are still definitely worth a visit," Girardo says. "Naturally, the auctions provide a wonderful showcase of some of the world’s rarest and most coveted automobiles and a must-attend for collectors and enthusiasts alike."
Ultimately, given the sheer volume of cars and clients present during the Monterey week, all auction venues end up being great places to car spot.
"For those looking to soak up the vibe, the front of the hotel during the auction always has an electric energy—or so am I told, as I’m always on the podium!—with crowds congregating to witness the auction vehicles enter and exit the auction room," Girardo says.
Don't Miss 'Dawn Patrol'
One thing every expert recommended, however, is "Dawn Patrol," an informal event that requires little more than a loud alarm clock and weapons-grade coffee for the ride to Pebble Beach.
"The single best event of the week, and it's not an actual event," Cammisa says. "This is you, at 5am, in the dark, listening and watching as all the Concours cars drive themselves into the lawn. Some with difficulty. Some with no mufflers. Ever heard a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR do a burnout because it wouldn't move at anything less than full throttle? I have. It changed my life. Go."
Girardo suggests you arrive early to catch this spectacle and—most importantly—beat the crowds of onlookers who are also there to watch SLRs do impromptu burnouts. But we’ll leave the final note on "Dawn Patrol" to Brock, who has been attending Monterey the longest out of our group of experts.
"The Concours at Pebble is very, very nice," Brock says. "Best to go early and watch the cars drive in. The Concours doesn’t open until later—but if you saw the cars drive in, you got the best show."