My First-Ever Monterey Car Week — Sensory Overload

Auto Shows, Interesting, News | August 22nd, 2019 by 4
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A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Horatiu. “Hey man, you want to go to Pebble?” he asked. To which I responded …

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Horatiu. “Hey man, you want to go to Pebble?” he asked. To which I responded “Uhh, yea”. Or at least I think that’s how it went. I can’t remember the exact conversation because as soon as I head the word “Pebble”, my brain stopped recording memories and went into full-on celebration mode. I’d never been to Pebble Beach, or any event during Monterey Car Week, prior to that conversation. Yet, it had always been a dream of mine. I just could never afford to go.

However, this time, it was BMW that was paying. The kind folks at BMW North America were going to be in Monterey for Car Week and asked if I wanted to go. Well, actually, they asked Horatiu but he couldn’t make it due to a prior engagement. So BMW asked for me to go in his place. I was almost shaking with excitement. “I have to get a new suit.”, I thought to myself.

When the day finally came, I boarded a flight to San Francisco on Wednesday, August 14, where I would meet up with another journalist being sent by BMW. When we met up at the airport, we were handed the keys to a 60 Year Special Edition MINI Cooper S. Of course, it was wearing British Racing Green paint with two white stripes down its spine. It also sported a lovely brown leather interior with green stitching and piping. While we were a bit disappointed to see an automatic gear lever sticking up through the transmission tunnel, we weren’t going to complain about driving a MINI during Monterey Car Week.

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So off we went. At first, we were just stuck in mind-numbing traffic on the highway. That’s not a fun way to kick-off Monterey Car Week. So we decided to ask the Google machine if it knew of a better, more scenic route. Turns out, it did. However, it would tack 20 miles or so to the end of our journey. Sounded good to us.

We turned off the highway immediately and couldn’t have been happier about our decision. Rather than being stuck in gridlock traffic, we were on twisting, serpentine back roads that snaked through some absolutely stunning forest scenery. It was genuinely breathtaking and the perfect road for a MINI.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel on Cannery Road in the beautiful Monterey, right on the water. When we arrived, our MINI was by far and away the cheapest car in front of the hotel. In fact, I’m surprised they let us in. Instead of lowly MINIs, the front of the hotel was littered with Lamborghini Urus’ (what’s the plural for Urus, Urie?), Porsche 911 GT3s and Jaguar I-Paces. To be honest, most of those cars were shuttle cars from other manufacturers staying at the same hotel we were. However, all of that was on top of the spectacle that was the famous Cannery Road.

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The cars we saw street parked, lining Cannery Road, made the Lamborghinis at the hotel look like cheap trinkets. McLarens, Bugattis, Rolls Royces and Bentleys were seen by the dozens. It was a never ending neck exercise, as we tried to whip our heads back and forth to spot all of the astonishing machinery around us. And that was just the street outside the hotel, never mind the actual car shows that lied ahead.

The following morning, we went to a press conference held by BMW at The Lodge, which is a private resort on the Pebble Beach golf course. The press conference was held on the lawn where we’d eventually see some of the world’s most incredible cars just days later. Among the cars at the press conference were the BMW Vision M Next, the icy-cool BMW Garmisch and the BMW M8 siblings, both Coupe and Convertible. They were also accompanied by the BMW M8 GTE race car, which was driven by a BMW factory driver on the wet grass. That was interesting to see.

Alongside those cars was also a suite of classic MINIs. Following the press conference, we had the chance to drive those classic MINIs (review to come!) down through Big Sur, over the famous Bixby Creek Bridge, and had some lunch. Then, we got to drive the MINIs all the way back. Never had I driven California’s famous US-1 before and never had I seen the jaw-dropping stretch of gorgeous natural beauty Big Sur. So to see all of that through the upright windshield of a ’65 Morris Mini Cooper S was a special moment I won’t soon forget.

As a car enthusiast, I’d always dreamed of taking that drive in an exotic supercar or a loud-mouthed sports car. But after doing it in the Mini, I honestly don’t think I could have chosen a better car.

MINI at Monterey Car Week

Following the classic Mini drive, it was time for some dinner and some much-needed rest. That’s because the next day was going to be exhausting.

Bright and early Friday morning, it was time to head to Legends of the Autobahn, which is a great German car show that’s held during every Monterey Car Week. It actually started out as a BMW show but it’s since expanded to include other German brands as well. For instance, both Audi and Mercedes-Benz, along with both of their North American car clubs, were there. There were also a few Porsches on hand. In fact, I even saw a couple of non-German cars there, including a Lotus Esprit and a Ferrari 308 GT4.

I saw some genuinely incredible cars, cars that I’d never seen in the flesh before and some cars that I’ll never see again. There was a BMW 1600GT, which I’d never seen before and looked more like a classic Alfa than a BMW. There was also a few stunning ALPINAs and more 3.0 CS’ than I could handle. I also saw a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and an Audi Sport Quattro. If you like German cars, Legends is an unmissable event in Monterey.

BMW Vision M Next at Monterey Car Week

Straight from Legends was The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering. If you aren’t aware, The Quail is an enormous car show for the extremely wealthy, on of the most prestigious Golf Clubs in America, filled with some of the rarest, most exotic automobiles ever made. Everything from pre-war Bentleys to the newest, most expensive concept cars are seen at The Quail. It’s so rich and affluent it’s almost gross.

Just getting there was an event, though. Because I had to spend the earlier part of the day at Legends, in the the blistering heat, I was quite sweaty. In fact, I was so sweaty that I was ashamed to take my backpack off because of how soaked it was from my own back. You can’t exactly go to The Quail with sweat stains. So I had to change. In the car. In the parking lot. It wasn’t my most graceful moment.

When I finally got to The Quail, it was a surreal experience. Just the parking lot for the shuttle to get to the Quail was an experience in itself; seeing LaFerraris and McLaren 720S’ parked on grass just to catch a shuttle ride in truly a sight.

Once inside, it was like money didn’t exist. Not because it seemed as if the people there had no money but that they had so much money that it was no longer a thing. The ideas of cost and value are meaningless there, as the attendants at The Quail can simply have whatever they want, without even having to think about cost. And I don’t just mean cars. Cars are just toys. These people could buy islands without blinking and they weren’t about to let anyone forget it.

Aside from how absurdly wealthy the people at The Quail were, the cars were incredible. There, I saw several cars I’d never seen in person before and flocks of them. For instance, I’ve never seen a Bugatti EB110 in person before and it’s always been a car I’ve loved and admired. At the Quail, I saw five huddled together. I’d also never seen a McLaren F1 in person before. There were about six in a row. Pagani Zonda? About four of them. There were also about fifty pre-war Bentleys in a massive square section.

It was sensory overload. I had a hard time just figuring out how I was going to spend my time because there was so much to see and so little time for me to see it. So it was tough to make it through all of the show without missing anything. But I didn’t want to just skim over cars like the F1 or EB110, cars I’ve always dreamed of seeing. These were cars I may never see again in my entire lifetime, so I wanted to soak it in, pay attention and enjoy being in the company of such precious metal.

After The Quail, it took awhile to reset to normal life. Once I snapped back to reality, though, it was time to get ready for a long day at a race track.

The following Saturday morning it was time to fulfill another childhood dream and yet another first — Laguna Seca. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve played racing video games and raced on Laguna Seca over and over again. It was always a love/hate relationship, as it’s such a cool track but it’s also very difficult. When it was finally time to see it in person, I was giddy with nervous, child-like energy.

Walking up and down the different aisles of track-ready cars and stunning classics was a genuine treat. I was like a little kid in a candy store, just ogling at the absolutely gorgeous machinery. Everything was on display, from pre-war Alfas to track-prepped Mustangs to brand-new Ferraris. If you could think of it, it was on hand at Laguna.

Ragged Ford Model T at Laguna Seca Monterey Car Week

There were also a few races going on, as part of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. We saw classic American muscle cars thunder down the track with engines and exhausts so loud it felt as if they’d stop my heart. There were also tons of vintage race cars from the ’40s and ’50s, which looked magnificent blasting around in the environment they were built for. More importantly, though, we saw BMW compete with a few of its classic race cars, including the E46 BMW M3 GTR, the E92 BMW M3 GTS and the incredible BMW V12 LMR. The latter was driven by Bill Auberlen, who dominated his races.

The best part of my trip to Laguna was the famous Corkscrew, though. If you aren’t aware, the Corkscrew is one of the most famous turns of any race track in America. It’s a left-hander, followed by an immediate right, followed by an immediate left and it drops eleven stories from top to bottom. It’s awesome. But the best part is that there’s a hill that spectators can climb and sit right at the top of the turn. There are beer and drink vendors at the top, with a nice sitting area and tons of shade. So you can sit, have a beer and watch incredible cars attack the most famous and exciting turn in all of American motorsport. Which is exactly what I did and it was fan-freaking-tastic.

Sunday was the day we were there for, though, the main even of Monterey Car Week — the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. When I hit the lawn at Pebble Beach, I was genuinely shocked at the amount of breathtaking cars in such a small area. Never in my life have I ever seen an area so densely populated with seven-figure cars. And I’m not talking flashy Bugatti Chirons or LaFerraris. No, instead I’m talking Ferrari 250 GTOs, Zagato Aston Martins and pre-war cars so old they made you ask, “which war?” It was a remarkable experience and one that I won’t soon forget.

Among the cars at Pebble that really blew my mind were the Hispano Suiza and a 1904 Mercedes-Benz Simplex. While those weren’t the only cars on the Pebble Beach lawn to drop my jaw, there were the two I remember most, simply because of their shear beauty and the wonder of their ancient, yet brilliant, engineering. The Mercedes-Benz in particular was a genuine sight to see. I also really liked an old Rolls Royce, whose tires wore the description of “High-Speed Gum-Dipped Balloons”. That’s amazing.

 

My first Monterey Car Week came a lot later in life than I had hoped. However, it was worth the wait as it was one of the most fun, interesting, hilarious and exhausting car trips I’ve ever been on. I can’t wait to go back. It might take awhile for that, though.

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