HomeCar CultureMy trip to Monterey for the greatest car week of the year

My trip to Monterey for the greatest car week of the year


Checking out a 1932 Alfa Romeo 2300 Zagato Spider during a recent Pebble Beach Concours | Bob Golfen photo
Checking out a 1932 Alfa Romeo 2300 Zagato Spider during a recent Pebble Beach Concours | Bob Golfen photo

And so the pilgrimage begins, the great movement of automotive humanity onto the small Monterey Peninsula that juts out from the midsection of coastal California.

Hobbyists, dreamers, vintage racers, wealthy collectors, they all converge this week for the unparalleled multitude of classic car events that make up Monterey Classic Car Week, which builds like a crescendo to the grand finale on Sunday — the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Every year, all eyes in the collector-car world turn toward Monterey for the weeklong celebration of just about everything that has to do with great old cars. There’s an international flavor as people flock in from everywhere to behold the automotive finery, as well as to see the rich and famous people who also attend.

I arrive Tuesday morning, drop off my stuff and hit the ground running. I’ve been here twice before, but I still feel daunted by the massive number of activities that get crowded into this short span of time.

A 1931 Bugatti Type 55 roadster rolls into Carmel during the Pebble Beach Tour | Bob Golfen photo
A 1931 Bugatti Type 55 roadster rolls into Carmel during the Pebble Beach Tour | Bob Golfen photo

The extraordinary becomes routine in this rarefied place, where you are just as likely to spot a seven-figure classic car chortling along a Monterey street as you would a Honda Accord. It can become fantasy-car overload, there’s just so much. But just when you think you might, just might, become a bit jaded by the splendor of it all, Sunday comes and the Pebble Beach Concours begins. And the magic comes back with a rush.

Here’s the thing: It is physically impossible to attend everything that’s happening this week. So I will be parachuting in to sample as much as I can, to take photos, to talk with folks, and to post daily dispatches for ClassicCars.com. I also will be regularly tweeting my experiences, using such hashtags as #monterey and #classiccars.com.

ClassicCars.com has another reporter/photographer here, Howard Koby, who’s a regular blog contributor and a Monterey-week veteran. So he and I will be splitting up duties to cover as much as we can. Howard got dibs on one of the premiere events, the Quail Motorsports Gathering, so he’ll be covering that. Rats.

There also will be a daily report of the results from the classic car auctions provided by Hagerty Insurance.

A sea of Ferrari 308s and 328s at Concorso Italiano | Bob Golfen photo
A sea of Ferrari 308s and 328s at Concorso Italiano | Bob Golfen photo

Unfortunately, we had to draw the line somewhere, and it’s doubtful that either Howard or I will make it to the vintage racing at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Leguna Seca. That’s some of the most spectacular historic racing anywhere, but there’s just too much to do.

First on the agenda Tuesday is a reputedly splendid car show called Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue, which I’ve yet to attend to but for which I have high hopes.

Among the various shows and events that I plan to witness during the rest of the week are the unique Little Car Show in Pacific Grove; staking out a spot to watch the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance in which the Pebble Beach Concours entries drive their prized show cars for 60 miles on local roads; the new Porsche Werks Reunion; the Legends of the Autobahn show for German cars; the grand Concorso Italiano; and, of course, the big daddy of the week, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The original 1962 Shelby Cobra 260 prototype on display at Pebble Beach | Bob Golfen photo
The original 1962 Shelby Cobra 260 prototype on display at Pebble Beach | Bob Golfen photo

The Pebble Beach Concours is one of the world’s greatest automotive events in one of the world’s most beautiful settings on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links alongside the scenic shoreline. Around 200 select cars will compete for prizes in classes that include antiques from the early days of motoring, splendid true classics from the 1920s-30s, evocative sports cars, race cars, motorcycles, even preservation classes for beautiful unrestored survivors.

As always, there are imaginative special classes with wonderful examples that will compete for awards. This year, they focus on:

The centennial of Maserati
The cars of classic American automaker Ruxton
The exotic Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa race car
Custom coachwork by Fernandez et Darrin
Early Steam Cars (which should be a hoot to see in action)
Rolls-Royce Phantom IV and Phantom V
The unique Czech brand Tatra
Motorcycles from Eastern Europe

The culmination of the concours is the naming of the Best of Show, celebrated with a snowstorm of confetti on the drive-up stage in front of the Pebble Beach Lodge, where all the class awards and other honors are also presented.

Much of my time earlier in the week will be spent at the classic car auctions, hopefully all six of them: RM, Gooding & Company, Bonhams, Mecum, Russo and Steele and Rick Cole, who will be conducting the bidding this year via smart phone.

Maranello Rosoo Collection's Ferrari 250 GTO will be sold at auction in August | Bonhams
A Ferrari 250 GTO will be offered at Bobhams’ auction | Bonhams

The auctions have upped the game once again, presenting an absolutely spectacular lineup of ultra-valuable race cars and sports cars, dominated by rare and historic Ferraris. Prices are on the upswing, and the pundits are projecting that this year’s auction sales all together could reach an unimaginable $500 million. That compares with the record set last year of just more than $300 million.

Among the incredible array of top cars up for auction:

One of the legendary 1962 Ferrari GTO coupes, apparently the world’s most valuable cars, will be offered at Bonhams. A $50 million sale? Quite possibly. Bonhams also has nine other hugely valuable Ferrari racers and GT cars from a single collection.

An extremely rare 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale, one of just three prototypes built, will be among RM Auctions’ high-end selection.

The unique and groundbreaking 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale “Tre Posti” prototype will be auctioned by Gooding & Company. The driver sits in the middle of the three-seat cabin.

The 1969 Porsche 917K played a leading role in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans | Mathieu Heurtault / Gooding
The 1969 Porsche 917K ran in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans | Mathieu Heurtault / Gooding

A 1969 Porsche 917K in full Gulf livery is immensely valuable in itself, but this one at the Gooding auction has been touched by the Steve McQueen magic. It is one of the 917s featured in the 1971 movie Le Mans. Who knows what that might bring with the McQueen multiplier effect?

More celebrity magic, this time in the form of Carroll Shelby, for the 1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype for sale by RM. The first of four GT40 roadsters, it was used by Ford and Shelby American as a demonstration car, and among its famous drivers was Ole Shel himself.

Another Carroll Shelby connection can be found in the 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport, which Shelby raced as a driver. It will be offered at the Rick Cole auction.

Rick Cole also has another Ferrari standout, a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Competitizione Clienti specially built for an American customer and being offered for sale for the first time ever.

A rare 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Spider with beautiful coachwork by Pinin Farina headlines Mecum’s “Daytime Auction.”

Hopefully, I will be at the right place at the right time to witness these cars being bid into the stratosphere. Of course, not every car offered for sale this week is in billionaire territory, so I also will be focusing on some of the less-spectacular collector cars that appeal to regular folks like me.

Watch for my daily reports starting Wednesday, and my random tweets throughout the week.


Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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