Of all the classic car events in the world, there is nothing that compares to Monterey Classic Car Week.
Yes, there are the events at Goodwood and Villa d’Este and Retromobile, but there is nothing that has the sheer size and magnitude of the many events happening in one place in one week.
Just how many events happen during Monterey Car Week? At last count, there are 26 “official” events between August 11 and August 16. But in addition, there are numerous, seminars, tours, and car club dinners and get togethers that also happen during the week.
What this means is that it is absolutely impossible to do attend every event. My personal record is 20 events attended within the week. However, I would not recommend that anyone else do that unless you are as insane as I am.
The ideal thing to do is to pick the events that are most important to you and then see what else you can fit in around them. Just attending the auctions alone can eat up three-quarters of your week if you are not careful.
Another piece of advice that I had to learn the hard way was is that you should set a schedule including the time it takes to get to and — more importantly — to leave an event. If you do not do this you are bound to get stuck in the unbelievable traffic of Monterey Car Week and miss seeing something that you really wanted to attend. Or even worse, you will spend money on tickets for events you cannot get to.
This happens to friends of mine every year and is a complete bummer. A key to getting to where you are going is to start early and to budget twice the amount of time you think it will take to reach each event. We’ve linked each event to its website so you can verify locations.
Did I mention the traffic? I can take an hour to drive three miles in Monterey during peak traffic.
When planning for the events you want to attend, it is helpful to make a schedule of must-sees based on your car interests and then try to leave a little space to add some of the smaller events. For example, if you are an Italian car enthusiast, attending Concorso Italiano on Saturday is a must. But you also might want to leave time to check out the Concours d’Lemons, which is about a 20-minute drive from Concorso Italiano.
To make this a bit easier than other guides to Monterey Car Week, I will break down the major events by the day they happen and tell you a bit about each event. Keep in mind that some of these events are multi-day events, and not every event is included, and I will point that out in the ones that run more than a single day:
Tuesday, August 11
Carmel By The Sea Concours on the Avenue — This is the kick off for the week’s events and annually just keeps getting better and better. There are wonderful classic cars and motorcycles on display, with everything from VW Beetles to Ferrari 250 Testsrossas. In addition to the great cars, being in downtown Carmel means lots of options for lunch and shopping. Finally the price for the event is the best — $0, as in this is a free event, one of the very best deals of the week. The official start time is 10 a.m. but getting there early helps with parking and leaves you more time to see the cars.
Automobilia Monterey (also Wednesday) — If you are looking for that rare car book, a toolkit for your Jaguar XK120, or grille badges for your Porsche, this is the place to find them. The event also has vendors selling mascots, posters, you name it and it is there. The event carries over to Wednesday but smart shoppers will be there Tuesday if they are chasing especially rare merchandise. I go every year and always end up spending too much money. The cost for Automobilia Monterey is just $15 and benefits a women’s shelter. Times for the event are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Carmel Mission Classic — This is an event I have only been able to attend once but it was interesting. The Mission Classic is part wine-tasting event and part-car show with a “blessing of the cars” that will be competing later in the week in other events. The fee for entry is $45 and includes wine tasting of some of the finest wines made in the Bay Area. Times for this event are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Little Car Show — This is a car show, held in downtown Pacific Grove, for 100 classic cars with an engine size less than 1601 cc. Of course, there are a large number of microcars, but among them you will find Siatas, Fiats, Alfa Romeos and a lot of wacky French cars. The awards for the cars on display are fun as well with categories such as “Most Smiles Per Mile” and it is nice to see an event in Monterey that does not take itself too seriously. This is another free event so if you like neat small cars it fits the bill.
Auction Previews (Wednesday thru Saturday) —
This is the start to most of the auction preview days. RM Sotheby’s, Gooding and Company, Russo and Steele, Bonhams and JR- Auctions (Cannery Row) all start their previews on Wednesday. Our advice is to take a look at their catalogs online (just click on the auction name and you’ll go to the online catalog) and then go only to the previews where you are interested in a car.
Classiccars.com RM Sotheby’s Auction Tour — Our first of two auction tours begins at 10 a.m.. During the tour I will take you through the auction discussing a variety of cars, explaining what makes each special and deserving of a place in your garage. I also cover the details of the auction process as a buyer and a seller and explain what you need to do to bid well and to land the car you have always wanted. The tour is free and includes complimentary admission to the auction’s preview.
McCalls Motorworks Revival — This is one of my favorite events of the week. Put on by my friend Gordon McCall, it is basically a party that got out of control and turned into an event. At the Revival you will see scores of classic cars, motorcycles and airplanes while sampling some of the best food and drink available on the peninsula. This is a great event to go to with friends and look at the cool cars, meet old and new friends and basically celebrate classic transportation. The cost is $325 and includes a premium open bar and all the food you could possibly want. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the party ends at 10.
Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance — This event is exactly what it sounds like. This is where cars that will be on the lawn at Pebble Beach take a driving tour in and around Monterey. The best way to watch this is to examine the tour map and pick a place to watch the cars go by. Another free event and the only way to see the many of the Pebble Beach Concours competitors without spending the money on a ticket to the Concours, though the Concours is something you do have to see at least once. Expect to see a few breakdowns along the way as many of these are very old cars.
Pebble Beach RetroAuto — Think of RetroAuto, located at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, as a mall for all things automotive: Books, posters, clothing, auto-oriented luxury items, automobilia, and anything else the car collector might need. The event/stores are open through Saturday with hours from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Live Auctions — RM Sotheby’s, Russo and Steele, Mecum and JR auctions have their first auction day today, and you also can start bidding by smartphone on the cars at the Cole auction.
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (through Sunday) — This marks the first official day of racing in Monterey and is one of the best times to attend the track due to the smaller crowds. A tip is if you are in a car club, check the website to see if there is car corral parking for your car. The car corrals are the easiest parking at the track and also offer an impromptu car shows themselves with many rare cars in their lots. The racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca goes on through Sunday, so if you can’t get there Thursday you have plenty of time to attend.
The Quail A Motorsports Gathering — This is my favorite event of the entire week. It takes place in Carmel at Quail Lodge Resort. The downside is that tickets are both difficult to get and expensive. You cannot get tickets the day of the event and Quail sells out every year months ahead of the event. That being said, people tend to buy extra tickets and if you hear of one, the $600 dollar ticket price is well worth it.
The Quail displays the best of the best of sports and racing cars, includes fabulous free food and drink all day as part of the admission and also includes souvenirs to each attendee. The parking lot alone is a veritable car show in itself. This is the see-and-be-seen event of the week as well, although attendance is limited to 3,000 people, making seeing all the cars and actually getting to the food very easy.
Highlights this year are lon- tailed Le Mans cars and iconic pre-1965 Porsche cars along with the finest examples of sports cars anywhere in Monterey.
The Quail is expensive but well worth it.
Legends of the Autobahn — This is a celebration of German cars, except Porsche and takes place at the Nicklaus Club-Monterey. If you love cars from BMW, Mercedes,and Audi, then this is the show to see. There is also a car corral that you can park your German car in for $40 and be a participant.. The best part about this event is that it is free. Gates open at 8 AM and the show runs until 4 PM.
Porsche Werks Reunion — If your favorite cars are Porsches, then this is the one event to attend Friday. Just down the street from The Quail at the Rancho Canada Golf Club, this celebration of everything Porsche is a fantastic event. This year, Werks celebrates 40 years of the legendary 930 Turbo. More than 500 Porsche cars are expected to be on display and amazingly this is another free event during the week.
Pro Tip: It is easily possible to attend The Quail and The Porsche Werks Reunion if you watch the clock. Go to Werks first as it is easy to not want to leave the Quail once you get there.
Also, Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, People Beach RetroAuto and Auction Previews continue.
More Live Auctions — Bonhams, RM Sotheby’s, Russo and Steele, Mecum, Rick Cole Auctions, and JR all have live auctions.
Concours d’Lemons — This is a definite must-see event for the week. At Laguna Grande Park in Seaside, 15 minutes from Mazda Raceway, this is a show of misfit cars of the past. Looking to see the world’s best example of a Pinto, Chrysler K car, or Renault Fuego? This is the place. Have a Pontiac Aztec or Lincoln Versalles? This is the place to show your car. Gates open at 8 a.m. and the event is another freebie.
Concorso Italiano — This celebration of anything Italian that has wheels takes place at the Black Horse Golf Course in Seaside and includes cars, motorcycles, scooters and event bicycles. This year highlights are 25 years of the Lamborghini Diablo, 50 years of the Iso Griffo, and a Ferrari 250 GTE Owner’s Reunion. Among the cars on display are hundreds of cars from Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, Lancia, Maserati and every other Italian manufacturer of Italian vehicles. If you love Italian transportation this is a must-attend event.
The gates open at 9 a.m. and the event runs until 5 p.m.. Tickets at the gate cost $145.
Pro Tip: It is entirely possible to go to Lemons, Concorso and still get to the track to watch racing.
Also, Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and Pebble Beach RetroAuto continue
More Live Auctions — RM Sotheby’s, Russo and Steele, Mecum, Rick Cole Auctions, Gooding and Company,and JR all have live auctions. Saturday night is the high point for RM Sotheby’s, Russo and Steele, Mecum, JR, and Rick Cole.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance — This is the biggie and the event that many people go to Monterey to see. Held on the golf course at the Lodge at Pebble Beach and considered to be the finest concours in North America, Pebble Beach is one of the seven wonders of the classic car world.
You will see 200-plus cars presented in the finest restored or preserved condition and are likely to see cars that you cannot see anywhere else.
This year Pebble Beach celebrates Cunningham, pre-war British sports cars, the Designs of Touring, 50th anniversary of the Shelby GT350, Mercury Customs, and the 75 anniversary of Lincoln Continental.
The gates open at 10:30 a.m. and admission is $300 in advance or $350 at the gate and children 12 and under are free.
Pro Tip: Get here early, and I mean really early for Dawn Patrol. This is when the cars drive onto the lawn and it is a lot less crowded. How early? 5 a.m. Happily there are plenty of free doughnuts and coffee are provided by Hagerty to all Dawn Patrol crazies. Dawn Patrol attendance is an essential rite of passage and badge of honor for the hard-core car enthusiast. Another tip is if you want easier parking consider parking at one of the many homes that have parking signs. It is expensive to park at these, between $50-$200, but is also very convenient as the general parking is far far away and requires riding in a bus to and from the event.
Automotive Fine Arts Society Exhibition — This is an exhibition on the lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours of the finest automotive artists in the world. Admission is free to all Pebble attendees and the event runs the duration of the concours.
More Auctions — This is the final day of the Gooding and Company auction and if you are already at Pebble Beach, why not take the 10-minute walk to the auction from the show field and end the week there.
There are other events during the week but we wanted to give you the highlights. Once again it is imperative to make a plan for the major events you want to attend during the week and find out where each is located so you get to see all you want to see on your trip to Monterey Car week.
(Photos provided by the various event organizers.)