Monterey is a busy and congested hub of activity this week, to the point that some events have had to spill over into neighboring Seaside. Carmel By The Sea is quaint, but good luck finding a place to park during its car show. And then there’s Pebble Beach; you have to pay a fee just to drive there.
Fortunately, there is Pacific Grove, a quiet community out on the point of the peninsula, a place with a historic lighthouse and with a Steinbeck-era business district along either side of the avenue that takes its name from the beacon. Pacific Grove also is host to three free and no-fuss car shows during Monterey Car Week.
The first takes place on Tuesday afternoon, it’s Classic Motorsports Monterey Cruise-In. On Wednesday, there’s the Little Car Show featuring, as its name indicates, mini and micro cars. And on Friday afternoon, it’s the Pacific Grove Rotary Concours and Rally, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Not only does Pacific Grove’s main street provide a delightful setting for such events, but you can wander through the various shops along Lighthouse Avenue and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants.
That’s what I did Tuesday, when I started the day fetching our credentials for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and then wandered around among the cars that will be offered up for bidding Thursday at the Worldwide Auctioneers sale out on the Pacific Grove Golf Links just below the Point Pinos Lighthouse.
With some time left before the car show began, I went to my favorite Monterey-area restaurant, Aliotti’s Victorian Corner, for a late breakfast of sourdough french toast in an amazing orange sauce.
But this report is supposed to be about a car show, not the breakfast menu. One of the nice things about the Classic Motorsports gathering is that you never quite know what to expect. It’s sort of a run-what-you-brung event, and what people brung can be quite extraordinary.
For example, Frank and Leah Gabrielli drove up in a 1926 Bentley 3-Liter Speed originally owned by Clive Gallop, one of the original “Bentley Boys” and also the designer of the cam shaft W.O. Bentley put in his cars.
Gabrielli has owned the car, a survivor, not a carefully restored trailer queen, for around 30 years and has driven it some 10,000 miles, which is not much, he said, compared to a previous owner in the UK, one Edgell Baxter, who had the car from 1937 to 1974 and who put 250,000 miles on its odometer.
The car wears a small plaque that notes that it is the Clive Gallop 3 Litre KM2321, a 1926 Speed Model Red Label Bentley with Vanden Plas coachwork and was built to Le Mans specification.
The car arrived at Pacific Grove wearing the round Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance 2019 sticker, which means that it will be driven again Thursday on the Tour and will be displayed Sunday at the concours d’elegance as part of a special Bentley centennial celebration.
And here it was in Pacific Grove, parked along Lighthouse Avenue.
But so was a 1965 Cadillac convertible that Del Meyer bought around 20 years ago from the car’s original owners, a pair of sisters, who put 35,000 miles on it and then sold it to him, and he’s added another 17,000 since.
Also displayed was Arthur Smith III’s 1967 Mustang GT500 replica that the San Francisco Bay-area resident, his wife and their daughter recently picked up in Florida and drove across the country (by the way, his daughter really liked their stop at Cadillac Ranch in the Texas Panhandle).
Across the avenue, and parked side-by-side, were a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette and a 1969 Pontiac Firebird Ram Air 400. The Corvette was a surprise 50th birthday present a few years ago for Pamela Payne from her husband, Roger. She’s always wanted a mid-’50s Corvette and shared that fact with Roger one year when they were at the Hot August Nights hot-rod gathering in Reno.
“She’s into classics,” Roger said. “I like the muscle cars.”
Throughout Monterey Car Week, there will be much to like on the streets of Pacific Grove.