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Monterey memories through Howard’s lens

Photojournalist looks back at his many trips to Monterey Car Week

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Monterey Car Week has provided a joyous fulfillment of my passion for vintage cars since the mid-1990s, and since I write about and photograph these classic treasures for my livelihood, I am one lucky soul. Last year, like so many others, I was devastated when Covid 19 forced the cancellation. But this year,  as normality creeps forward, I rejoice that most Pebble Beach events are on schedule.

Having had my start in drag racing photography in the 1970s, and also covering Formula 1, NASCAR, Indy and road racing motorcycles at tracks including Riverside, Ontario and Willow Springs, it sounded like it would be a blast to cover the Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca. 

Monterey Car Week, Monterey memories through Howard’s lens, ClassicCars.com Journal
Vintage Indy-style cars begin the descent through the Corkscrew
Monterey Car Week, Monterey memories through Howard’s lens, ClassicCars.com Journal

The famous “Corkscrew” turn was the place to be to catch all the action, what with at least five different angles for photography.

Annually, I would pack a lunch, trek up the hill and plant myself all day, shooting from all the fantastic angles and at the same time getting to “hob knob” with all my colleague photographers that I hadn’t seen for a year. 

A memorable vision one year is when I spotted Jay Leno and Sir Stirling Moss tooling around the track in the “722” Mercedes-Benz. I only went to Laguna Seca tor a few years until the parking and hassle of getting up to the Corkscrew became too much to handle.

Bixby Creek Bridge
Bixby Creek Bridge is a favorite place for photographing the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance
Monterey Car Week, Monterey memories through Howard’s lens, ClassicCars.com Journal
Cars from Pebble Beach road races era

For the past 20 years my visits to Monterey Car Week have included Gordon McCall Motorworks Revival, the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and all auction venues I’ve covered for the likes of the ClassicCars.com Journal, Forza Magazine, Vintage Motorsport and Classic Motorsports.

As for so many others, my kickoff event is the much-anticipated McCall’s Revival, a 3,000-person cocktail party set on the tarmac of the Monterey Jet Center decorated with modern jet planes, classic cars and motorcycles and WWll -vintage aircraft. I wear my sports jacket once a year to go to this soiree hosted by the masters of event planning, Gordon and Molly McCall.

Next, it’s the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, a 70-mile driving event that begins in Pebble Beach and follows the 17-Mile Drive and Highway One to Big Sur and returns to Pebble Beach to cross the finish line. 

Monterey Car Week, Monterey memories through Howard’s lens, ClassicCars.com Journal
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance crowns the Best of Show. In 2018 it was this Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta

I love this event as you get a first glimpse of the fantastic cars that will be presented at the Concours on Sunday. It’s a “moving motoring museum” that crosses the stupendous Bixby Bridge — one of my favorite locations for photography — on Route 1.

My next stop, on Friday, is The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering a concours-cocktail party in an intimate garden setting at The Quail Lodge in the beautiful Carmel Valley and  with the Santa Lucia Mountain Range as a backdrop. 

One significant and memorable highlight for me was in 2005 when a procession of pristine Ferrari 250 GTOs rolled onto the green, creating a symphony of exhaust notes that was music to your ears. Added to this treat and including in the hearty admission price (currently $995) well worth it.

Included in that price is the showcase of vehicles and  gourmet food prepared by executive chefs with flavors from Hong Kong, Bangkok, New York, Carmel Valley, Italy and Tokyo, all washed down with champagne and fine wines…. Yummm! 

And to top it off, if one wants a change of scenery, there’s an available helicopter shuttle to Laguna Seca Raceway. 

Monterey Car Week, Monterey memories through Howard’s lens, ClassicCars.com Journal
Steve McQueen’s Ferrari sells for $1 million more than anticipated

America’s classic car extravaganza rounds out the week with the classic magnificent automotive machinery where the “Best of the Best” are placed on the 18th Fairway of the Pebble Beach Links golf course for the concours d’elegance. The climax of the week-long experience accumulates all the passion for vintage and classic cars on Sunday with over 200 of the finest automotive treasures on the planet displayed with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. 

Such great recollections through the years, but the one that stands out for me came in 2015 when the event included seven of the original Ferraris that raced through the Del Monte Forest in the 1950s at the Pebble Beach Road Races.

The one indulgence I always looked forward is getting an invitation to Barry Meguiar’s hospitality suite on the 18th Fairway and a meet up with Jay Sanders from Art Center College of Design (my alma mater) and a gourmet lunch graciously provided by the Meguiar’s team.

As if that’s not enough, I cover the collector car auctions, where I study the marketing trends of the great vintage cars. In 2007, when the Christies International Motor Cars auction was held at the Monterey Jet Center, the big excitement was the ex-Steve McQueen 1963 Ferrari 250GT Lusso that McQueen raced. The car was slam-dunked for $1 million more than its estimated value, galloping off after a telephone bid from Europe to a new stable for a cool $2.31 million.

Howard Koby
Howard graduated with honors from the Art Center College of Design in California. He has been a photographer and automotive journalist for 35 years out of his Los Angeles studio. He has been published in Hot Rod, AutoWeek, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Jaguar Journal, Forza, Vintage Motorsport, Classic Motorsports, Robb Report, Motor Trend Classic, Hemmings Muscle Machines, and 50 Years of Road & Track (MBI Publishing). He has served on the Advisory Committee of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center College of Design. He is the author of the books Top Fuel Dragsters of the 1970s and Pro Stock Dragsters of the 1970s, both available on amazon.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Howard Well done!

    If you are free this Thursday evening I invite you to come to my cocktail soiree on Scenic Drive. In addition to great food and drink directly on the Pacific there will be in attendance lots of car nuts, including Bill Warner founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Hope you can stop by!

    Cannonball Jack May http://www.cannonballdino.com rsvp= maycomp@aol.com

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