A CONNOISSEUR’S TRAVELS: Monterey 2019 Car Week
Part One

by Wallace Wyss

Going to Monterey Car Week is a little like planning for, say, D-day without the shooting. You are going to be dropped into the midst of all this activity, and there’s never time for even stop for a cuppa.

This year, I invited some rubes (car wise) and so it was a different trip. They are not car people but I thought they would enjoy the Peninsula with its cool temps and spectacular view. Plus I could have them work my art & books booth at Concorso…

Automobilia Show

Automobilia Show

McCall Aviation Party

On Wednesday we arrived in time to catch the tail end of Automoblia, a two day show that runs at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside, near Monterey from Tuesday through Wednesday.

Billing themselves as the "largest automobilia show in America." it's geared to memorabilia - old posters. racing or PR photos, club badges, and even some actual car bits like those hard-to-find Marchal or Cibie or Lucas foglamps.

There were at least three automotive fine artists, one being a local Salinas man who it's been fun to see grow in talent from year to year. There were model cars of all different scale, some in the hundreds of dollars. The show costs a mere $20… the bargain of Car Week.

On the Wednesday of Car Week there’s a party on the tarmac in front of a big hanger at the Monterey airport. 20-30 vintage cars, a few new ones, and some airplanes, both old (WWII era) and new biz jets. Everybody is dressed to the nines, (short of tuxedos), there's music and appetizers. There is usually some exotic car… a new one… being unveiled.

Retroauto is a show that runs Thursday through Saturday at Pebble Beach’s other but lesser known hotel, the Inn at Spanish Bay. This second hotel can be hard to find but it' only a mile from the truly well hidden Pacific Grove entrance to the exclusive community of Pebble Beach. RetroAuto claims they offer "an elegant and thoughtfully curated collection of exhibitors" which not only have genuinely vintage items but new luxury goods with automotive themes.

I met with several vendors I always enjoy seeing like Chelsea Motoring Literature with all their original pamphlets. l'Art et l’Automobile , once domiciled in a penthouse in Manhattan, was there from their home in Texas with magnificent racing posters. The founder, Jacques Vaucher, was once a racer himself. When it comes to photography you may not find a better studio photographer than Michael Fuhrman, who had a booth selling his splendid books. Painter Tim Layzell, who, in case you missed them, has created past posters for Pebble Beach was also exhibiting his work.

One guy I got a kick out of was Al Dimauro with his custom leather jackets, well suited to Monterey temperatures. There were at least a dozen more vendors. In sum, RetroAuto is a class act …and you can't beat the price.

McCall Aviation Party**

Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance*

Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance

There are actually two free car shows in Carmel, but I made sure I was going to be there Thursday morning so we could attend the second free show of Monterey Car Week. We knew we had to get to Carmel very early because of parking. It’s tiny so when 10,000 or so spectators line the main street to see the Tour d’Elegance, parking is very hard to find. The event is advance publicity for the Pebble Beach concours on Sunday. Volunteer concours entrants go on a tour of the Peninsula ending in Carmel where they all have a nice lunch and the assembled crowd oohs and ahhs at their show cars.

Laguna Seca

Laguna Seca

Laguna Seca

At some point I went to the racetrack on my own. This used to be the high point of my Montereys, back when I was shooting race cars. Years ago I abandoned the long lenses along with film cameras and switched to a point-and-shoot. My new choice isn’t regarded as a race photographer’s weapon of choice. Plus the track is wary of having too many photographers out where out-of-control cars could be a danger, so I accepted the normal spectator pass, and tried to find a suitable scene for a future painting in race cars parked in the pits.

What makes the pit stop displays entertaining is the elaborate signs car owners post with their cars history; essentially bios of who raced it before, why the car was developed, etc. The track publishes a list of which classes race and when so you need not miss your favorites.

The track also has a sort of midway of tents where you can find fine art, very artful t-shirts, model cars and books. I love the way Nicholas Huntzinger, of Switzerland, is progressing year by year, now with some fine art to go with his graphically dynamic shirts. I saw one automaker capitalizing off the crowd along the midway. It was Rover. They had built a little hill and you could sign up to drive a Rover up the hill. Not enough of a hill for me, but I appreciate the chance to go off-road, even if it’s only for 100 feet.

Very clever indeed was Chevrolet with a 2020 mid-engine Corvette tucked away in a small booth near the building that houses pit row. They not only had a new Corvette coupe but a second 2020 with a cutaway body so you could see how it was made.

The Quail**

Years ago, when I first heard of The Quail: A Motorsports Event, I wondered why the Quail was created because I thought “well, there is already a Pebble Beach. Why do they need another fancy concours?” Now, in 2019, I get it. This show is a lot more than a contest of the most elegant cars. It has become more of a social occasion, equivalent, say, to opening day at Ascot the thoroughbred racetrack in England.

This is a show created not only for men who are steeped in car culture but for the women to come and show off their finery. And then there’s the food. I only took one meal but there were at least three gourmet restaurants and when I finally arrived (after a one hour traffic jam) everybody was already dining and socializing. Oh, some were looking at the cars… but it is obvious that the Quail is much more of a major social occasion than simply a car show.

Officially called The Quail Motorsports Gathering, it has a lot of exclusivity to sell. For example, there are only 6,000 spectators, limited by ticket sales so it won’t get too crowded. The number of cars appears smaller than the 250 they claim but it’s such an electric mix—from hot rods to one off coach-built built cars, to new creations. And let me tell you about the Quail’s increasing status in unveiling new creations. True, the De Tomaso P72, a new German developed prototype using the Italian company’s name, already appeared at Goodwood but at the Quail, in that setting with that clientele, it looked right.

Remember when luxury car makers debuted their car at shows like the LA Int. auto show? After seeing the perfect match between the cars shown and the audience paying to see them that the Quail, and Monterey Car Week in general, it may be a better investment for Rolls, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc. than the major auto shows where, let’s face it, few onlookers can take out a checkbook and order your car. At the Pebble Beach concours, automaker displays are outside the concours but at the Quail automakers have booths right in the show, and very comfortable booths they are: leather couches, refreshments, magazines, all the comforts of home.

The Quail

The Quail: Lotus Evija**

The Quail: Porsche stand

Among the prototypes shown at the Quail: Lamborghini's new Aventador Roadster, (which the rumor mill was saying was completely sold out before Its Monterey car week debut); the Bentley prototype called the EXP 100GT (was a bit over the top with its headlights were bizarre and boasting a grille that was big enough for a Mack truck). This year’s Quail had no less than 11 concept cars, including the Bentley, the 1,600 hp Bugatti Centodieci and the 2,000 hp. Lotus Evija hypercar among others.

As I walked in the head of Bugatti was expounding on the reason for their latest car, which I believe is the most expensive new car in history. Singer Vehicle Design was also there. They specialize in re-doing Porsche 964s in their own way. If there was a trend observable among the prototypes, it was that the mid-engined car with Lambo style lift up doors is now “The Rule”.

Just as the Pebble Beach Concours has an auction taking place only a short walk from the concours, theQuail had the 22nd Annual Bonhams Motorcar Auction on the western grounds, accessible by golf cart.

The Quail must have an incredibly educated committee selecting from among the thousand or more applicants who want to enter their car, in that they select the most interesting cars like not only a Countach but Periscopia, one of the early Countachs that had a periscope rear view mirror.

Car Week coverage continues... »

Photo Credits: Wallace Wyss, Automobilia, *©Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance/Kimball Studios, **Kahn Media
(Publisher's Note: This story presents the personal views and experiences of Wallace Wyss.