How do I even start an article like this? How do I put four days, packed to the brim, with some of the most outstanding automotive exhibitions on the West Coast in one post? With this being my second year at Monterey Car Week, I had some idea of the way things would unfold but nowhere near enough to approximate the marvels I would be a part of. Let me walk you through every show I had the privilege of attending during Monterey Car Week. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll get an idea of why people call this week the “Mecca of Automotive Enthusiasts.”
Japanese Automotive Invitational
This year, thanks to my old friend Jeff Swain, I was able to help MotorTrend and Infiniti source three cars for their Japanese Automotive Invitational. They promised it would be the best showcase of JDM culture in Monterey and by no means did they disappoint. Even when faced with gathering a dozen cars in two weeks and safely transporting them hours, even days away from their homes, they delivered.
My contributions, a 1990 Lexus LS400, a 1996 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 Spyder, and a 1970 Subaru 360 took the lawn alongside marvels like an incredible Datsun 510 Wagon, an R34 Skyline, and a Nissan Autech Stelvio Zagato. Word has it that it will be even bigger next year and frankly, I’m all for it.
My newfound friends at MotorTrend gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the unveiling of a brand new vehicle.
The revived DeLorean Motor Company unveiled the Alpha5 “sedan” alongside the PlasmaTail shooting brake and the off-road-inspired Omega over a period of three days. Penned by Italdesign, the same company that designed the original DMC-12, the cars were created by first making an imaginary roadmap for the company that never was.
Rather than create an entirely new design, Italdesign imagined what DMC would have created throughout the decades leading up to today and based the cars on the design cues of their respective time periods. I thought it was nice that they really seemed to take note of what made the DMC-12 so popular with collectors and try to respect that heritage with the new models. Whether they will actually look the same when they are on the market remains to be seen.
The reveals were further amplified by complimentary food, beverages, and live entertainment which made each night feel just as special as the last. They created a lovely atmosphere and some beautiful-looking cars. I just hope they don’t go the way of the original DeLorean Motor Company.
Alfa is Back!
The MotorTrend train continues! Much like last year, Alfa Romeo hosted a private VIP party to show off their new Tonale. While I’m not the biggest fan of SUVs, I did enjoy being surrounded by classic Alfa Romeos along with the quality food and drinks I’ve come to expect from last year’s party.
An interesting sponsor at this year’s event was Rebellion Timepieces, a small Swiss watchmaker with a flying tourbillon watch on offer. It’s a radical design with a fitting price somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. One guy I spent some time with was seriously considering buying it but didn’t follow through that night. If he does, you bet I will be the first in line to write about it!
Mecum, R.M. Sotheby’s, and Gooding & Company were the three big auctions this year at Monterey and yours truly got passes to all of them. Not to say that the others were bad in any way, but R.M. was by far my favorite of the three.
They had the most unique cars out of the lot with the 1938 Peugeot 402 Darl’mat Special Coupe by Pourtout being my personal favorite just because of the strange design cues that I haven’t seen on another car. Not to mention that R.M. also hosted the one-of-one 2022 Porsche 911 ‘Sally Special’, a replica of one of the main characters in the movie “Cars” that ended up selling for $3,600,000 USD.
Gooding & Co. had its own share of European classics ranging from an Enzo, to a Bugatti EB110, and a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante, my all-time dream Bugatti. The swooping curves, quad exhausts, and the shining black on tan body of any Type 57 are the things that my dreams are made of. The SC Atalante takes that to a whole new level not only in terms of value and rarity but also in evolving the already-stunning design elements without being overly gaudy and ostentatious.
Mecum leaned a little more into American and Muscle cars which, while they’re not my personal favorites, it was great to see that everyone’s niches were represented across the board. Even with the DRAG-U-LA from “The Munsters” being present, my heart was stolen by a 1-of-530 1976 Rolls-Royce Camargue. Much like the Ferrari 400 and 412 look like Ferraris thanks to their angular nature, this Camargue looks nothing like a modern Rolls. Despite being boxy, it still has that upper-class air about it that demands respect and a second look.
Of course, I had to attend the worst (on purpose) car show at Monterey Car Week! Even though my 300ZX is not a lemon, Head Gasket and friend of mine Alan Galbraith let me enter it as part of the show anyway right next to the Nissan Leaf with a motorcycle engine in the back. No really look, I have photographic evidence.
That thing was probably as mean as a Nissan Leaf has and will ever sound. The best part of that car was that as far as the state is aware, it is still a Leaf EV which is one of the biggest middle fingers I’ve seen a car guy give to this state. It’s such a hoot to see how many people can laugh at themselves, regardless of how frequently they need to top up on their tetanus booster. Lemons is a real reminder that a car’s value has nothing in common with the happiness it can bring to its owner and those who lay their eyes upon it. It’s all about the character and the stories it brings with it, much like its owner.
What really made the show for me is that I FINALLY got to meet my CarTrek buddies in person! Including Elliott Alvis and John Ficcara! Getting to actually say hello to them and spend the show enjoying the biggest rust buckets and oil stains of Monterey was like meeting your idols and they did not disappoint.
The absolute best-of-lawn for me was a cross between a tub of margarine on wheels and a strange bathtub called the Acoma Mini Comtesse Break Type 490. This single-cylinder French “wonder” was designed as a two-seater grocery hauler for older folks and featured a “large” hatch opening. No wonder this is European.
I’m not a super Porsche fan, so this section won’t be very long, but man did I see some incredible Porsches here. An unrestored, beautifully rusted 356 and an absolute monster of a 928 dubbed “Renegade 928” were my personal faves. There was so much going on with that 928 between the big wing and the casino-themed interior that I’m just going to leave you with this image. Explore at will.
Test Drives + A Visit to LBI!
In between the madness, I had the opportunity to test drive a 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport and a Lucid Air. While the Lexus was largely unexciting thanks to the traffic we encountered on the way, the free Lexus hat, snacks, and cocktails made up for it tenfold. It was overall a pleasurable experience for both me and my parents, who took a beautiful red convertible LC500 out for a spin.
The Lucid, on the other hand, was everything I thought it would be. I’m not into EVs, but I would make an exception for the Air. The two-tone paint scheme and overall retro-futuristic design of the car made me fall in love with it from the moment I saw an ad for it online. The interior, while being more screen-dominated than I would like, was easy enough to navigate that I didn’t hate it like I thought I would. And of course, the instant power that propelled my skull into the headrest only helped me love the car that much more. I walked away from the booth with a sudden desire for my own Air as well as two cans of very good coffee, a sandwich, lemon zest almonds, and chips made from vegetable pulp. The concept sounds weird, yes, but they were also very tasty.
On the other side of town, my coworkers from LBI Limited had set up a pop-up garage at my buddy Steve’s shop! If y’all don’t know about them, LBI are collector car brokers with headquarters on the east coast, meaning this was the first time we had met in person! I was also able to see the barn find 356 I had written a description for just a few days ago which made the whole experience even more surreal. Until next time boys!
Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance
While I sadly didn’t get into The Quail this year (next year, please?) I was able to finally experience The Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance in person and what an experience it was. Between the sea breeze, the seemingly never-ending lawn, and the billions of dollars worth of classic cars surrounding me on each side, this show is something that needs to be felt in person to be truly understood. It’s almost overwhelming but I was never bored. There was always something more incredible lurking just past that row. Walking the entire lawn from end to end took me three hours and yielded over 400 pictures that barely begin to describe the sheer beauty of the whole show.
Something that immediately struck me as peculiar was the number of people having picnics on the lawn. I’m not sure if this is a Pebble tradition or if it was a direct result of the too-high-for-me food prices but nonetheless it was charming to see so many folks enjoying time with their loved ones among their cars.
It wasn’t easy to pick a favorite but between the Iso Grifos, the real Le Mans cars before me, and the mind-blowing Chrysler Turbine that I never thought would see, I found it.
The automotive embodiment of opulence and over-indulgence that tops any luxury car I have and will ever likely see was a 1935 Voisin C 25 Aerodyne. Designed by French aircraft manufacturer Gabriel B. Voisin, this explosion of Art Deco spaceships has a retractable roof with four porthole windows that requires a twin-cylinder suction engine mounted in the trunk to operate. It’s so lightweight, that the fenders need those support struts for stability. It has three windshield wipers mounted almost in the middle of the windshield. Few cars have ever left me as speechless as this one has but there are just no words that I know of that can describe how imposing this car feels to be around. Any design elements that would seem unnecessary on any other car almost seem imperative on this one. It is incredible. Only eight were ever made and getting to drive one is now a bucket list item of mine. I cannot wait to write about it should it ever happen.
With a mildly sunburnt face and legs heavier than the rest of my body, I trudged back to the shuttle that would take me to my car and met my buddy Andrew Chang from Marqued on the way. Together we reminisced over the week we had just had, the cars we had seen, and most importantly, the people we had met.
Monterey Car Week is inherently about the cars, I mean it’s in the name of the thing after all. But a bigger part of experiencing it in person is the social aspect of it. Whether it’s meeting coworkers from the other side of the country that you’ve only ever talked to through Zoom before, getting to see your heroes for the first time and spending quality time with them while staring at rusty cars, or becoming acquainted with a watch company selling a $210,000 flying tourbillon watch (looking at you Rebellion); it’s all a part of Car Week. Maybe the motel room sucked and yes, maybe the drive was longer than the three hours Google Maps had estimated for me, but it all faded into a negligent blur when compared with all of the good I experienced.
Three hours later, I was home and already missing Monterey and its cold weather. Through it all, my trusty 300ZX roared along the pavement without skipping a beat and was always happy to make the aftermarket exhaust scream speedometer’s bright orange needle climb ever higher. I love that car more than I expected when I first bought it and I couldn’t have asked for a better automotive companion to spend my week with.
To say that I look forward to next year would be a massive understatement and I’m sure anyone who has experienced it will agree. I hope that those of you who have yet to go will get the chance to because it really is unlike anything else. Hopefully, you now understand why people call this week the “Mecca of Automotive Enthusiasts.”
For my full Monterey Car Week 2022 gallery, click here!