I made the annual pilgrimage to the Monterey Peninsula this year as the sole representative from the SL Market Letter. Olson kept the SLML office in Minneapolis running while I spent a week in car guy nirvana. I stayed with friends who live in Pacific Grove, CA. They’re locals to the core, they grew up in Carmel and know the Peninsula like the backs of their hands.
One of the things I wasn’t prepared for last year, my first year at ‘car week’ was the traffic. Hwy 1 between Monterey and Pebble Beach was usually a parking lot of exotic and classic cars, I literally spent hours in traffic. This year, I don’t think I spent more than an hour in traffic all week thanks to my friend’s intimate knowledge of the back roads between these little towns.
Instead of getting on Hwy 1 to go from Monterey to Carmel, we’d go through Asilomar to 17 mile drive and cut off on a side street, go through residential streets, through the hills, ending up a block off of Ocean Ave. We’d pull up next to a house and they’d call their friend who lives there to see if we could park in the driveway for the afternoon, it was amazing. Just as I’ve found when traveling in other countries, it pays to know the locals. These guys grew up driving these roads to high school, they can certainly handle car week.
Making the experience that much sweeter, I was carted around all week in the back seat of a 1968 280SE shod with always stylish AMG Penta wheels. I felt like a James Bond villain, if only I had a white cat. We got more ‘thumbs up’ and waves cruising around in this car, people love it.
Regarding the many car events going on throughout the week, everyone says you must pick and choose the events you want to attend, and they’re right. You can’t possibly do it all. I attended as many as I comfortably could and I found a strong Mercedes-Benz presence everywhere, from show cars to rally and tour participants to guys wearing Mercedes-Benz hats. Not making it to the Laguna Seca race track was unfortunate, but there’s always next year.
Concours on the Avenue – Carmel-by-the-Sea. Tuesday, August 12
I missed this event last year because we didn’t arrive on the Peninsula until Wednesday, I was glad to have experienced this wonderful show this year. Concours on the Avenue showcases more than 200 cars along Ocean Avenue in Carmel. Among the wide range of cars on display were several 300SLs, both roadsters and coupes as well as a 190SL. The best 1964 300SE Fintal sedan I’ve ever seen was there, a car that had been restored to an extremely high level. The card on the windshield said it was “the late Drew Tibcken’s car – founder of Heritage Woodworks automobile restoration shop – shown today in tribute to his life and work.”
Concours on the Avenue is one of just a few events that you don’t have to open up your wallet to attend during the week. Many of the cars are from northern California and most of their owners are sitting beside them, ready and willing to tell you all about their car if you ask. Sportscar Market Editor at Large, Donald Osborne and European television personality Alain de Cadenet could both be heard over the PA system giving awards to class winners and discussing the cars from the event podium.
The Little Car Show – Downtown Pacific Grove – Wednesday, August 13
This is exactly what it sounds like, a car show for ‘little cars’, held in downtown Pacific Grove, just a few blocks from the house where I was staying. We got up and walked downtown for a cup of coffee and strolled through an eclectic mix of (mostly) little cars. In attendance were the usual micro car suspects, a couple of BMW Isetta variants a Messerschmitt, Mini Coopers, Volkswagen Beetles, a Morris Minor and far more odd ball marques. The largest car at the show was the only Mercedes-Benz, a right hand drive 220S Ponton sedan that, from the stickers on the back and the flag on the car, must have had ties to New Zealand.
McCall’s Motorworks Revival – Monterey Jet Center – Wednesday, August 13
I’ve read about this event over the years, even seen TV show coverage of what is generally thought to be THE party of car week and when I walked onto the tarmac of the jet center, I wasn’t disappointed.
Scattered around were multi-million dollar cars, helicopters and airplanes, from a Gulfstream G450 to a P-51 Mustang. Hangers were full of food and drinks, and of course more cars. There was a corporate Mercedes-Benz Style display showcasing the ‘virtual super car’ AMG Vision Gran Tourismo, designed for the release of the video game, Gran Tourismo 6. According to the plaque next to the car, this concept was designed with input from “Mercedes styling studios in Sindelfingen, Germany, as well as in Como, Italy and Carlsbad, California.”
At all of these events I usually run into SL Market Letter subscribers. At the McCall party I had a nice conversation with Eric Hjeltness standing next to a gorgeous 300SL roadster, black with a green leather interior, that recently came out of his shop. The McCall Party was one of the most memorable of the week. The people, the food, the atmosphere, it was a special night.
Pebble Beach Retro Auto – Inn at Spanish Bay – August 13 – 16
The Inn at Spanish Bay is always a nice place for lunch or breakfast. This year the Retro-Auto exhibits moved from a tent near the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center to the ballrooms of the Inn at Spanish Bay. Exhibits full of automotive artwork, automobilia, clothing and the like were fun to stroll through. There was a round table discussion one day featuring Simon Kidston, Nick Mason and Sterling Moss at the Inn at Retro Auto, unfortunately I didn’t know about that event until it was over or I would have been sure to have attended.
Legends of the Autobahn – Nicklaus Club – Monterey – August 15
There were some changes at the Legends of the Autobahn show this year. In short, the Porsche Club split off from the Legends of the Autobahn show and created a Porsche only event at the Rancho Canada Golf Club. The Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi clubs moved the Legends of the Autobahn to the Nicklaus Club – Monterey, and to great affect I must say. There were some spectacular Mercedes at this show (another free event) from all eras. You expect to see 300SLs, 190SLs, a big line up of Pagoda SLs, but it’s great to see a very well cared for W124 E class wagon and a row of 190E 2.3-16s. These newer cars certainly seem to have what it takes to become real classics in the not too distant future, it’s nice to see enthusiastic owners doting on them.
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – Pebble Beach Golf Links – August 17
The big show… as I’ve probably written before, this is a difficult event to describe. World class cars (from 38 countries this year) sprinkled over a beautiful setting. Ladies in fancy hats, men in jackets, 75 and 100 year old cars smoking (or steaming!) as they drive towards the awards podium, absolutely incredible. The pre war Mercedes-Benz category is always memorable. The Classic Center in Germany brought an imposing 1938 540K Streamliner (for display only). 300SL fans will be glad to know that a 1962 300SL roadster placed 2nd in Class L2 (Post-War Preservation). This car was an exceedingly original, low mile example that looked right at home on the lawn.