Scottsdale. Amelia Island. Greenwich. Carlisle. The Elegance at Hersey. Even Detroit's immodestly named Concours d'Eleglance of America. Each significant in its own right within the classic car constellation. And yet each and every one merely a preface, a prologue, a preliminary to the brightest of the stars -- the annual gathering of the clan each August on northern California's Monterey Peninsula.
It dates to 1950, when the boys came home from war with their "furrin" sports cars and races and a classic car show were staged at and around Pebble Beach. The racers eventually moved inland to a specially built Laguna Seca racing circuit -- no trees or luxury homes at the apex or exit of the corners.
And now, it seems, nearly every mile between Pebble and the paddock features some aspect of the classic car lifestyle, from buying to selling, and from driving at (close to the) posted speed limits on public roads to as fast as you can afford (or as brave as you can be) around the race track's famed Corkscrew turn.
For the classic car community, Monterey has become a more-than-a-week-long, nearly non-stop petrol party where, try as you might, you cannot possibly attend every event.
It starts with what used to be the wonderfully named Prehistoric race weekend at Laguna Seca, but a change in management now has the event called the Pre Reunion, August 11-12, when those who are invited to the actual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and many of those who didn't make the cut get to race their vintage vehicles around the track.
The actual Reunion runs August 17-19 and this year features the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Cobra. For the event, Ford has assembled a dozen "significant" Cobras that have never been in the same place at the same time, and 45 of the original 60 Cobras will be on the track.
Some of those Cobras and many other significant racing cars also will gather August 17 for the annual Quail Motorsports Gathering, where instead of racing around the track all sorts of historic race cars are parked on grass so everyone can get a good close look at them.
The Quail event is the venue for Bonhams annual Monterey Peninsula class car auction, which this year includes a 1966 Ford GT40, a 1972 NART Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona spyder racer, and an 1895 Buffum 4-Cylinder Stanhope claimed to be the oldest American car ever offered at auction and the world's oldest four-cylinder motor car.
Speaking of auctions, there are at least half of dozen of them on the peninsula during the week, including some 100 vintage motorcycles -- including what is believed to be the only complete collection of Triumph Bonneville TT bikes, one each from 1963 through 1967 -- offered by motorcycle specialist MidAmerica Auctions.
But that won't be the only place with an array of vintage bikes. As part of the Mecum Auction at Monterey, the entire MV Agusta Collection, 71 motorcycles collected over decades by Gary Kohs, will be offered -- and as a single lot. That's right: One bid for all 71 vehicles!
Headlining the cars at Mecum will be the 1972 L&M Porsche 917/10 Spyder prepped by Mark Donohue and raced by George Follmer to the Can-Am series championship for Roger Penske. Also on the docket are a turbine-powered Lotus raced at Indy by Graham Hill, a Shadow Can-Am racer, a 1955 Devin Monza convertible and the 1952 Astra sports coupe.
Russo and Steele's auction will include the 1954 Fiat Stanguellini Bertone Berlinetta, a New York Auto Show star that in 2010 won its class at Pebble Beach; a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina Series II cabriolet, 1963 Ferrari 400 Superamerica,;1956 Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce ultra light; a 1959 Devin SS SR5-1, as well as an array of Shelby Cobras and Mustangs.
And then, of course, there are RM and Gooding & Company, each with auction catalogs seeming to overflow with amazing vehicles expected to draw million-and-more dollar bids. But its auction is only part of RM's involvement at Pebble Beach. RM began as a classic car restoration business and its workshop remains among the best in the business. In four of the last 11 years, vehicles it restored have claimed best-in-show honors in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. This month, RM Auto Restoration will be represented by three vehicles on the show field.
For its Monterey auction this year, RM has prepared a pair of catalogs spanning 524 pages and including vehicles such as a 1930 Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8AS boattail cabriolet; a 1938 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B Mille Miglia Berlinetta and the 1960 Plymouth XNR, a stunning concept by Virgil Exner that would have been Chrysler's answer to the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird.
Other RM offerings include a 1938 Talbot-Lago T23 teardrop coupe by Figoni and Falaschi, the 1938 Horch 853A Special Roadster that recently won best-in-show at Pebble Beach, the 1968 Owens-Corning L-88 Corvette race car, a 1967 Ford GT40 Mark I, a 1956 Ferrari Tour de France 250GT, and even the 1956 Fiat Grand Prix transporter built for Maserati and later used by the Scarab and Shelby teams and featured in the movie, Le Mans.
Gooding's lineup is led by a 1960 Ferrari 250GT long-wheelbase California Spider Competizione, the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster built for the Baroness Gisela von Krieger and the 1935 Rollston-bodied Duesenberg Model JN convertible coupe originally owned by Clark Gable.
Also being offered are the 1928 Bentley 4 1/2-litre "Bobtail" Le Mans Sport, the last 1953 Jaguar C-type, a 1953 Ferrari 340 MM Spider, a 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC, a 1964 Ford GT40 prototype and a 1959 "Birdcage" Maserati Tipo 61, among others. More than a dozen of the cars being offered at the Gooding auction are from the William A.C. Petit III and Sherman M. Wolf collections.
Once someone has purchased and polished a classic car, there is a growing list of places on the peninsula to show it off, both on the road and in static display.
Beginning August 7, a group of classic cars makes its way each year down the coast from the Seattle area to Monterey. The Quail also hosts a series of driving tours on the peninsula. The Pacific Grove auto rally is in its 18th year. There's also the tour of LeMons from Seaside featuring an, shall we say, eclectic group of vehicles.
Even the Pebble Beach concours gets into the act with its own driving tour of the peninsula, giving everyone an opportunity to see some of the world's finest vehicles in motion and without charge. To encourage participation, in the case of a deadlock in the voting at the concours, the tie-breaking criteria is whether or not a vehicle's owner risked the roads by taking part in the tour.
In addition to the major concours -- at Pebble Beach, The Quail, and the Concorso Italiano, there are car shows in Carmel-by-the-Sea, in Pacific Grove, at Rancho Canada (Legends of the Autobahn for German classics), at the Barnyard shopping center (for Italian sports cars), at even the Monterey Jet Center, where exotic and classic cars are parked amid an array of vintage and modern aircraft.
Of course, the big show is the concours at Pebble Beach, where this year the featured classes will be Cars of the Maharajas, Mercer, Fiat (including Grand Prix racers and variants of the original Fiat 500), AC and Cobra, one-off American sport customs from 1930-1959 (see photo), cars bodied by Saoutchik, and motorcycles from Germany.
Monterey dominates the month of August, but it's not the only venue of interest. For example, while many are at Monterey, many more -- indeed, hundreds of thousands of people -- will be participating in Detroit's annual Woodward Dream Cruise.
And the weekend before Monterey, RM will offer the 175 cars in the Aalholm Automobile Museum collection at a no-reserve auction in Denmark. Offerings include an 1896 Leon Bollee Voiturette, 1900 Decauville roadster, 1904 Delahaye surrey-top tourer, a 1938 Bugatti 57C Stelvio with Gangloff bodywork, and even a replica of the original Wright brothers airplane.
RM does $6.8 million in Michigan
A Rolston-bodied 1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Victoria convertible originally owned by band leader Paul Whiteman sold for $957,000 and Al Capone's body-armored 1928 Cadillac brought $341,000 at RM's annual auction in conjunction with the Concours d'Elegance of America at the Inn at St. John's in Plymouth, Michigan.
Overall, the auction posted $6.8 million in sales, including $385,000 for a 1933 Packard Twelve convertible coupe, $368,500 for a 1931 Cord L-29 La Grand boattail speedster recreation and $352,000 for a 1937 Packard Twelve coupe roadster.
RM also enjoyed the concours, where the Le Baron-bodied 1933 Chrysler Imperial dual cowl Crown phaeton it sold earlier this year at the Milhous Collection auction won best-in-show among American-made vehicles while the de Villars-bodied 1933 Delage D8S coupe roadster restored at RM took best-in-show among imported vehicles. Two years ago, the same Delage won best-in-show at Pebble Beach.
'69 Shelby GT350 paces Mecum sale
Top sale at Mecum's Des Moines auction was $80,000 for a 1969 Shelby GT350 fastback. Other high sales at the event included $76,000 for a 1960 Mercedes-Benz 220SE, $73,000 for a 1963 split-window Chevrolet Corvette coupe, $70,000 for a 1957 Ford Thunderbird and $57,000 for a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air resto-mod.
Sale ordered of Kruse museums
News outlets in northern Indiana report that a judge has ordered a sheriff's sale of 328 acres of property owned by former classic car auctioneer Dean Kruse. The sale includes the National Military History Center and the Andy Granatelli Hall of Fame Museum.
The Early Ford V-8 Museum is owned by a separate foundation and is not involved in the court-ordered sale.
Gunnison readies for 25th annual car show
If you can't make it to Pebble Beach or Woodward Avenue, consider Gunnison, Colorado, where the Gunnison Car Club stages its 25th annual car show August 17-19. The weekend includes a ‘50s-style cruise-in on Main Street, a breakfast cruise to Crested Butte, an arts festival, concert, and a "Cars in the Stars" night at the local observatory, where the telescope will be trained on celestial features including a Galaxy, Polaris, Vega, Saturn, Taurus, Pulsar, Nova, etc.
At the show, a special award will be presented to Bud Well, long-time auto writer for the Denver Post newspaper.
For details, visit www.gunnisoncarclub.com.
Le May celebrates vintage motorcycles
Le May -- America's Car Museum -- hosts a vintage motorcycle and scooter festival August 25 at Tacoma, Washington, with a "Ride to Rainier" scheduled the following day. See www.lemaymuseum.org for details.
Click here for event calendar.
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