Monterey Car Week: Welcome To The City Of Car Guys

Monterey Car Week_edited-1Truth be told, I had a lot of preconceptions about Pebble Beach before heading there for my inaugural visit this year. The notion of being at such a prestigious event filled my head with images of fastidiously cared for vintage motorcars, the kind that often spend more time being looked at than being enjoyed. A vast collection of potential energy; history encased in amber.

But that notion was shattered before I even made it to my hotel when I came across an early 1960s Ferrari racecar (a vehicle with a value that’s likely somewhere in the eight-figure range) simply cruising through town, as though the driver was out to do some grocery shopping. After spotting a De Tomaso Mangusta nonchalantly hunting for a spot in a public parking lot, I came to the realization that Monterey Car Week is no typical car event.

Lamborghini Miuras were out in force during Monterey Car Week. More than two dozen of them were on hand at The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering.

Instead, it answers the unasked question of what a city would look like if the majority of the residents were well-heeled car fanatics. Within a few hours of arriving at Pebble Beach I simply had to stop gawking when an Aventador passed by and operate without awe when a ’57 Bel Air fuelie dragster crackled away next to me at a stop light. If that sounds like a real life version of the Forza Horizon series for Xbox, that’s because Monterey Car Week kind of is.

My steed for the journey from Los Angeles to Monterey was a 2017 Fiat 124 Spider. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Italian ragtop, and FCA chose the event to announce a new partnership between Fiat and the Bondurant Racing School.

This year, Fiat celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 124 Spider, just in time for the new Miata-based roadster to become available here in the States. Buyers who opt for the Abarth model will be treated to a one-day course at the legendary Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Arizona, the same facility where Dodge holds their SRT Experience course.

Bondurant has been training everyone from teenagers and military personnel to professional racecar drivers since 1968, and the training disciplines range from evasive maneuvering and car control techniques to high-speed race course driving. Racing icon Bob Bondurant and his roster of instructors – many of which are also highly successful former racers – are on hand to provide their expert tutelage.

Starting in October, anyone who purchases a Fiat 124 Spider Abarth will receive a day-long session at that school, which is not unlike the SRT Experience currently held there, a program which gets new SRT owners on track to learn how to pilot their new high-performance machines with professional instruction at the purpose-built facility.

Cadillac was up front about the Escala being a design exercise rather than a model bound for production, but they did say elements of its design language will find their way into future Cadillac products.

Within a few minutes of settling in at the hotel I was out on the road again, headed into town for a series of OEM-hosted receptions. Each was somehow more lavish than the next, culminating with a visit to Cadillac’s home away from home where they unveiled the Escala concept, a flagship sedan that they say is a harbinger of how their design language will evolve over the next few years.

Friday included a visit Aston Martin’s HQ at Pebble, where the folks from Coventry had set up a facility to showcase not only their latest offerings, but to allow enthusiasts a chance to see some of the craftsmanship that goes into the company’s design and construction processes, which included a look at the evolution of the design of the DB10.

Only ten examples of the DB10 were produced, all specifically for use in the Bond film Spectre. Aston’s latest creation, the DB11, was also on hand for up-close inspection.

From modern hypercars to vintage racecars worth tens of millions of dollars, there's so much eye candy on hand at The Quail it's nearly impossible to process it all while you're actually there.

But far more automotive-themed indulgence awaited me at The Quail. Considered by many to be the centerpiece of Monterey Car Week, The Quail is an event that gathers together one of the most incredible collections of exotic, rare, and simply awe-inspiring vehicles from around the world, both old and new.

It’s here where Lamborghini took the wraps off their latest creation, the Centenario Roadster, a 759 horsepower drop-top that’s capable of hitting 62 miles per hour from a standstill in just 2.9 seconds. Only 20 examples will be built in total, and they will command an asking price of approximately $2.2 million. You can go ahead and put your checkbook down now, because all twenty have already been sold.

While not as massive as The Quail event, Concourso Italiano has no shortage of incredible hardware.

While not as massive as The Quail, Concourso Italiano has no shortage of incredible hardware.

While The Quail is considered by some to be the crown jewel of Monterey Car Week, for me it would be hard to top Saturday’s itinerary. After a brief visit to Concorso Italiano to shoot the breeze with Bob and Pat Bondurant about the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, the newest addition to their racing school vehicle roster, as well as upcoming changes to the Bondurant facility itself, which includes a new three-mile road course which they’re set to break ground on in the coming months. I headed out to my first scheduled road test of the day – the Lamborghini Huracán LP-610 4 Spyder.

Driving a Ferrari down Highway 1 with the California coastline as the backdrop is every bit as epic as one would imagine it is.

Lamborghini’s suggested drive route took me up Laurel’s Grade, a stretch of twisting tarmac that leads up to the gates of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Although I had the good fortune of getting some seat time in the Spyder earlier this year, an untimely rain storm had put a bit of a damper on the proceedings. Not this time. Here in Pebble Beach an open-top supercar, blue skies, and a snaking piece of heavenly asphalt was the equation with this time around. I’m not sure I would have given the car back willingly under normal circumstances, but as luck would have it, there was another car to drive that day.

Nestled just off the northern tip of Big Sur on Pacific Coast Highway, Maranello couldn’t have picked a more ideal setting for Casa Ferrari, their locale during Monterey Car Week. It also served as launch point for some seat time in the 488 GTB, Ferrari’s latest mid-engined, 660 horsepower super sports car.

The 488 GTB features a twin-turbocharged 3.9-liter V8 that generates a healthy 660 horsepower. Power is routed to the rear wheels and gear changes are managed by a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. Purists expressed concern about Ferrari's return to turbocharging. But in the case of the 488, I can confidently say they have absolutely nothing to worry about.

As the successor to the now-legendary 458 Italia, the 488 GTB had some pretty big shoes to fill, and I intended to give this car a thorough shakedown to see how successful it was in that endeavor. And yes – driving a Ferrari down Highway 1 with the California coastline as the backdrop is every bit as epic as one would imagine it is.

Sunday kicked off at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the finale of the Monterey Car Week events. Here, cars of untold value are gathered on the Pebble Beach golf course lawn into various classes (Post-war racecars, pre-war Ferraris, etc) to be judged and, if deemed worthy, awarded by the Pebble Beach judges.

Each year the Concours field is selected from a massive pool of applicants, and if a car is accepted to the Concours, it cannot be entered in the event again by the same owner for no less than a decade.

As incredible as the collection of vehicles at the Concours d’Elegance was, if I’m honest my next and final stop during Monterey Car Week felt a little more my speed. The final rounds of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion were underway at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and here the vintage iron wasn’t just judged, it was raced, and raced hard.

Qualifying sessions from the days prior saw numerous yellow flags from cars being pushed beyond their limits and sent off track. These racers weren’t just out there to put on show, they wanted to stand on that podium.

Here the music came from the roar of uncorked V12s and high-winding flat sixes, and the smell of spent race gas hung the air, rather than perfume.

Although I longed to be out there mixing it up on-track with the rest of them as I headed from one photo op spot to next around the iconic track, I took some solace in the fact that it’s anyone’s guess what I’ll be up to at next year’s Monterey Car Week – if it’s anything like my first visit, the only thing that’s certain is that it will be an experience I won’t soon forget.

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About the author

Bradley Iger

Lover of noisy cars, noisy music, and noisy bulldogs, Brad can often be found flogging something expensive along the twisting tarmac of the Angeles Forest.
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