Like I should have to tell any real gearhead this, but it’s almost time for the Monterey Historics, also known as the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. For those that don’t know (and I pity their barren and bereft life), every year around mid-August there is easily the best gathering of old cool rides, sports cars, and vintage racers on the planet. It takes place at Laguna Seca, Pebble Beach, The Quail Lodge, and as a rolling display on the costal and inland roads of the Monterey Peninsula.
The Monterey Historics make every other similar event look like a Saturday night cruise-in at the Malt Shack in size, scope, breadth, and depth. Besides Monterey, The Goodwood Festival of Speed is just a run up a rich guy’s driveway with some cos-play thrown in. The Amelia Island Concours is just a bunch of swells standing around talking about the new colors in Ralph Lauren polo shirts. The parking lot at Laguna Seca is better than 75% of the car shows I’ve been to. My first time to the vintage races, I was waiting in line when I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw an alloy-bodied Ferrari short-wheelbase Berlinetta. “How many of those did they make,” I wondered, “14, 16, something like that.” 20 yards later, I drove by two more of them parked in the infield.
The entire locale is saturated in vintage and exotic iron to the point of metallosis. There are Ferraris and Bugattis and Alfas and Lambos and Jags and Astons and Delahayes and Stutz Bearcats and Packards and Duesenbergs all over the place; literally around every corner. I saw a Bugatti Type 35 parked at a frickin’ 7-Eleven while the owner was inside buying smokes. It is that level of saturation, and this year’s event doesn’t show any signs of letting up. For example, just at Laguna Seca alone, there will be some of the most prominent racing history on display yet.
There will be a special infield exhibit showing racers with historical significance to the track, with the first and most recent winners across from one another. The 1956 Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa Pete Lovely drove to victory at the inaugural Laguna Seca event and the Pebble Beach Road Races in 1957 will be among the first. Those Pebble Beach Road Races were the good, old style races on closed public roads, in and out of the fog shrouded trees, with scant attention paid to “safety.”
Lovely’s ’56 Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa is a car I’m actually quite familiar with. Lovely was a local racer when I was growing up; he kept the car throughout his life and I saw it many times at other vintage races. Next to Lovely’s iconic machine will be the 2016 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 that Alvaro Parente won the Pirelli World Challenge with last October.
Also on exhibition, the 1956 Porsche 356A Carrera that competed in the last race on the old Pebble Beach course. There will be a 1963 Shelby King Cobra, an odd choice since the King Cobras never lived up to their promise, nor did they match the exploits of the original Cobras. A 1971 Ford Mustang Boss 302 will also be shown, representative of the Trans Am battles that took place there and at other tracks across North America. A monstrous 1973 Porsche 917/30, the car Roger Penske and Mark Donohue refined to such a degree that it destroyed the competition and then the entire series will be on display. Also on exhibit, a 1983 March Indy Car, the first to win at Laguna Seca.
There will be a 1985 Porsche 962, the IMSA variant of the 956, alongside the frighteningly effective 1993 AAR Toyota Eagle that Dan Gurney used in annihilating the competition. There will also be the 1999 BMW V12 LMR that won the Le Mans 24 Hours after extensive input from Williams Grand Prix Engineering. The Le Mans 24 Hours gets further representation with a 2005 Audi R8 that has unique ties to the 2.238-mile circuit. As a final cherry on top, you can get up close and personal with the 1989 Yamaha YZR500 Wayne Rainey rode to a win at the 1989 U.S. Grand Prix. That was Rainey’s first of three consecutive victories in Monterey. Little guy was so good with a bike they named one of the corners after him (it’s the left-hander directly after the 80-foot elevator drop of the Corkscrew).
If you can make it, go. If you can’t make it this year, go as soon as you can. On the track there will be 550 race cars of historic provenance doing what they were designed to do: race. Don’t care about race cars? Then consider the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach; there’s The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering or the Concorso Italiano as well. Either way, get out and enjoy a world-class car show when you can. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is held August 17th through the 20th.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.