Monday, August 27, 2012

Monterey, Part I

Everything in my life is over the top hectic right now, so I'm still scratching my head over the fact that I managed to squeeze in almost four full days at Monterey's Car Week!  The opportunity (as in a free pass to the Pebble Beach concours) presented itself and I cleared the decks in order to take advantage - I couldn't afford NOT to.  I've been to the Rolex Historic Motorports Fest at Laguna Seca before but I'd never seen the Pebble Beach Concours.... seeing the two together was almost to much stimulation for one weekend.

Lots came together to make this all work, but a big part was the hospitality of Mike and Nancy Bainter.  Some of you may remember that Mike also hauled a half ton of Crosley parts back from the Ohio National meet for me last year.  He and Nancy live in Pacific Grove just outside of Monterey, and they handed me a key and made me feel like their casa was mi casa for the whole time!  Awesome folks, but since they're Crosley people you probably already figured that out.
Another kindness came from Lee and Dianne Osborn, who campaign the stunning Shannon Special Hmod at the races.  I've come out to see Lee race a couple of times, but I've been a bit of bad luck charm - he usually wins his class, but the car DNF'd both times I'd been there.  Apparently they aren't superstitious because they saved their spare ticket to Laguna Seca for me.
If you've never been to Monterey during Car Week, it is surreal.  My friend Dean refers to it as an alternate universe, and that describes it pretty well: imagine a universe where Ferraris, XK120 Jags, bathtub Porsches and vintage Triumphs and MGs are at nearly every stop light, and every fourth car you see on the road is something vintage or exotic.  I couldn't get used to the novelty of parking the Savoy next to Lamborghinis and other exotica.  It's weird, like you somehow drove into a TinTin book.
I headed over to the track on Friday morning and wandered around while Lee and Dianne prepped for the afternoon qualifier.  As always, there was too much to take it all in at once.  This event (formerly known as the Monterey Historics) is one of the most prestigious vintage race events of the year, so the cars there are incredible.  This year, the spotlight was on the Ford Cobra, and there were a ton of them there, including the first one Carroll Shelby built, and most of the ones with the best racing pedigrees.  They also had an original AC Ace for the before-and-after.
Visitors have full access to the pits, so I just wandered around, taking it all in.  SO much to see!
This Comet was rallied in Africa back in the '60s - the original owner also used it as his regular car!  Years ago I remember seeing pictures of it up to the hubs in snow in Tahoe during a family camping trip.  I suspect the current owners don't take it down to Safeway when they need a gallon of milk...
There were a couple of Siatas, including this mind-blowing coupe - beautiful, but all business.  I think this had the Fiat V8, but I'm not sure.
Lots of amazing prewar stuff, too.  I don't remember what this was, but it was displayed really well.
This was a stunner too - look at that exhaust!
A lot of people loved this car - how often do you see a 'beater' Porsche Spyder?  With all the perfect cars there, the road rash on this one is a good reminder of what most race cars looked like when they were being actively campaigned.
Mike Cleary was there with the Crosley-powered Devin he built and raced in the fifties, and the Mercury outboard-powered special he ran in the '60s - his son drives the Merc these days and Mike drives the Crosley.  They were both having mechanical issues this weekend.
And how about a BMW 700?  Pretty neat to see it on the track but it was pretty slow.
Lee's test race was at 3PM so we went down to the grid.... he was the first one there so he was head of the line.
He was in a huge group - 40 cars.  Lots of interesting stuff; #15 is the Tatum Special and that's an Allard right behind it.
This Ferrari was a thing of beauty. No car looks better in red than a fifties Ferrari.
This vette was about as cool as they get- I think the owner has had it since new or thereabouts...
A different Siata- this one is the big brother of the Crosley-powered Spyders.  Ernie McAfee ran one of these in the Carrera Panamericana in 1953.
Not sure what was going on with the Merc, but he pulled over to have it checked about three times during the trial run.   Lee's car ran great so he was all set for the 'real' race on Sunday.  Other folks weren't so lucky.

This is actually one of my favorite parts of going to the vintage races: watching the teams dig into the cars in the pits. It's not uncommon to see heads coming off, suspensions being dropped or even whole engines being swapped out.  I'm sure it sucks for them, but it really adds to the feel of the whole event.  I took a few last pics and headed for Mike and Nancy's, ready for another day...
To be continued...

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