MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: On the Road to Monterey

Posted on September 16, 2013 Comments (0)

Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Three times is a charm and that’s how I felt returning from my third year at Monterey and Pebble Beach. Never claiming to be an expert, but having hit most of the major events and attractions over the past three years, I am both thrilled and eager to share what I know. Like all of my motorsports adventures, the key is to plan ahead, especially if you want to kick Pebble off your bucket list.

Always a winner, this 1912 Packard 307 Passenger Touring still enjoyed by Phil Hill’s family, is a wonderful tribute to a great legend.

Always a winner, this 1912 Packard 307 Passenger Touring still enjoyed by Phil Hill’s family, is a wonderful tribute to a great legend.

What excites me most in sharing is the breadth of activities and experiences one really can comfortably pack into a week. That’s the key, a full week - Monday to Monday.

Some may remember how my motorsports adventures started… a query into Peter on how to approach, or should I say attack, Pebble Beach, a sort of Olympics with classic cars and the Grammy for automobiles. After four hours of discussion, clutching a year old copy of Sports Car Market’s, Insider’s Guide to Monterey, I walked away with two pieces of advice, one you already have - go Monday to Monday. The second was to discover what it is about motorsports that interests you… then build your week around those activities.

Yes, the color is original on this 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Boano Coupe caught rolling off the transporter.

Yes, the color is original on this 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Boano Coupe caught rolling off the transporter.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I love it all! This year, I grabbed for the gusto, taking time to mingle with people and hear their stories. I also crave the intellectual side, so seeking out the premier automotive museums on the west coast and taking in a SCM seminar satisfies my appetite. My love for sports car racing definitely shines through in my adventures, so meeting the racers and following them on the track at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is a must. Living the week vicariously is exhilarating… especially during the auctions! And then there are the concours cars; so spectacular each receives a personal invitation to Pebble Beach. Over the course of the week, watching them evolve from their vulnerable position early Thursday, to full maturity on the concours field Sunday morning, is magical… for me.

So, let’s get started. This year I flew into LAX and departed out of San Francisco. Call it luck, but I was able to rent a car through Enterprise with no drop off fees. What tickled me most was being asked, “What are you driving?” “The least expensive, fuel economy, compact car available”, was my response. My first year at Pebble, I rented a fancy convertible for the same cost as my lodging for the week... forget that! All you need are wheels, especially those that can squeeze into tight parking spaces.

The real Jay Leno in his garage!

The real Jay Leno in his garage!

My personal 2013 motorsports plan includes museums, so the Petersen, Nethercutt and Mullin Automotive Museums, in the Los Angles area, were a must. All three are doable, using Monday as your travel day. I cheated, flying in Sunday evening so I could visit family. Around 10am Monday morning, the phone rang and the caller said, “This is Jay Leno, is Sandy there?” Yes, I admit it… it just slipped out. “Is this the real Jay Leno?” I asked. Within 45 minutes I was one-on-one with Mr. Leno, walking through his collection and restoration shop. It’s still a blur. I was in seventh heaven and forever grateful to Keith Carlson who recently sold Jay his Bristol 403 and orchestrated my meeting.

Tuesday I enjoyed the Petersen and Nethercutt Museums. Just up from Beverly Hills, where I was staying, is the multi-story, soon to receive a face-lift, Petersen Museum with streetscapes taking you back in time. Open, at no charge to the public, the Nethercutt Museum is just north in the San Fernando Valley, showcasing more than 100 vehicles. Like the Mullins collection, there are several cars that won top awards at Pebble Beach. Wednesday, prior to Monterey week, the Mullins graciously opens its doors to guests. I was extremely grateful, as the collection was superb and one I would have missed otherwise. Where to stay in order to take in these treasures? The Crescent Hotel with only 35 rooms is quite a find, nestled a couple of blocks up from Rodeo drive.

Only two or three of these French roadsters left in the world – the1930 Gar Type B5 from the Mullins collection.

Only two or three of these French roadsters left in the world – the1930 Gar Type B5 from the Mullins collection.

I went on-line to reserve my entrance to the Mullins Collection, as reserved times are both required and limited. Located in Oxnard, less than an hour north of Los Angeles, you’re ready to jump back on 101 after your visit and head north to Monterey or Carmel, both about a 5-hour drive if you switch over to scenic Route 1 at San Luis Obispo. If you like to drive, and why wouldn’t a car person, you’re in for a treat!

What you miss, by visiting the museums, is Tuesday in Carmel for the Concours-on-the-Avenue, a casual jaunt through town, viewing over 175 multi-marque cars lining the streets. Then again, you just saw three magnificent collections! Also, be willing to cut short shopping and browsing at Automobilia Monterey, held only Tuesday and Wednesday, in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside. Keep in mind a much smaller version of Automobilia takes place just inside the main pedestrian entrance to the Pebble Beach Concours called Pebble Beach RetroAuto, the rest of the week.

Speaking of shopping… buy all the Pebble Beach Concours clothing you want the first few days you arrive… or it will likely be sold out on Sunday. Shopping is definitely something to entice the non-motorsports enthusiast to attend! Between Beverly Hills, Carmel and the Concours art galleries and boutiques, everyone’s happy.

I haven’t mentioned where to stay in the greater Monterey area. Anyone already on the list probably won’t! Again, start looking now. If you get in a bind, email and I’ll put you in touch with our 17-room boutique hotel to check for an opening. The advice I received my first year was to stay in a place you enjoy… for me, it was Carmel. This year I joined friends, staying in Monterey, and it worked out beautifully. Getting to the track, auctions, and Pacific Grove was a breeze. If deciding to attend at the last minute, just knowing that 60 days out most B&Bs require confirmation and full payment may help you snatch up someone’s cancellation.

Owners are only too happy to chat with the Hagerty Youth Judges… and anyone else who’s interested, at Pacific Grove.

Owners are only too happy to chat with the Hagerty Youth Judges… and anyone else who’s interested, at Pacific Grove.

I mentioned friends. No surprise that everything in life is more fun when enjoyed with friends, and that is especially true for Monterey week. We are fortunate to have Keith Carlson, a Monterey week aficionado, in our Jag Club. Peter and I took Keith’s advice, discovering the Thursday street show put on by the Rotary Club of Pacific Grove. Don’t be surprised if you see some of the same cars Sunday on the lawn at Pebble Beach! Pacific Grove is one of those places the crowds haven’t fully discovered… yet. We met up with Denise McCluggage for dinner at Aliotti’s and Favaloro’s - two fabulous Italian restaurants on the main street, Lighthouse Avenue.

Up and ready to go.

Up and ready to go.

I hope you’ve found some of the information helpful so far… now for the good stuff! I’m an early bird and for Thursday, you should be as well! Beginning between 5:30-6:00 am, with the fog and the mist, I get to watch the heavy doors of the transporters open and the magic of Pebble Beach commence, as the cars are lowered from their beds and roll down the ramps to make their first debut of the week - the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. I just love this adventure. Often, it’s not until the cars are off the transports that the owners appear, some seeing their cars for the first time after restoration! It’s a time when the cars are rather naïve, polished but not primped for Sunday’s big day. The same goes for owners. Some are a bit nervous and unassuming, especially if this is their first invitation to Pebble.

Bought new by the current owner’s grandfather, the 1921 Duesenberg A Bender Coup (chassis 601) is a car of many firsts.

Bought new by the current owner’s grandfather, the 1921 Duesenberg A Bender Coup (chassis 601) is a car of many firsts.

What are the chances of watching the very first Duesenberg ever built, roll out of a small single trailer tucked at the end of the transporter row… next to the porta potties, no less? With no crowds, close to 100 cars leave their transporter guardians and prepare to line up for the Tour… a find, as far as I’m concerned. The cars line up around 7am, leaving in waves with the first section departing at 8am from the equestrian center area across from the Gooding Auction tent. Gradually the spectators fill in around the cars, but nothing like the mobs you’ll experience once the cars roll into Carmel at noon following the Tour.

Onward… leaving at 8am, the Tour ends at noon in Carmel.

Onward… leaving at 8am, the Tour ends at noon in Carmel.

Between watching the cars wake up and a late lunch in Carmel once most of the crowds subside, you have some time for auction previewing. A reservation at Casanova, Keith’s favorite and now mine, on 5th Avenue between Mission and San Carlos, is a terrific choice. You’ll still have time to swing through more auction previews afterwards before heading out Carmel Valley Road for a down home evening at the Baja Cantina Grill and Filling Station. We had a blast at the Baja Cantina during their weekly Thursday car night! An eclectic mix of cars and people was enough to keep us and several hundred others entertained for hours. We got there later than I would recommend… I think 6:30pm would be better, next time.

I love this car! Estimated to go between $125-150,00, the 1972 Porsche 911 “STR II” design by Magnus Walker went for a surprising $302,500 at Gooding.

I love this car! Estimated to go between $125-150,00, the 1972 Porsche 911 “STR II” design by Magnus Walker went for a surprising $302,500 at Gooding.

This year, I focused on the RM, Gooding, and Russo and Steele auctions. Previewing sometimes has a nominal fee while attending the auction is a bit more. I consider auctions a not to be missed attraction. RM with auctioneer Max Girardo is a must for at least Saturday night and Gooding is a nice way to wrap up the week on Sunday evening after the Concours. Besides gaining an appreciation of market values, there are historical moments. Being in the audience when the hammer went down for the highly desirable 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider auctioned off by the Smith family, in honor of their father, was amazing. All funds from this $27,500,000 sale, and supposedly second highest car ever sold at auction, will go to charity.

I’ve attended two sought after, what I would call lifestyle, events in the past and decided to pass this year, unless someone had kindly offered me a ticket. My first year, I was advised to get into the lottery for a coveted Quail ticket. Three years ago, that ticket was $400. I saved the receipt. This year, I’m told it’s more. Another event I sought out that first year was the McCaw Motorworks Revival. At the time, the ticket was about half that of the Quail for this hanger party - now it’s up to $325. If you are going with a group of friends, where the price of admission doesn’t matter, both are rather interesting events… the people are just as famous as the cars!

So this is how it all starts… the car guy of tomorrow, at the Legends of the Autobahn.

So this is how it all starts… the car guy of tomorrow, at the Legends of the Autobahn.

A first for me this year was the Friday Legends of the Autobahn not far off Route 1 on Carmel Valley Road at Rancho Canada. We went early, around 9:30am, thinking we would stay for about an hour. Six hours later, seriously, we headed out. This free, yes free, event was more of a car show, not a concours-styled event. You saw a little bit of everything German, several historically significant cars, race cars, and a lot of fantastic people. I’m not suggesting spending this much time, but it’s a great change of pace and a stop I would highly recommend.

Last year I waltzed among the red cars at the Concorso Italiano on Friday. If you don’t have the luxury of seeing 800-1,000 Ferraris and other Italian cars back home, this is another one of those events to catch, at least once. For 2014, Concorso will move to Saturday, so it won’t conflict with the Quail, also on Friday. The show moves to Bayonet & Black Horse Golf Courses in Seaside. I personally wouldn’t sacrifice a day at the track for a lifestyle event. Heck, racing is the best lifestyle event I know!

What I would recommend is splitting Friday between the track and the Autobahn event. Taking in the track Friday, would be a good opportunity to get a lay of the land, so to speak. Walking up and down the paddock, you meet the owners who are most likely the racers of these pretty cool vintage cars. Me being me, I asked someone looking official in a golf cart if there was a tour of the paddock area. I thought that would be a great idea. He agreed, yet said there wasn’t such a thing. No problem, he invited me to jump on board and off we went for a personal tour!

These must be the car girls of tomorrow!

These must be the car girls of tomorrow!

Yes, I was really there…perched up in the Starter’s Box!

Yes, I was really there…perched up in the Starter’s Box!

I picked up some tips to share. Start your explorations of the paddock on the periphery and work inwards. Be patient, stay on course, and go up and down the aisles. I jumped around, which meant I missed a lot. Hike up the hill to the corkscrew for a panoramic view of the track. Bring chairs in a bag, if you want to watch for awhile. It’s breathtaking! Visit the car corrals and witness the featured marque for as far as you can see. Most important, watch the races! No kidding! You would be surprised how many people are distracted by the eating and shopping.

This year I high-tailed it to the track Saturday morning, which meant I missed the SCM (Sports Car Marketing) seminar held up at the Gooding Tent. I found the seminars (by paid reservation) very informative the two years prior and was a little sad to miss it this year. Had I split up my track days, it would have been worth arriving a little late on Saturday. The only drawback to arriving after 10am at the track is parking… and that’s a big drawback.

George Wingard, collector of prewar racing cars, heading out to the awards stand on Sunday!

George Wingard, collector of prewar racing cars, heading out to the awards stand on Sunday!

Finally, it’s Sunday and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Be prepared, you’ll be joined by a throng of spectators, also working Pebble off their bucket list. What I strongly recommend, and something I need to do myself, is come up with your own tour of the Concours cars on the field. Everyone gets a handy pocket guide listing all the cars by class location. I arrived late on the field, around 8:30am, once parked and settled. The field was already pretty crowded, to my surprise, even though the general public isn’t allowed in until 10am. The Hagerty Dawn Patrol is early, sometime before 5am, yet a great opportunity for spectators to watch the fog and the cars roll out before the crowds roll in… if you don’t mind getting up around 4:00am!

Watching the judging is a show in itself…and yes, all the lights and signals must work.

Watching the judging is a show in itself…and yes, all the lights and signals must work.

Years past, I’ve been pretty much finished looking at the cars by 10am. This year, I wanted to watch another layer of the show… the judging. It’s fascinating to watch the judges move seamlessly around the cars looking at their particular specialty to judge.

Enjoying the moment.

Enjoying the moment.

This year, I also stayed on the field until the end, walking around just soaking in the cars and their proud owners as they drove by. I’m thinking next year I may even bring a couple of chairs and a picnic to enjoy more of the atmosphere of the day. My suggestion is to enjoy the moment. Yes, it’s all about the cars at Pebble, but as you can see, it’s also about taking away great memories from the week.

And if this isn’t enough car excitement, the Blackhawk Museum graciously hosts Monday after Pebble to attendees wanting to make the short detour on the way to the San Francisco airport. Admission is waved and refreshments are served, but the real prize… another exquisite automobile collection. Just when I thought the week couldn’t get any better… it got better, at Blackhawk.