Only a handful of miles separate downtown Monterey and Laguna Seca, permanently tying the small California city to the world of automotive performance. But the home of the Corkscrew isn’t the only reason the Central Coast is considered one of America’s most prominent motoring meccas. Before the famous racetrack was built in 1957, the SCCA hosted a road race in the neighboring community of Pebble Beach, offering a narrow, multi-surface track for lithe roadsters to slide among the cypress trees and hay bales. Just south is Big Sur, a cliff-lined twist that provides one of the most dramatic driving roads in the world. All told, there are plenty of reasons Monterey is considered a haven for car lovers, and every August, the gearheads come out to play in a jubilation of four-wheeled glory called Car Week.

The number of events in this particular slice of space-time borders on the excessive. The vast majority caters to the top-shelf of the car world, where absurd speed, jaw-dropping beauty, unicorn-like rarity, and head-spinning price are the norm. However, Monterey Car Week isn’t just for the multi-millionaires of the world. It’s an event in which car lovers of every stripe can participate. It’s a time to bask in the iridescent glow of the gas-fueled lifestyle. Sure, there were plenty of show-offs in six-figure playthings – that much is undeniable. But for every snob, there are several true-blue car lovers on hand.

It doesn’t matter how big your bank account is – every gearhead can appreciate the sound of a 1953 Ferrari 340 MM race car rounding a corner on 17 Mile Drive. It doesn’t matter if you own several mansions or pay rent – it’s hard to forget the sight of an original 1957-1962 Mercedes 300 SL crossing Bixby Bridge. It doesn’t matter what you drive – getting stuck in a line of McLarens parading around town is always memorable.

Yes, Monterey Car Week has plenty of exclusive activities for the well-heeled elite, but there’s also a lot to do on the cheap. Lucky for me, I got to experience both.

Continue reading to learn what happened on Day 1.

Central Coast Transformed

The term Car “Week” is a bit of a misnomer – things don’t really kick off until Wednesday, with events building to Sunday’s climax at the Concours d’Elegance. With that in mind, I arrived at TopSpeed’s Monterey headquarters late Tuesday night. Despite a several hundred-mile journey the day before, I awoke early Wednesday. Acting as my alarm was the sound of an Aston Martin Vantage pinning its throttle wide open on an adjacent back road. A quick breakfast, a few slugs of caffeine, and I was out the door, camera gear and notepad in hand.

First on the agenda was a car wash. My workhorse for the week was my own personal vehicle – a late ‘90s Subaru wagon with a heavily modified ’03 Subaru WRX drivetrain swap. In back was a 3-inch, loud AF exhaust providing the soundtrack. Not your typical Car Week chariot, but either way, the Northern California grime needed a scrub.

There was no time to do the deed by hand, so I entrusted a local car wash to take care of my World Rally Blue paintjob and gold Prodrive wheels. I watched the streets while waiting, observing the odd Mercedes AMG and Audi S4 heading east towards Laguna Seca – typical fare for Monterey. Without warning, a gang of Shelby Mustangs rumbled by, both new and old, each striped, loud and intimidating. It was a premonition for the weekend, as a variety of events would be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the GT350 nameplate, including the Motorsports Reunion at the aforementioned track.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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With my Subie gleaming in the sun, I was off to downtown in search of some automotive goodness. It didn’t take long to find – at the end of Alvarado Street, several of the auctions (RM Sotheby’s, Russo and Steele, etc.) had completely taken over, erecting massive white tents, with fleets of cars parked near Fisherman’s Wharf in anticipation of the gavel’s fall. In front of the Portola Hotel were four old racers, including the ’63 Watson “Diet-Rite Cola Special,” the ’69 AAR Eagle Santa Ana “City of Daytona Beach,” the ’68 Corvette L88 RED/NART Le Mans, and the ’49 Lesovsky-Offenhauser “Blue Crown Special.” As I admired the lovely, purposeful lines, an old Cobra roadster blasted away from a stoplight, its V-8 bellowing through barely muffled side-exhausts.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Moving towards the water, I found an extremely unusual ’48 Tatra T87. A product of Czechoslovakia, the thing looked more like a submarine than a car, its bulbous fenders and prominent rear fin glinting with a pearl-silver hue. Outlandish, bizzare, and fascinating.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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The wail of a European 12-cylinder echoing through the tunnel leading to Pacific Grove broke my Tatra-induced trance. It was time to head back to TopSpeed HQ to freshen up for the Gordon McCall Motorworks Revival party, but before I left, downtown Monterey had one more surprise for me.

Parked (poorly) on the street in front of the Marriot was a Porsche 918 Spyder in all its $845,000 glory. Seeing it sitting there unattended and unprotected among the passing compacts and pickups of everyday life was a bit shocking. It was about a foot away from the curb (looking at it in person makes you realize how wide the thing is), and the cockpit was open. I saw a water bottle stuffed into one corner of the passenger-side foot well.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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“Beautiful car,” said a passing admirer.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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I agreed.

McCall Motorworks Revival

With that late-afternoon grease washed away and my fancy pants on, I headed towards the Monterey Airport. The McCall event is held right smack dab on the tarmac, providing easy access for the jet-setters in attendance. Funny enough, I found a few other WRXs in the event parking lot to keep my own transportation company for the evening, and I boarded the shuttle for a short ride to the entrance.

Upon entering, I was immediately met by a vista of high-end machinery. Old, elegant street cars, battle-scarred racers, classic propeller-driven aircraft (military and civilian), and gleaming personal jets all shared the same space among wine-sipping attendees. The sun was sinking in the west, and a light breeze wafted through ailerons and exaggerated ground-bound aerodynamics. Camera at the ready, I wasn’t exactly sure where to start.

When in doubt, try the hors d’oeuvres. Tickets to the event cost $350 a pop ($450 the day of), but thankfully, food and drinks are included.

With a belly full of tuna tartare, duck, caviar, and a lovely pinot noir, I was ready to go. I’ve always had a soft spot for old Jags, so the first thing to draw my lens was an E-Type nestled behind an Eclipse 550 six-seat business jet. The curvaceously long hood looked quite at home next to the aircraft.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Adjacent to this, a large crowd had formed around a Lykan HyperSport, its body panels lifted to reveal the polished mechanical bits underneath. Some found time between conversations to put down their champagne flutes and sit in the cockpit, gripping the wheel, amusement spread across their faces, no doubt pondering the car’s incredible exclusivity and $3.4-million price tag. Slightly less rare alternatives from Pagani and Koenigsegg were situated just a few feet away.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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On the other side of the central bar area was a blazing red De Tomaso P70 racer from 1965, unraced and unspoiled, absolutely perfect front to back. The car’s designer, Pete Brock, was wandering around, chatting with friends. Deeper into the hanger, Shelby had a booth with an aluminum replica of the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, another Brock creation, introduced in celebration of the car’s 50th anniversary.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Pushed to one corner, the new 2016 Acura NSX sat alongside a McLaren F1 car powered by Honda’s engine package. Toyota was also there, offering a chance to sit in a Mirai, which looked slightly out of place next to the million-dollar supercars and racers.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 1 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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The sheer volume of amazing vehicles at McCalls goes far beyond the scope of this single article. Check out the gallery to get a taste of what was on hand.

The party started to die down around 9, so after snapping a few shots of attendees exiting the runway, I grabbed my swag bag and wandered back to my Subaru, listening to the sounds of Ferraris and Lamborghinis hitting the highway.

Car Week was officially underway. You can check my article about Day Two here.

Jonathan Lopez
Jonathan Lopez
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