Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Monterey Car Week: A VIP Experience at the Mecca of Car Culture

You’re out for a night on the town in Monterey, California. As you stagger between Sade’s and Cypress Inn, a Ferrari 250 GT SWB California (forbidden fruit of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) cruises past. Certain you’ve simply had too much to drink – and didn’t actually just witness a $20 million Italian icon in action ­– you stumble on.

Rounding the street corner, you notice what looks like, but couldn’t possibly be, an Aston Martin DB5 (James Bond’s favorite accessory). Before you can investigate, a McLaren P1 GTR pops into your peripheral view. Sobering up might be a good idea, but it won’t make these ultra-rare performance cars disappear; you’re in the thick of Monterey Car Week.

What is essentially the bat signal for every noteworthy vehicle ever made, Monterey Car Week calls automotive enthusiasts the world over to descend upon northern California. Whether you bring a four-wheeled gem of your own, or come to drool over others’, Car Week is a must-see for true gearheads.

Fux Fuschsia McLaren 720s
Fux Fuschsia McLaren 720s Image used with permission by copyright holder

The once-humble road rally and car show of the early 1950s has now ballooned into a week-long string of classic car races, auctions, and shows. Like the Goodwood Revival, Mille Miglia, and Concorso D’Eleganza Villa D’Este, Car Week is all about honoring automotive heritage. However, only in Monterey can you attend a multi-million dollar auction on Friday, a 1930s historic race on Saturday, and a century-spanning car show on Sunday.

We’ve long admired Car Week from afar, but this year, Mazda invited us to experience the automotive twilight zone firsthand. With tickets to three headlining events, a 2017 Mazda CX-5 to scoot around town, and a suite at the Intercontinental The Clement in Monterey Bay, we strapped in for motoring mecca.

The Quail Motorsports Gathering
The Quail Motorsports Gathering Image used with permission by copyright holder

Our first stop is The Quail Motorsports Gathering in Carmel, California. One of the newer Car Week events (this is its sixteenth year running), The Quail is a chance for luxury and performance automakers to show off their latest concepts, bespoke manufacturers to reveal their labors of love, and classic car owners to compete for prizes.

Despite its nascence, The Quail has surged in popularity in recent years. An hour into the event, the Quail Lodge is teeming with visitors – each of whom have paid $600 for admission. The cars though – good gravy, the cars are worth it. A pristine Porsche 959, Lamborghini Islero, and Packard Eight Cabriolet have us buckling at the knees. In the moment, it’s impossible to imagine a greater spectacle – but Saturday’s races would set a new standard.

1966 Aston Martin DBSC Touring Coupe
1966 Aston Martin DBSC Touring Coupe Image used with permission by copyright holder

In 1974, the story goes, Steve Earle decided to rent Laguna Seca Raceway (now Mazda Raceway) the Saturday before Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and invited 20 pals with vintage race cars. Earle demanded only one thing from his attendees: Everyone had to drive their historic racers on track. This was no car show.

Knowing the Rolex Motorsports Reunion’s stated purpose, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a field of 1950s Formula One cars duking it out on track, but our eyes and ears can’t process the scene. Do you know what a 1989 Mazda 767B’s rotary engine sounds like at wide-open throttle? A bit like the first time your child laughs.

Clusters of genuine racecar legends stream around Mazda Raceway, piloted largely by amateur drivers without contemporary safety gear. This is a trip through time that neither words nor photos can fully capture. It’s one thing to see a $17 million 1955 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa parked on a lawn, and another thing entirely to see it manhandled on a circuit.

1958 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti Spyder
1958 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti Spyder Image used with permission by copyright holder

We can die happy right here, right now…but the main course is still ahead: Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance.

Monterey Car Week’s foundational event, and a good enough reason for classic car owners to ship their priceless vehicles thousands of miles (at great cost), Concours D’Elegance is the most prestigious automotive gathering on the planet. It’s not just about the cars either; people watching is half the fun of Pebble. Some dress in 1950s period correct attire, others don cargo shorts and ball caps – but most just use the event as an excuse to wear the most flamboyant clothing they own.

When we finally tire of snickering at human peacocks, our attention shifts to the finest vehicular curves, lines, and accents of the last 113 years. Pre-war Packards, 1960s concept cars, and German car royalty share Pebble Beach’s 18th fairway – 204 dazzling vehicles in total.

Frankly, it’s overwhelming. To cope, we pick a few favorites and pour of their details, rather than contemplating the entire herd. Our decision proves wise – quality time spent with each vehicle uncovers subtle cues that were glossed over during our initial glance.

Our VIP Monterey Car Week experience was more than special, but the best part of this annual event is that anyone can participate. Fly, drive, bike, walk, or crawl to Monterey the third week of August for an unrivaled tribute to the automobile. We’ll see you there next year.

Editors' Recommendations

Miles Branman
Miles Branman developed a passion for cars early on thanks to a neighbor’s collection of rare and exotic vehicles. What…
Hyundai and Amazon team up for online car sales (and no, you can’t get your car via Prime)
Hyundai and Amazon just made it super easy to buy a new car
2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 parked outside.

If you shop on Amazon for guitar strings, luggage, and electronics, how do you feel about buying your next car on the mega e-commerce platform? At the 2023 Los Angeles Auto Show, Amazon and Hyundai Motor Company jointly announced an online sales collaboration beginning in 2024. Other car brands come later, but Hyundai will be the first brand you can buy on Amazon.

The new strategic partnership has three facets: online vehicle sales, cloud services, and integrating Alexa in future Hyundais. Amazon will begin online sales of Hyundai models on Amazon Web Services (AWS) will be Hyundai's preferred provider of cloud services for the vehicle manufacturer's digital transformation. The two companies will work together to integrate Alexa voice response into Hyundai's driver infotainment and vehicle management system.
Find my car
Amazon's new partnership with Hyundai doesn't cut out auto dealerships. Dealers will be able to list on Amazon vehicles currently available for purchase.

Read more
What’s all the fuss about tires in F1 racing?
The rules for F1 racing tires help keep the competition fair
Three types of Pirelli F1 racing tires on stands.

The difference between competing F1 race car times is often measured in fractions of a second. To keep the competition as fair as possible, the F1 governing organization, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), publishes comprehensive regulations each  Formula 1 racing season.

There is no wiggle room in the FIA regulations for race car parts and structures. F1 drivers' skills and tire management are the two most significant subjective factors in F1 racing. It's absurd to try to micro-regulate humans, especially race car drivers. Therefore, the regulations for F1 racing tires matter greatly.

Read more
Someone made a running Tesla Cybertruck out of wood, and it looks better than the real thing
This Tesla has fewer panel gaps
Wooden replica of the Tesla Cybertruck

The Tesla Cybertruck still hasn’t officially hit the road after years of delays, but a small YouTube channel in Vietnam seems to have produced a more natural version in a little over three months. ND-WoodArt has managed to make a functional, drivable, scaled-down version of the controversial vehicle. It consists of a metal frame, which gives the general shape, and a whole bunch of wooden panels and trim pieces. Even the vehicle’s hub caps are made of wood.

It also contains a series of batteries along with a set of motors that allow it to drive. Admittedly, the lead-acid batteries used haven’t got the range or power delivery of the lithium-ion cells that the Cybertruck will use. Similarly, the motors are a little less beefy. Judging by the video, it is about as quick as the average golf cart.

Read more