Monterey Car Week

Posted in Media, News

The spectacle that is Monterey Car Week should be on every petrolheads’ bucket list. Enthusiasts make the annual pilgrimage from all over the world to share their automotive passion, whether displaying a $30M Ferrari on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, or meeting with fellow car club members for a Starbucks: it’s all about the cars. The variety, quality and rarity of hardware on show is almost overwhelming: a nut and bolt restoration M1 ProCar; E9 CSL Batmobiles, M1s and E21 Group 5 Turbos going head-to-head at Laguna Seca; and Alpina’s CEO racing his company’s Michelin-liveried, bright green E30 M3 – and that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Members of the BMW Car Club of America were out in force to celebrate BMW’s centenary. Legends of the Autobahn at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club set the tone for the weekend’s activities. BMW CCA regulars in attendance stated there was at least double the usual turnout, which translated into a healthy representation of BMW’s back catalogue from the 1950s – including two pristine 507s – to Munich’s latest and greatest M cars: the M4 GTS and M2. Highlights included California’s only registered E30 M3 Sport Evo (imported from the UK), one of two 700 RS hand built race cars (BMW’s museum is home for the second), and Mike Ura’s beautifully presented M1 (also imported from the UK). BMW CCA’s chairman, Frank Patek, and his team of volunteers did a sterling job in managing the event – thank you again for your hospitality.

Saturday started cool and cloudy, which was perfect for hiking up the surprisingly steep hill to one of racing’s most iconic sections of track: Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew. No doubt many of you will have attempted to emulate Alex Zinardi’s infamous last lap overtake on your games console, but seeing Ferrari 250 GTOs and other multi-million dollar classics being thrown into it with no signs of easing off was truly a sight (and sound) to behold – kudos to the drivers. As the sun burnt through the clouds, the racing became ever more competitive. Wandering through the paddocks afforded intimate access to owners, drivers, celebrities and fellow open-mouthed fans.

Tucked away in a corner on the Canepa stand was something that was attracting far more attention than the equally rare Porsche 959 parked next to it: a nut and bolt restoration M1 Procar. Created for a one-make series championship by the former head of BMW Motorsport, Jochen Neerpasch, drivers from F1, World Sportscar Championship, European Touring Car Championship and other race series were pitted against each other in identically modified and prepared M1s – imagine trying to organise that today with Bernie Ecclestone? Over the course of the next three days, most of the parties involved in this incredible project were met and the story further investigated. In summary, it is chassis #94, one of ten AHG Studie Package M1s, which after a stroke of luck – Canepa’s senior buyer stumbled on it’s history in a still-sealed M1 book at a client’s house – was determined to be Procar specification but never fully modified. After sitting in Dallas for years, then languishing almost unwanted at Canepa for another twelve months, the decision was made to complete the upgrade and create a road legal Procar – the end result is absolutely stunning. N.B. after catching up with the car again on the Monday at Canepa’s showroom, a buyer had been found over the weekend and a healthy sale price agreed.

From a dusty, noisy race track to a lush, serene golf course meant one thing: Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. For those who’ve never been, imagine a cross between Paris Fashion Week, the Kentucky Derby and the British Museum: beautiful people, lots of hats and priceless works of art on display. The bus ride in from the car park offered an occasional glimpse of the surrounding sea view properties: opulent. The practice putting green was home to the latest concept cars, nestled in amongst which was the 2002 Hommage “TurboMeister” – looking considerably more menacing in its Jaegermeister racing colours than the baby blue it was unveiled in. Moving through onto the 18th fairway revealed a mix of pre-war classics through to post war Ferraris, Astons and Rolls Royces. Peter Gleeson brought his hand painted, Frank Stella M1 Procar and beautifully original E9 CSL batmobile – congratulations again on the 2nd-in-class prize. Ted Gushue, Editorial Director of Petrolicious, was on hand for a chat and loan of his McLaren VIP pass for some much needed refreshment – thanks again Ted. One of the unexpected highlights was being politely asked by an older gent if he could have his picture taken with the Aston DB4GT Zagota Coupe. With what looked to be a tear in his eye – maybe it was just the onshore breeze – he confessed to being the previous owner and rather missed the old girl.

That evening was an opportunity to meet the BMW CCA Foundation team, which is doing great work in teaching teenagers to be safe on the roads through their Street Survival driving programme. Also in attendance were Bill Auberlen, Boris Said and Tom Milner, sharing some great anecdotes about their racing careers onstage with Erik Wensberg – thank you again Erik for a great evening.

The following day’s Canepa tour must have been what Charlie felt like when he entered Mr Wonka’s chocolate factory. World renowned for his collection of race and road exotica, Bruce Canepa’s Scotts Valley automotive emporium is something very special indeed. It’s difficult to process what you’re seeing: BMW M1 (plural); Ferrari 288 GTO; Porsche 959 (plural); Lamborghini Countach; Porsche 917 (plural); Porsche Speedster (plural); Porsche 962 (plural); Porsche 935 (plural); Le Mans winning Audi LMP1; etc, etc, etc. A hearty late lunch and a couple of glasses of red wine were required to regain composure and debate about which of the cars would be on the lottery winning ticket list N.B. this has yet to be resolved.

To top all of that off, the return trip to Monterey airport was punctuated with a stop at the BMW CCA Oktoberfest Pirelli Concours D’Elegance. With this concours’ attendees opting for a more casual dress code, the cars on display were the stars of the show. Elvis’ nut and bolt restoration 507 was beautifully presented by BMW Classic, car club members had been waxing on-and-off all morning to ensure their pride and joys looked their best for the judges – the perfect way to round off a glorious week (now a perennial date in the calendar).

Simon would like to thank: Eric Keller, Marc Norris, Mike Ura, Peter Gleeson, Ted Gushue, Erik Wensberg, Frank Patek, BMW CCA, the BMW CCA Foundation and everyone else who made this a truly memorable experience.