Dispatches From Six Full Days of Automotive Enthusiasm at Monterey Car Week

Monterey Car Week brought out a whole bunch or amazing cars, new and old.
Michael Teo Van Runkle

Monterey Car Week just wrapped after the annual weeklong fête featuring rare collectible auctions, new supercar and hypercar unveils, and historic racing at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca. In addition to the points-based judging at Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Monterey now spans an entire week, boasting cruises, track time, cocktail parties, and automotive activations as brands hope to engage spectators more effectively than park-and-show events of yesteryear.

No single human can catch everything Car Week has to offer, though borrowing a Ducati helped me navigate Monterey’s overwhelmed infrastructure in the hopes of earning an automotive journalist’s entry into the more exclusive happenings throughout the peninsula. Here are some highlights from six days of packed scheduling.

 

Monterey Car Week brought out a whole bunch or amazing cars, new and old.
Michael Teo Van Runkle

Tuesday Evening at the Track

I drove straight from Los Angeles to Laguna Seca on Tuesday to catch a few laps around the track, courtesy of Hagerty and the revived British coachbuilder Radford Motors. Radford’s hot shoe, Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button, spent the evening hucking passengers up Laguna Seca’s famous climbs and down the tight Corkscrew in the retro-styled Type 62-2. Meanwhile, co-re-founder Ant Antstead played host to the swelling crowd—not to mention occasional mechanic when the 62-2 came back into the pits needing another cool-down lap or two. Having followed Radford’s development for the past year-plus, I thoroughly enjoyed a chance to witness the Lotus Exige relative’s significant power and handling upgrades, as well as the driving skills of an F1 champ pushing the car.

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Further down the pitwall, former Porsche factory driver Patrick Long offered rides in an air-cooled 911 and Radford Racing School (formerly the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving) managed a fleet of Lotus Evora GT and Dodge Hellcat track toys. For those not tasked with taking the wheel, of course, trackside finger food and cocktails abounded.

 

Monterey Car Week brought out a whole bunch or amazing cars, new and old.
Michael Teo Van Runkle

Back to the Track, Then Motorlux (née McCall’s)

Early the following morning I sprinted back to Laguna Seca for another track ridealong, though in this case with a decidedly different spin: Lucid Motors invited me to hop in the passenger seat as Ben Collins, aka the original Top Gear’s helmeted Stig, silently pushed the 5,200-pound electric sedan around the circuit. To clarify, Collins himself chatted the whole time but the car’s blistering, almost brutal low-end torque snapped my head back onto premium leather without making much more than a whistle. In the tighter corners, though, the eco-friendly Pirellis that help the Lucid achieve its long range definitely began to squeal as they put up with the day’s torture testing.

After the quick session with Collins, I rejoined the general public to wander the paddocks among a century’s worth of Le Mans race cars running the gamut from “Le Monstre” to modern Ford GTs. The modern theme continued that night at Motorlux, a rebranded version of the former McCall’s Motorworks Revival held each year at the Monterey Jet Center. Combining private planes and seven-figure car culture in one place resulted in a unique vibe unlike any of Car Week’s other events—somewhat akin to Miami just showing up (via PJ, no doubt) in Monterey.

 

Monterey Car Week brought out a whole bunch or amazing cars, new and old.
Michael Teo Van Runkle

Vintage Racing Meets Futuristic Concepts

On Thursday, the Rolex Motorsports Reunion kicked off 100 years of Le Mans celebrations. Le Monstre, classic Porsches, tiny Birdcage Maseratis, and four-rotor Mazdas all screamed around the track—albeit at radically different paces. Rolex decided to move the historics up a day this year, in the hopes that more drivers might not need to choose between Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours and the final day of competition, with the result being that more spectators also showed up earlier to catch the unbelievable action.

The old journalist calendar conundrums popped up for the first time that evening, when I weighed attending the swanky debut of Czinger’s futuristic new 21C V Max or a new electric concept car from Lincoln. Given Czinger’s goals of revolutionizing the entire automotive industry with AI-enhanced engineering and 3D-printed components, and compared to the likelihood that a designer’s concept car shown in person for the first time might actually evolve into reality, I chose the machines.

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At the Sunset Center in Carmel, co-founding father and son Kevin and Lukas Czinger gave a peppy preamble to the svelte 1+1’s curtain pull, accompanied fittingly by dramatic violins, smoke machines, and strobe lights. Undeniably purpose-built, the 21C V Max hopes to shatter every performance record currently held by any other hypercar, though whether the unique design will attract enough buyers to the nascent American company remains a question that only the fruits of Monterey Car Week can answer.

 

Monterey Car Week brought out a whole bunch or amazing cars, new and old.
Michael Teo Van Runkle

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering

Friday’s schedule of events looked a bit less crowded, requiring only that I attend The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering for a second consecutive year. Full of EV concept cars, much like 2021, The Quail nonetheless felt more like a celebration of the end of the internal combustion era this time around. Koenigsegg debuted the CC850, an homage to the Swedish firm’s original record-setting CC8S that comes equipped with a magical transmission allowing for true manual shifting with a clutch pedal, in addition to automatic shifting and adjustable gear ratios (No, nobody at The Quail managed to satisfactorily explain such wizardry.)

Bugatti also heralded the end of an era with the final application of a quad-turbo W16 engine in the Mistral, a roadster version of the world-conquering Chiron. To my eye, smoothed lines and cleaner styling on the Mistral matched a toned-down theme from most manufacturers at The Quail this year, including Maserati’s svelte MC20 in open-topped Cielo form, plus a few restomods from the likes of Cyan Racing and Kimera Automobili that blend classy style with modern performance. That older aesthetic certainly arrived in spades, too, with an entire field of vintage Ferraris, Jaguars, Lamborghinis, and more—not to mention the hilarious Car Park Concours d’Quailegance award handed out to the best car spotted in the event’s parking lots, which went to Oilstainlab’s harebrained Half11 project.

 

Monterey Car Week brought out a whole bunch or amazing cars, new and old.
Michael Teo Van Runkle

The Crowds Arrive on Saturday

On Saturday morning, I pulled out my judge’s wig for some fun at the Concours d’Lemons, an annual break from Car Week’s finest and fanciest to instead celebrate the best of the worst junkers, clunkers, hoopties, and rustbuckets. The beginning of the true weekend ushered in the first real sign of Monterey crowds overwhelming the local streets and clogging up any hope of cell phone reception. Split between popular gatherings like Concorso Italiano, Exotics on Broadway, and the Concours d’Lemons, plenty of attendees chose to inspect the beat-up babies of proud owners hoping to take home a dubious distinction—I cast my quick vote for a swiss-cheesed 1969 Toyota Corolla two-door wagon then headed back to the track for a bit more time watching vintage Le Mans racers.

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After another hour or so, during which a McLaren F1 GTR’s BMW V12 and a quad-rotor Mazda 767 shattered my eardrums, I hopped back on the Ducati and blasted down to Pebble Beach for a sneak peek at the next day’s Concours. Early entrants on the concept lawn began gathering. Polestar showed off the O2 Roadster it recently confirmed for production, and the embattled EV manufacturer Faraday Future offered rides in the FF91. That night, I sweet-talked my way into a Gunther Werks soiree at a house rented in Carmel Valley to get a better look at the Porsche 911-based Project Tornado unveiled the day before at The Quail.

 

Monterey Car Week brought out a whole bunch or amazing cars, new and old.
Courtesy Rolex

 

Pebble Beach on Sunday

Writing duties woke me early on Sunday morning—Monterey counts as work for this author, remember—so I missed the annual Dawn Patrol, which gathers to watch the sunrise as entrants into the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance burble out onto one of the most iconic 18th fairways on the planet. Both expensive and exclusive, Pebble proper at the very least maintains the requirement that all cars entered for judging must drive onto the field under their own power.

On the filled-out concept lawn, even more futuristic visions from the likes of DeLorean (quite a letdown), Genesis (easily mistaken for an Aston Martin), and Bentley drew sizable crowds. Ferrari’s own gathering on the first hole also attracted attention but nothing compares to the sheer breadth of pristine perfection on display overlooking Carmel Bay’s cold, grey waters. Even as everyone commiserated about the most frigid Pebble yet, stunning Art Deco-era classics and former race winners helped to keep spirits high. To nobody’s great surprise, as the Champagne flowed throughout the day, another pre-war European took home top honors, this year a stunning 1932 Duesenberg J Figoni Sports Torpedo.

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All told, as the marathon week wound down and Dawn Patrol’s slightly sloppier sibling, Dusk Patrol, rolled out, I began to formulate some sort of foggy comprehension of everything I witnessed over six full days at Monterey. My journalist duties included meeting brand reps, glad-handing with executives, and interviewing industry luminaries intent on shifting the world’s perception of mobility. But as an excited fan, finessing my way between exclusive house parties, boozy brunches, and panoramic deck receptions, the sheer volume of showstoppers that I got to touch, sit in, ride in, or watch racing still boggles the mind.

Even without my somewhat specialized access, the joy of sitting on the side of the road and watching the world’s best cars cruise by—or visiting free meetups like the Concours d’Lemons—still makes Monterey Car Week a must for any automotive enthusiast, at least once in a lifetime. Just start planning for next year now, because catching a Ferrari F50, Bugatti Chiron, McLaren F1 or even a steam-powered Doble on the road requires serious logistical planning, even for the most experienced Monterey denizens with years of Car Weeks under their belts.

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