Heading to California this year for the US’s biggest old car festival? Here’s our guide to what’s what, where’s where and how to make sure you see it all
Of all classic car events in America, August’s Monterey Car Week is by far the largest and most multifaceted by a factor of ten. For 2018, the world-renowned Californian proceedings will start on Monday August 20 and end on Sunday August 26.
They’ll incorporate a vintage racing event at Laguna Seca, six collector car auctions, two automobilia shows, two tours/rallies, a huge party on Wednesday (the McCall's Motorworks Revival) and more than eight concours and car show events. Phew! The whole shebang culminates with the stunning Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
If you’ve never attended Monterey Car Week, all of this can be a bit overwhelming – so AutoClassics has created a guide to the busy schedule, describing the various main events along with times, pricing and our advice, gleaned from years of attendance.
More on Monterey here…
- How to do Monterey Car Week for under $1000
- Rule Britannia Concours announced for Monterey
- Looking to buy a car with a Pebble Beach connection? Step this way!
The key to getting the most out of Monterey is to go there with a plan and try to stick to it. Having said that, if you’re having just too much fun at an event, scrap your original schedule for that day and just have a great time. The key is to pick the events that most interest you and ignore the rest.
Also be aware that this can be a very expensive week. However, there are quite a few free events, so be sure to read carefully – and check out our separate guide on how to do Monterey Car Week for under $1000. Also, even if you aren’t race-car crazy, spend at least one day at the track. You’ll never see so many epic machines at speed in any other place in the US.
And even if you don’t care that much for concours, be sure to add Pebble Beach to your list. Nowhere will you see a finer selection of the ‘best of the best’ in the collector world. It will make you re-evaluate your notion of a no.1 condition car.
Most of all, have fun and be sure to enjoy your trip. You will see more amazing cars than you can count, and are likely to make some great new friends along the way.
Monday August 20
The Quail Rally
This invitation-only event began in 1997, and is a two-day drive that precedes The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. It’s quite small, made up of only of 30 vintage automobiles from different collectors The founders of the event describe it as ‘a good drive, with good friends, for a good cause’. More information here.
Tuesday August 21
Carmel Concours on the Avenue
This free event held in beautiful downtown Carmel sees 16 city blocks filled with classics. The judged show includes a vast number of different cars, with everything from hot rods and racers to newer sport machines and exotica. The event runs from 10am-5pm. Featured this year are Porsche and Ferrari cars thru 1989. A good tip is to get there by 8am in order to get a good parking spot in one of the few public lots. See here for extra event info.
This event starts on Tuesday and continues thru Wednesday, and its 10am-6pm opening hours give you a full two days to get along to the Embassy Suites in Seaside just off CA 1. It’s the place to buy that ‘unobtainable’ manual for your Lamborghini Miura SV, a tool kit for your E-type, rare books, original racing and automotive posters, or any other automobilia item you can think of.
Tuesday is less crowded than Wednesday, and offers more selection. A two-day admission is only $20 and benefits the Monterey Rape Crisis Center. More information on the event is available here.
Rule Britannia Concours of Elegance
Rule Britannia is new for Monterey, and 2018 sees a soft launch in the form of a red-carpet gala entitled A Celebration of Fine British Automobiles. The event takes place at the Laguna Seca Golf Ranch from 7.30-10pm. This very first all-British Concours is a much-needed addition to Monterey, and tickets cost from $150-250. More event info here.
Wednesday August 22
Carmel Mission Classic
Open from 10am-4pm, this smaller concours offers a wide selection of cars, from sports and exotics to hot rods and even some race machinery. It also has wine tastings from some of the area’s finest vineyards. The event is a little off the beaten track from the other Wednesday events, but many people love it. Special guest this year is Barry Meguiar, of Meguiar's polish. Admission is $55, and you can read more here.
The Little Car Show
This event runs from 10am-4pm and is located at Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. A favourite among serial Monterey attendees, it features cars with sub-1601cc engines or electric powertrains. Only 100 cars are allowed, and you’ll see everything from Abarth race cars to Mini Coopers and even the occasional ASA. This is one of the week’s unsung gems, and the best part is that admission is free. More information here.
Wednesday is the start of auction previews at Bonhams, Worldwide, RM Sothebys, Gooding and Company, and Russo and Steele. Prices for entry vary.
McCall's Motorwerks Revival
As the official Monterey kick-off party, the Motorwerks Revival features fantastic cars, historic motorcycles and amazing aircraft, all in one place. Benefitting the California Highway Patrol’s 11-99 Foundation, this is one of the week’s ‘see and be seen’ events.
It features food and wine from the very best regional providers, and offers something for everyone. Tickets range from $425-$575 and include a goodie bag, all the food and drink you can consume, and the chance to meet many celebrities at no extra charge. More information is available here.
Thursday August 23
Thursday is a great day to check out auction reviews – or buy a car on the block – go to the track on a slower day and watch the Pebble Beach Tour.
Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance
The place where you can see quite a few of the Pebble Beach Concours cars actually being driven on the road. This is another free event – you just have to be on the route. To do it properly you need to get your spot early, as it’s quite popular and the cars line up at the start at 7am. The route map and other information are available here.
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Held at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, this vintage racing event is, along with the Pebble Beach Concours, the anchor tenant of the entire week. If you love to see classic race cars at speed, you really must attend.
Thursday is one of the slower days at the track and the most inexpensive. All the cars will be there, which makes this a bargain day. Also the autograph lines are much shorter, giving you a much better chance to meet your heroes.
Special guests include virtually everyone involved with Datsun and Nissan racing (Datsun/Nissan is the featured class). Tickets are a huge deal, as they start at only $30 for a single-day Thursday admission, with other tickets costing more. Find out more here.
This is the official start of auction week, with Worldwide, Russo and Steele, and Mecum kicking off. Mecum is during the day, with the others in the evening. All have some amazing cars that you might want to raise your hand for – and often see some great deals on opening day.
Pebble Beach Retroauto
Held at the Inn at Spanish Bay and opening Thursday at 9.30am-5.30pm, this is Monterey’s other automobilia show. It includes many of the vendors from Automobilia Monterey as well as a few additions.
Smaller than its counterpart, it’s still a great show – especially if you arrive later in the week, as it runs thru Saturday. Admission is free and more information is available here.
Friday August 24
This must be the busiest day of the week, with five auctions, the track action at Laguna Seca and three different concours events. You have to plan well and stick to your plan. Also, traffic is at its worst today, so a good rule of thumb for any event is to arrive and leave early.
It’s possible to do all three concours and an auction, but this is a very aggressive schedule. Best instead to see the events you’re most interested in and catch an auction later in the evening. We recommend RM Sotheby’s, as so many epic cars are on offer there.
Legends of the Autobahn
This celebration of all German cars except Porsche is held at the Nicklaus Club – Monterey. Hosted by the BMW Car Club of America, Mercedes-Benz Club of America and Audi Club North America, it’s a top-tier event that with the exception of a $20 parking fee is absolutely free. Love German cars? You should definitely attend. Gates open at 7am. Additional information here.
The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering
The Quail is the hardest show to get tickets for, and one of the week’s premiere events. It’s limited to 300 spectators, and tickets are doled out in a lottery system. If you can find someone with extra tickets, which are a bit steep at $650, you should go. Food from the area’s finest restaurants and wine from the best wineries are all included, as is a goodie bag.
It’s as much social as it is about the cars, and is a veritable who’s who of the classic world. You’ll see some of the most fantastic automobiles at Monterey, too. This year celebrates, among other anniversaries, 70 years of the Porsche 356, so expect to see some very rare examples on the field. In addition to the classics on display, the event hosts on-site test drives from virtually every high-end brand you can name.
Located at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, gates open at 10am-4pm. A good tip is to get to The Quail at 10am sharp and leave early to avoid exiting traffic. More information here.
Werks Reunion, A Porsche Gathering
If you worship at the altar of Zuffenhausen, then you should attend this event over any other Friday event. At the Werks Reunion you’ll see every Porsche you can imagine. The event is held at the Corral de Tierra Country Club in Salinas, and is free including parking. A Porsche spectator car corral is open to all Porsches, but you must pre-register for it. More information here.
This is the biggest auction day of the event, with Bonhams, Mecum, Russo and Steele, RM Sotheby's, and Gooding and Company all holding sales. Bonhams’ event in in conjunction with The Quail, while RM Sotheby's will be offering the 1963 Aston Martin DP215 on Friday, which is not to be missed.
Saturday August 25
Saturday is an easier day at Monterey, especially when compared with Friday. There are only two concours, the racetrack and the evening auctions. The biggest traffic jams will be entering the circuit, so be sure to arrive early.
This is one of the most fun events of the entire week, and it’s free. The event is called a ‘celebration of the oddball, mundane and truly awful’, and always lives up to this billing. At Lemons you will see AMC Pacers, Ford Pintos, Yugos, Chrysler TCs, and just about any other oddball car you can think of. Renault Fuego? Absolutely!
Not only do you see automobiles that are largely forgotten, but they’re often in pristine condition. It’s located at the Seaside City Hall on Harcourt Avenue en route to the track, making for an easy way to go to multiple events.
You can get there as early as 7am, and Hagerty provides coffee and doughnuts. Parking is easiest at the Embassy Suites or Chili’s parking lots across from the event. See more here.
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
This is the biggest day at the track, offering the most access to racing legends. It is also the most crowded. See the Thursday post above for more info.
If you love Italian cars, go to Concorso. This event celebrates all Italian wheeled devices from cars to motorcycles and even bicycles. Among the epic Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis, you’ll also see scores of cars from Alfa, Fiat, Lancia and more.
If you have an Italian car, do register for the show field and take part. The event is at the Black Horse Golf Course in Seaside. Admission is $180 for general admission and $495 for a VIP ticket, which includes lunch. For more information click here.
Again we have more auctions. Mecum starts the day followed by Gooding and Company, RM Sotheby’s, and Russo and Steele. RM Sotheby’s is selling the Ferrari 250 GTO today, so its auction room is likely to be a full house.
Sunday August 26
Sunday marks the final day of Monterey, and is the lightest of the week with only two events. Our recommendation is to go to the Concours early and then head to the track.
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
The top-tier concours in the US, Pebble just has to be seen to believed. You won’t attend another concours of this size and magnitude anywhere else in the country. It brings together the finest cars in the world and places them on the fairways of the historic Pebble Beach golf course.
We’d advise you to get tickets before the day to make it easier to get in. Parking is a disaster, involving shuttle buses, so plan accordingly. Gates open at 10.30am for general admission, but early-entry tickets are available. Prices range from $375-$825 at this time. Click here for more information.
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
This is also the final day of racing. Sunday is our favourite day at the track due to the reduced crowds and ease of parking. For more information on the track, go to the Thursday Rolex Reunion post above.
Well, there in a nutshell is the AutoClassics guide to Monterey. Of course there are a few other events we could mention, but this should act as a decent preview of this epic week of all things automotive.