First, I’d get a hotel room reserved no later than March. You can always cancel days you decide not to attend but finding a room much later than that could be a problem. Next, accept that you can’t go to everything. You may look at a schedule and the map and think it’s doable but add an hour to any estimated travel time for the heavier than normal traffic and the time it takes to park.
Next, I would recommend basing your decisions on what to do on cost and of course the activity. Events now occur as soon as the weekend before the Pebble Beach Concours, which started Monterey Car Week in the first place. Hotel room prices are jacked up no less than 4-fold that week so determining your hotel budget is a good way to decide how soon you want to start your week of car activities. There is plenty to see in just the two days of the weekend of the Pebble Concours or you can start the weekend before at the Pre-Historics at the Laguna Seca track and gorge on car activities all week long.
For a first time visit I’d skip the hyper expensive activities. The Quail Motorsports Gathering on Friday is like a huge lawn party with great cars, great food, great people (I seem to be doing a world tour with Dario Franchitti as we just saw each other at Goodwood last month and now the Quail in Monterey), drinks and gelato(!) all included in the price of admission. But what a price, and you can’t actually just outright purchase a ticket, you have to enter a lottery to “win” the opportunity to purchase a ticket going for approximately $1000 these days. Probably the next most expensive activity is why the week exists in the first place, the Pebble Beach Concours. This year tickets went from $375-$450 based on when you bought them. If the Pebble Concours is on your bucket list than you of course have to go. The price doesn’t deter attendance so pack a good dose of patience to sit in traffic, wait for shuttles from the parking lot and so on. Luckily most other events recognize this is the main event of the week so everything but track activity at Laguna is over by Sunday and there are no other event conflicts with the Concours.
Monday – Tuesday
There are a lot of great car activities free of charge. The Automobilia show Monday and Tuesday is always a treat to walk through. We’ve found some hard to find items there, like the leather helmet and goggles Gayle wanted to wear when driving her Beck 550 Spyder. It was made in France, just like the originals.
Tuesday the Concours on the Avenue in Carmel-by-the-sea is a great way to start the week with 18 blocks of the downtown area roped off, showcasing a variety of cars. Walk around and enjoy the cars and take a break for a fine lunch at any of the many upscale restaurants the cars will be parked in front of (be sure to save extra $s for the great meals available in the Monterey area).
We attend good friend, Gordon McCall’s, Motorworks Revival on Wednesday night at the Monterey Jet Center. Jets, fine automobiles and great people watching it’s how we normally start our Monterey Week. There are several attendee packages available in the three digit price range. This year, amongst other amazing vehicles and jets (of which you can go inside and tour (and dream) was Camilo Pardo and his beautiful Ford GT, which he had me sign, as seen here.
Thursday thru Saturday
There are numerous car auctions occurring during the week such as Mecum, Sotheby’s, Bonhams and Russo and Steele. Many, if not all, require a paid admittance. It’s not a bad way though to see a lot of fine cars as well as their estimated values at a less expensive price of admission than some of the car shows. Look at the cars, take a seat and enjoy the bidding. It’s a fine way to spend some time. It’s not unusual for me to give some background on a car at an auction, as seen here.
All throughout the week, including Sunday
Laguna Seca is humming like a hive with track practice, qualifying and racing on Saturday and Sunday. Reasonably priced, a lot of action and attendees in jeans, it’s where I try to spend most of my time during Monterey Car Week.
A highlight for us this year was the Concours d’Lemons, another free event, this one held in a park near the Embassy Suites in Seaside. Held on the Saturday of Monterey Car Week, it features the deplorables of the automotive world. Gayle and I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. What a hoot! My favorite was a rusted out Karmen Ghia with tarp straps holding down the hood, duct tape over a headlight, a patina that can’t be described and too many other features to mention. Gayle and I were interviewed about the event, showcasing a Sci-Fi B-Movie Packard for a TV show in France called “Turbo”. We had a great time and highly recommend this Saturday morning event.
We then went from Lemons to the Concorso Italiano. This is a long standing event that has evolved to include many marques. Special cars are brought up to the announcer’s stand where the crowd is educated on that particular auto’s specialness. Seen here is the DeTomaso P72 with Matt Stone interviewing me about the car on stage. It’s a nice event.
Throughout the week are various special events and unveilings, such as the U.S. unveiling of the De Tomaso P72 on Thursday at the Pebble Beach Lodge. I have been honored to have De Tomaso include me, and the P70 I designed in 1964, at the worldwide unveiling at Goodwood and the US unveiling. I was especially thrilled when the fine folks at DeTomaso presented me with this lifetime of design achievement award. It looks really good in my awards case at the BRE shop! Sunday is of course the Pebble Beach Concours.
Throughout the week enjoy the riches of restaurants in this Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove area. Do some research and make reservations a few weeks in advance.
Save your money to enjoy Monterey Car Week (hotel costs alone are impressive). Don’t be overly ambitious and be resolved that you’re going to arrive at some activities later than what you wanted due to factors out of your control like traffic and parking.
1 thought on “You just got back from Monterey Car Week. I’ve never been and seem to be paralyzed to attend because of all the activities that go on that week. What did you do while there and what would you recommend for a first-time attendee like me?”
Yet another great article, Peter! This one, close to my heart. Very informative. One of these years soon, I’ve got to make it down there with my car. It sure sounds like you and Gayle had a blast!