EVERY year in late August, a quaint seaside county in California plays host to a mass influx of car enthusiasts, who travel from all over the globe for what is colloquially known as Monterey Car Week.
Running for 11 days this year, the ‘week’ is comprised of multiple events related by location – including Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion held at Laguna Seca Raceway, Quail Motorsports Gathering, Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance and Exotics on Cannery Row – culminating in what is effectively a grand finale at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday.
Outside of those official events, however, the most jaw-dropping, exclusive and expensive cars descend upon the public roads surrounding the Monterey Peninsula for a sight like no other.
If you’ve ever played the Forza Horizon video game, where there are more exotic supercars on the streets than average commuter cars, you’ll immediately recognise the resemblance to Car Week.
The 2018 Monterey Car Week was most certainly one for the books and Wheels managed to hit a variety of shows, capturing some of the world’s best – and rarest – cars on camera.
Arriving in Monterey
For those thinking about making the trip, it’s best to stay for all of the main period between Sunday and Sunday if you’re keen to see the most cars and attend all the main events, but realistically it heats up in an exponential way as the week progresses in terms of activities, hype and people.
As such, the start of the week this year was leisurely, with car transporters unloading million-dollar works of art and marquees being erected on fairways of famous golf courses.
Plenty of exotic metal was out and about, and we made a point to hang around the Monterey Conference Centre where the RM Auctions cars were being unloaded, ready to hit the auction block later in the week. Amongst a sea of car carriers lining the streets of downtown Monterey, a haphazard mix of vintage classics and modern hypercars including the $67-million 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO and the newer 2014 LaFerrari rolled by on their way to the makeshift holding bay.
Once the standout lots of the Monterey RM Auction like the 1963 Aston Martin DP215 GT Competition, 1966 Ford GT40 Mk II and 1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR passed by our photographic trap, we ventured off elsewhere to see what we could find.
Roaming the streets of Carmel during Car Week will always result in discovering something cool, it just depends on how high your standards are. About halfway through the week, we stopped looking at run-of-the-mill supercars like the McLaren 720S, Lamborghini Huracans and Ferrari 488 GTBs, because they were literally becoming too common.
The thrill of the chase began after spying something truly incredible, something that you’d never see in Australia, like a Ferrari F50. Cars of this calibre prompted a lot of less-than-legal U-turns to go chase them down throughout the week.
We made sure to scour the entire town in order to find the most amazing cars. But once the events started, seeing awesome automotive machinery was a guarantee.
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Having grown up playing Gran Turismo, visiting one of the most iconic tracks from the series was a non-negotiable. Laguna Seca Raceway was the setting for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which could be described as the United States’ low-rent version of the Goodwood Revival. Yet, the Reunion still sees multi-million dollar Bugattis, Maseratis and Ferraris going toe-to-toe down the Corkscrew.
Every year, the race meeting highlights a specific brand, this year being a celebration of Nissan’s motorsport heritage. To commemorate the celebration, Nissan rolled out a few of its finest racing hardware, most notably the road-going version of the legendary Le Mans-competing R390. Dotted throughout the rest of the garages was a broad selection of proper pedigree race cars.
One of the highlights was organised by McLaren. We’re still not entirely sure how it was done, but they managed to bring along the 1995 Le Mans winning F1 GTR and set it up on circuit at the hands of two-time F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen. After a short stint at what looked like qualifying pace – a scary thought for a virtually priceless car – it was brought in and parked next to BMW America’s FINA-livered F1 GTR for a photo opportunity to end all others.
Quail, A Motorsports Gathering
A more manufacturer-based event, Quail Motorsports Gathering is a chance for potential customers of million-dollar exotica to get up close with the latest machinery and manufacturer representatives from around the world.
Debuting at this year’s event was none other than the track-focused Bugatti Divo and the Nurburgring-record-shattering Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, among others. Held on a golf course, Quail also displayed cars like Koenigsegg’s final two versions of the world’s fastest car, the Agera, McLaren’s Senna and Senna GTR, BMW’s new Z4 roadster, Audi’s PB18 e-tron concept and Singer’s $1.6-million DLS 911.
If the manufacturer debuts weren’t enough, there’s historical timeline displays from brands like Porsche and Ferrari, and you can get up close to a variety of concours-competing cars.
Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance
In order to be eligible to compete at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, cars must complete a road-loop on the Thursday prior to the concours event. The route includes iconic roads from 17 Mile Drive and Highway 1 on the way down to Big Sur (roughly an hour south of Monterey) before the cars roll back through Carmel on their return to Pebble Beach.
Watching these museum pieces roll by on their tour of Monterey against the backdrop of stunning 17 Mile Drive is truly special and arguably more impressive than attending the show itself. Even the locals, who must hate the Car Week circus intruding on their solitude, are happy to pause and watch as all the cars drive past in a cacophony of noise and unburnt fuel under police escort.
Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
The 18th Hole of Pebble Beach Golf Course is the setting for the world’s most prestigious concours event, and those eager enough are allowed onto the hallowed turf from 5:30AM for the Dawn Patrol, which sees the vintage cars roll onto the field for the day. Even car enthusiast celebrities like Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld forego a sleep-in to be among the first few to enter the show for the day.
The show itself is open to both pre- and post-war classics, which are organised into categories based on type, manufacturer, country of origin and coachbuilder. Cars are judged upon their authenticity, condition, function, style and history by the judging team, which often includes honorary judges like Tom Kristensen (Le Mans-winning driver) and Valentino Balboni (Lamborghini factory test driver).
Read next: Pebble Beach 2018 auction results
Competitors often spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing their cars to compete for the prestige of a class win. Furthermore, a Best of Show award is handed out to the best of the best.
However, it’s not all about cars of history. The Concept Lawn shows off the latest and greatest like the McLaren 600LT, SSC Tuatara, Hennessey Venom F5 and Volkswagen I.D. R, and manufacturers including Ferrari had tents displaying some of their customer’s most desirable cars. Mercedes-Benz was keen to show off its F1-engined Project One, and even offered test drives of the AMG range.
Against the backdrop of the sun setting over Pebble Beach, Jay Leno announces the winners of the concours, with the Best of Show award handed to a 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta this year.
And just like that, a week packed full of the best cars we’ve ever seen comes to a close. After Monterey Car Week, we have to force ourselves back down to the reality of the Australian car scene, having walked straight past a relatively run-of-the-mill McLaren 720S spotted at Melbourne Airport. Might take some time to get used to once again.