Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion: A report from the 2015 event by Wallace Wyss

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Going to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Revival is like going to a concours where, periodically a horn sounds, and pristine cars roll out of the pits and onto the track where they are thrashed to the nth degree.

This is a different crowd than the ones who “trailer queen” their car to a concours and faint dead away if a bird poops on their car. They are willing to run neck and neck against the very same cars that competed against their car when their car was new.

There’s increasing support from automakers-this year Ford helped by sponsoring the honoring of the Shelby GT350 Mustang, a car that they spawned when they feared back in’64 the Mustang had too much of the image of a “secretary’s car” so they sent some Mustangs over to Cobra creator Carroll Shelby to “map up” the cars.

But there were many more marques at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion than Shelbys…

1(This blue 289 e-xowrks Cobra was being touted in the accompanying signage in the pits as the cover car of Automobile Year, a  yearbook. In that case it would be the Dan Gurney car that finished, though finished late. I would have loved to wait until Dan Gurney came along so I could verify that but didn’t see him this year.)

I saw an Iso Grifo race car, the car that became the production Bizzarrini (when its creator Ing. Giotto Bizzarrini had a tiff with Iso factory owner Rivolta and left, that design in hand), several Jaguars, a few Ferraris including the most valuable car on earth, the Ferrari 250GTO Series I (which are worth $32 million to $52 million depending on wich report you want to believe).Then there were Alfa Giuleitta spyders, Alfa GTZs, Lancias, MGs, and many Porsches, most of them of the “bathtub” type 356s.

6(A Ferrari 250GTO. Too valuable to race? I didn’t stick around to see if it got out there but last time I saw a documented price it was $32 million though there are rumors one went for $52 million in a private deal. I turned one down for $14,000 in 1969 which proves old cars are a better investment than the stock market (unless you were in on Apple from Day One…)

Some I saw I doubted were actually race cars in their original existence, such as an Iso Rivolta four seater and a Ferrari Lusso, but no matter—I think the organizers figure that as long as one of that marque competed sometime somewhere “back in the day,” you could consider it a race car.

22(There had to be at least half a dozen racing Porsches there. this one had bodywork that showed some attention to aero. Couldn’t find out if that was from the factory when it was new, though.)

With so many shows taking place simultaneously on the peninsula I have to credit the racers for sticking to being at the races, because with practice laps needed to sort the cars out, it is pretty hard to be in a show somewhere else on the peninsula the same weekend. Those who choose to race stayed pretty much at the races, unless they blew up their car and it’s impossible to get the parts needed to put it back together in time for the race.

2(This blue car was the Pegasus, I vaguely remember there being a model of it. I think it was made originally to promote fiberglass for car bodies, to the Detroit auto industry, but here it’s a race car.)

Now I had a press pass but only for the pits, and several years ago, when I chose to dump my film camera with its long lenses, I lost the chance to shoot from afar. Not that I could ever compete with trackside photographers who make that their career. But I can shoot with my pocket digitals in the pits, but there is the challenge of car owners half hiding their car in the shadows of a tent. Still, every few hours, when their class comes up, their cars have to “break cover” to get over to the start grid and that’s when you can get those great shots of cars moving slowly through the crowds, revving their engines.

5(This old Porsche “bathtub” 356 had pretty near a 50-year history as a race car. That’s what’s spooky about Monterey–the original owners get old but the cars, with new owners, keep comin’ back ready to rumble.)

There’s also a “midway” of sorts there—many small tents offering art, books, and clothing. It seems the midway is smaller this year so maybe they are re-thinking that, or then again there were so many other events attracting merchants to set up at upon the Peninsula that could account for the different look of the midway. I admired the young lady painter from Romania who was at Laguna Seca, patiently painting oil paintings from scratch. I’d already seen her at two other venues, and she is incredibly imperturbable, just sits down and creates. I am a fine artist as well but couldn’t create art amid so many distractions.

21(A fine artist displays his work  in one of the last tents on the midway. That’s one of the great things about Monterey–up-and-coming artists have  a place to show their work.)

I missed the actual race of the Shelby GT350 Mustangs but was rooting for Dr.Bruce Kawaguchi, who I understand only got in a couple laps due to overheating in his Shelby School car (one of the ones used in the Shelby Driving School).

10(You don’t often see prewar Alfas competing in vintage races stateside but here was a well turned out one. People forget Enzo Ferrari got his start on an Alfa racing team.)

Other interesting cars there were Dean Melling’s 1954 Jaguar D-Type; Greg Whitten’s 1957 Aston Martin DBR2; John Morton’s 1971 Porsche 908/3; Jeffery Segal’s 1970 Ferrari 512M; Marino Franchitti’s 1975 Gulf Mirage GR8; Adrian Sucari’s 1954 Maserati A6 GCS; Chip Conner’s 1980 Porsche 935J; Weldon Munsey’s 1992 Mazda RX7-92P; Zak Brown’s 1986 Porsche 962; Bob Ball’s 1971 Ferrari 312PB; Richard Griot’s 1969 Porsche 908/2 Spyder; Jeff Zwart’s 1966 Porsche 906 and some Formula 5000 machines. Jeff Zwart, as many know, is a famous photographer who has moved on to film directing. He also owns a Gmund Porsche, one of the ones made in Austria before Porsche moved back to Germany.

24(This blue XK-120 was the essence of the way I like a 120–flip up windscreens, leather straps, I remember seeing three such cars arrive at Lime Rock once to watch a vintage race and the fun was in hearing about the drive there–three Jags with flip up windscreens, nose to tail, all way way across the State.)

There is also a pre-Monterey race event, which you should look up if your schedule in 2016 won’t allow you to be in Monterey during car week itself. I guarantee that will be less crowded.

9(A gullwing at Monterey. I can tell you, from owning two, that they are cantankerous what with a leather fuel injection diaphragm. Maybe the owners have solved that problem since. Great to see them out there.)

The track itself is spectacular –nestled in the rolling hills of the Peninsula, it is a 2.238-mile officially known as “ Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.” Considered one of the most demanding in the country, the circuit includes 11 corners and a 300-foot elevation change, including my favorite when I’ve tested cars there, the five story drop known as the infamous “Corkscrew.”

23(This was an early ’50s open Ferrari. Can’t tell the model, but short of the Mille Miglia re-creation you don’t get to see this million dollar Ferraris run that much except at Monterey and a couple of east coast events.)

Due to being a vendor at Concorso on Saturday, I missed the preview of the newly born Cobra Daytona coupes, being built by Kirkham for Shelby’s Corporation, but that is just one reason you should try to be there on Saturday because that is the day the honored marques have some special ceremony.

8(This has to be one of the most beautiful prewar Alfa race cars I have ever seen. Its stance almost seems modern.)

Overall, I have to say that the Monterey Rolex Revival is one of the bargain events. I had a press pass but I think a day pass is under $70 and, for that, you can see a lot of cars, buy a lot of souviners, and talk to a lot of collectors for that price. Oh, and be sure to bring earplugs—I like engine sounds but fair warning, none of those race cars have mufflers…

7(Now if I had gone up and shot the sign, I’d know what car this was. Open wheel race cars, especially F1, require a great deal more engine work than the street derived race cars so count on greater expenses if you go that way. They have their own contingent of fans.)


THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of SHELBY, the Man, the Cars, the Legend, available from Enthusiast Books, Hudson, WI.

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