This past August marked my second year in a row of attending the Monterey Historics, Pebble Beach Concours and other events that make up "The Weekend." It all happens on California's Monterey Peninsula near the picturesque towns of Carmel and Monterey. These events have become so fundamental to the automotive industry that major manufacturers (in this case, Ford, GM and Chrysler) use the occasion to unveil new production and concept cars, just as they would during a major domestic or international auto show. Beyond the well-known Concours d'Elegance and historic racing activities, there is a host of smaller car shows, high-dollar auctions and organized rallies.
I was fortunate enough to attend the event as a guest of Ferrari, which included participation in the 7th Annual Ferrari Challenge Rally. This meant getting the keys to a Maserati Spyder to drive from Los Angeles to Paso Robles at which point I traded the Maserati for a Ferrari 360 Spider before continuing on up to the Carmel Valley Ranch and Golf Course. Driving through Southern and Central California with four dozen other Ferraris was about as much fun as I've ever had behind the wheel, with the highlight coming at the end of the rally. For the final leg, I chased a 1965 275 GTB, driven by fellow rally participant Carlos Macaya of Costa Rica, along one of the most exciting roads in the state. Driving the Ferrari 360 Spider was incredible, but driving the 360 while watching a 275 GTB slice along a twisting canyon road south of Carmel was more entertaining than even I could have imagined.
Special tip to car guys out there: Driving a vintage Ferrari, or watching one race around a track, is such an obvious way to go. Try having a front-row seat during a 90-minute thrill ride as one of these cars is driven like it was meant to be driven when Enzo first designed it. Now that's a good time!
Once in Carmel there were plenty more prancing horses to see, as Ferrari was the honored marque this year. Rolls-Royce also used the event to celebrate the company's 100th birthday, which meant large, big-fendered cars with oversized hood ornaments were rampant on the streets of Carmel. But that was nothing compared to the mob of Ferraris. I actually felt bad for the guys in 360s (myself excluded, of course), as they were completely overshadowed by F40s, Enzos and even GTOs — real ones, not reproductions. When one considers that they only made 39 GTOs for street use back in 1962, it was pretty amazing to see several of them driving around like normal cars on public roads. Almost made the 10 different Enzos I saw over the weekend seem insignificant. If all that wasn't enough, Mercedes-Benz had a gaggle of Gullwings on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the SL coupe.
Of course, the weekend wasn't just about classic cars. Ford showed off the latest concept built on its GT platform. The Shelby GR-1 is basically a modern interpretation of the original Daytona Coupe. And like the original Daytona model, the GR-1 is based off an existing Cobra, only this time it's the Cobra concept shown at this year's Detroit show. That car didn't resonate with people the way Ford's J Mays would have liked, so he gave his team another chance to wrap the chassis and V10 engine in a more appealing package. And this time they got it right. As good as the car looks in photos, you have to see it in person to truly appreciate the effort. The Cobra concept could be left on the drawing board as far as I'm concerned. But this one needs to be built.
A car that is definitely getting built is Chrysler's new 300 SRT-8, which debuted on Pebble Beach's 18th green on Friday night. Obviously 340 horsepower just isn't enough for a modern family sedan, so Chrysler will offer this version with a 6.1-liter Hemi engine and 425 hp. Sound familiar? That's because it's the same figure the company stated for the classic 426 Hemi almost 40 years ago. And just in case you're still wondering — yes, these are the good ol' days of American iron.
If there's a downside to "The Weekend," it's the number of people who now attend. As a relative newbie, I can only comment on how the events work in the modern world, which is to say they are clearly overcrowded. The entire region is obviously not meant to handle the level of traffic (both car and foot) that it sees during this orgy of automotive enthusiasm. According to old timers, the weekend used to be a quiet, relaxed event with everyone simply enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery and automotive artwork.
Regardless, if you consider yourself a "car guy" (or gal), you must attend this event at least once in your life. Try to get everywhere early and just surrender to the fact that no matter how hard you plan in advance, you simply won't see everything. Don't worry, if you only catch 25 percent of the weekend's action, the effort will prove well worth it.