Thursday, August 21, 2014

RETRO: Monterey Historics1994 - 20yrs later - Fini!

1994 Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance program. (The Tomaso Collection)
Continuing on with this magnificent trek to California's fertile grounds of A-L-L things automotive, my mind  was about to be even more overwhelmed than the previous day's outing at Concourso Italiano!

Saturday, August 27, 1994

Today I’m off for Laguna Seca raceway! From my nearby motel, I take Reservation Blvd to the back gate, which leads through desolate Fort Ord. Passing the “shuttered” barracks, the two lane twisty road encourages those in front of me to begin driving at qualifying speeds before reaching the ticket-takers.

Leaving the “Bow-wow” mobile (Chevy Corsica) high above the racetrack on a steep grassy knoll, I walk across a foot bridge towards the Paddock area. Inside the giant Ferrari display tent awaits a wondrous sight! Three mid-sixties Ferrari P330’s and three million dollar IMSA 333SP (Sports Prototype) racecars sit parked in the classic dash across the track Le Mans start formation; Aye Karumba! With one wall behind the six 'Mega AWESOME gleaming Scuderia rosso scarlet-red cars containing a gigantic wall mural of the Rolex 24. (Daytona 24hrs)

A small selection of Ferrari’s current street cars sit on display inside the tent: A brand new 456GT and two 355’s sit alongside each other, while a lone red 512TR sits orphaned in the corner, with more early machinery also residing nearby.

In the middle of the tent a 250LM sits parked with “le piece de la resistance!” As a large throng of spectators hover around the 1990 Alain Prost 641 F1 chassis. Standing alongside it, I mumble to myself how small & low-slung these rocket-sled’s are. (They look much larger on TV!) And that’s just the main display tent on the premises.

Cruising the paddock area, I’m floored by the number of vintage racecars on site… Including what appears to be a sea of Ferraris!

My favourite row features three fabulous 512F's Sports Prototypes, i.e.; those NASTY Ferrari's that hounded the all conquering Porsche 917 Panzerwagon's! As there’s a red Parks/Pescarolo car behind my absolute all time favorite Ferrari sports racer: The No. 6 Sonoco blue liveried Penske Mark Donohue/David Hobbs Le Mans chassis; HOLY CRAP!!! While further along the paddock I spot the ex-Clay Regazzoni 312 F1 chassis when walking through row after row of exotic machinery...

Noticing a gaggle of Shelby’s, I stop and briefly chat with Shelby GT 350  vintage racer John McClintock (Puyallup, WA) before checking out three Cobra’s parked next to McClintock’s and Jim Shield’s GT-350’s..

Next I cross over the “Flinstone” (Firestone) footbridge to the “Manufacture's Midway” to peruse the assorted vendor booths. Before lunch I climb up the steep hill which you need to hike in order to reach the famous Corkscrew turn. You know: The corner where Alex Zanardi would complete an astounding off road “bonsai” pass on the final lap to beat Bryan Herta a few years later, in what is known in Open Wheel Racing parlance simply as "The Pass!" As this breathtaking maneuver culminated with Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) creating the “Zanardi” rule," i.e.; not being allowed to pass with all 4-wheels off of the racetrack!

And what a most impressive corner, indeed! Screaming up the hill, Racer’s aim for a tree while entering the blind crest that leads into the Corkscrew. Then the cars plunge down the 3-story undulating drop towards the pits… As the view is fantastic from here also.

I watch the lunchtime activities of Ferrari parade laps which seem to feature many production model Ferrari’s including two F-40’s. Then over the PA system I listen to the interview with 2 time F1 World Champion Niki Lauda. (Hmm? Apparently they didn’t wish to mention his 3rd title since it was in a McLaren-Porsche, eh?) about his Ferrari consultancy job and what he thinks about Ferrari’s recent win in the German Grand Prix?

A Brace of Awesome scarlet red Scuderia Ferrari Sports Prototype sit poised for action inside Monterey Historics "Big Top" tent. (The Tomaso Collection)
Niki claims he’s never been to Laguna Seca before. So, I’ll take the 456 out to learn where the lefts & rights are… Then I’ll drive my ex-F1 car around a few times.

It’s really fun watching Niki pound around. On the second time through the Corkscrew, Lauda is hard on the gas… And the sound of the 456’s front air dam can be heard massively scraping the FIA curbing. Niki’s hard on the accelerator, shifting gears with tires squealing in search of adhesion…All this while Niki’s chauffeuring 3 very fortunate guests while learning the track’s layout; Hooah!

Next Niki drives his first Ferrari winning F1 car for 2-laps, as nothing sounds quite like the wail of a Ferrari F1 Flat-12 motor! As Lauda was at the controls of his ex-312B3 Ferrari he'd driven to his debutant Formula 1 win at the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama...

Afterwards the Saturday race sessions begin with the oldest, “slowest” race groups. Afterwards, the first 2 races are followed by two Ferrari tribute laps for Luigi Chinetti where a Ferrari 206 SP grinds it’s nose by running too close to the Corkscrew’s curbing!

The next race sees Phil Hill flogging someone else’s poor Bugatti! Every time by, the Bugatti’s tyres squeal loudly in protest from Phil trying to go too fast! With another of the multitude of celebrities on hand, “Blackjack” (Sir Jack Brabham) participates in the racing - while Phil Hill jumps into a Ferrari 212 and simply “motor’s” away from the next race group.

Group 5A provides the best racing action of the day. A 1958 Ferrari 250 TR spins in the Corkscrew. While trying to save the car, the driver vainly overcorrects and spins another three times across the entire track before coming to a complete halt!

Close-up of 'Regga's (Clay Regazzoni) Ferrari F1 racecar during a time when Formula 1 front  wing assemblies were much simpler! (The Tomaso Collection)
Finally it’s time for my favourite race group, Group 7A: 1966-83 Formula One cars! (Saturday’s final event) Where else can you hear the sweet sounds of three Ferrari 12-cylinder engines singing staccato? Bruce McCaw is piloting the ex-Niki Lauda 1976 312T2. David Livingston drives his ex-Jacky Ickx 1969 312 with another ex-Lauda 1973 312B3 in tow... As these 3 Musketeer’s are chased by another dozen + Cosworth DFV V-8 powered chassis. What a truly wonderful site!

On lap-4 while entering the Corkscrew side by side, a March dices with a Ferrari. The March gets totally “crossed-up,” inducing a lurid spiral down the hill and ending on the opposite side of the track…
Upon driving back to the motel totally “jazzed: from the day’s activities, I decide another venture to Monterey is required. Approaching Seaside on Highway 1, I slow down to allow oncoming traffic to merge. A red Ferrari 328 GTB darts directly in front of me… Dumbfounded by the sight of the Ferrari, I quickly roll down the window. While savoring the sounds of the V-8, I find it extremely bemusing to watch the 328 effortlessly vanish from my sight while accelerating to 100+ mph when trying to follow it!

Sunday, August 28

This morning I’m up very early (5:30AM) to beat the crowds to Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance. Out in the motel’s parking lot, I take a long look over the strangest looking Ferrari I’ve seen the entire weekend. It’s a “one-off” aluminum bodied prototype 2 seater barchetta named Conciso; built on a steel tube frame chassis and powered by a Ferrari 3.2 liter Quattrovalve V-8...

I drive through the morning fog towards Carmel, turning onto the famous 17 mile drive and follow the twisting two-lane road past mansions galore, with “Beemer’s, (BMW's) Mercedes-Benz’s and Jaguar’s parked in their driveways. As I follow the road down to the golf course on the ocean and I’m there!

The parking lot is filled with Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Pantera’s, etc. Passing by the golf pro shop and other building’s I arrive at the concept car display.

There’s four Chrysler’s, three mid-1980’s Ford Ghia’s and the Bentley Java still under cover. There’s also six priceless Ferrari’s on display, while parked on the manicured lawns is that silver “loaner” Ferrari 456GT that Niki Lauda “flogged” the previous day at Laguna Seca!

Onto Pebble Beaches 18th hole, I walk through the most awesomely pristine gathering of early 1950’s-60’s Ferrari’s I’ve ever seen! What? This Ferrari is from Medina, WA. And look there’s another Ferrari from Medina and it’s even got (license) plates on it...

Next, I walk past three people furiously polishing a bare aluminum Bugatti: Type 51/57? While alongside sits a blue Bugatti Type 31.

After drooling over the Ferrari’s and Bugatti’s I check out a row of Pegaso's. Hmm? What’s a Pegaso? Only 86 of these Spanish built sports cars were constructed. And I really prefer the four dual-carb weber stacks arrangement over the single supercharger option, although it’s much rarer. And although I’ve never seen a Pegaso, they’re really beautiful cars and they seem to resemble the late 1950’s Ferrari 250 SWB berlinetta...

Then I walk through the AFAS tent (Automotive Fine Arts Society) and marvel over the awesome artwork! My favourite is the 3-foot X 5-foot acrylic on canvas dark blue Viper GTS by Jay Koka for the ultra low price of $4,800.00; SHEISA!

Back out into the glorious California sunshine, I peruse the big “stodgy-podgy” trans-ocean liners… The rarefied “Grey Poupon-High Society” selection is flaunted by Duesenberg's, Cords and Cadillac V-16’s, while I’m enamored by an Auburn Boatail, but my enthusiasm quickly wanes as I approach a row of vintage MG’s. It’s tough work being a jaded, awestruck spectator after 3 Fantastic days of mind-blowing exotic automobiles, Eh!

Sensory overload seems to have aflicted me after “eye-balling” the most awesome gathering of exotic Italian machinery I’ve ever seen at once, with Saturday’s racetrack action being nothing to snicker at either!

There, at Laguna Seca, the president of Ferrari Club of North America speculated that this must be the largest gathering of Ferrari’s at once… When asked how many? He replied” Oh about a ton and a half! As in 1,050 or 1,500? Correct! 1,500+ Ferrari’s attending this weekend’s events; SHEISA!

I make one last sweep through the Ferrari’s and notice how somehow the Chrysler & Ford concept cars seem “ordinary?" While the car cover has been pulled off of the Bentley Java. (concept car) What an awesome machine!

Recall this was the era when Chrysler was a wholly owned car company, i.e.; before Mercedes, Cerberus Capital and Fiat owned it! Along with when Ford owned Jaguar and Aston Martin plus Cosworth, which to Mwah, were much brighter Days...

And Bentley wasn't owned by current parent company BMW, nor was  Bugatti under the control of VW yet; as ironically, Bentley and bugatti have been rivals since their beginnings...

Leaving the event, somehow jumping back into theChebbie' (Corsica) rental car seems anti-climatic as I hurriedly drive back to San Jose, or is it San Hose? Hya! To pick up Marcus at Shirley’s house. Dropping off the rental car, we check in and fly home.

Do I have to leave? Surely the weekend can’t be over…


Coincidently after returning from Monterey, I notice that my September ’94 Sports Car International (SCI) magazine seems to coincide with the just concluded events attended.

The cover features the Ferrari 355 - and the words “Maranello Baby Grows Up,” spouts the headline. The 355’s MSRP = $125,000…  (Apparently this was prior to the F1 version; The 1st production Ferrari to feature Formula One paddle shifting)

Ferrari 355 Specs
  • 3.5 liter V-8: 5 valves per cylinder. 6 speed manual transmission.
  • 280bhp @ 8,250 RPM. 0-60mph = 5.6 seconds. Top Speed = 183 mph.

Next up in the magazine, Crestley Crewe’s Missile: This year's sensational show car; The Bentley Java. While in the very back of the SCI rag' I notice an article on “Guess Who?” Bernd Michalak Work studio's Conciso… Hey, that’s the same funky car I saw in my motel’s parking lot!

This Michalak Conciso prototype/show car cost approx. $150,000 and the Conciso’s curb weight = 2,150lbs. It’s Ferrari 3.2 liter DOHC V-8 pumping out 270bhp @ 7,000 RPM's propels it from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds, with a top speed of 151mph; WOW! As this car was supposed to make it’s debut at Laguna Seca… Wonder what next year’s show will do to top this event?

Ironically, unbeknownst to Mwah; I would meet & stay at Shirley’s house 10yrs later when Marcus and I visited for 10-days during our RUSh 30th Anniversary concert extravaganza in 2004...

Having long since surrendered my most prized possession, my Driver's license due to my faltering eyesight, Shirley had Mark drive us to Carmel, Monterey and Oceanside in her 1986 Jaguar XKE! Hey, if Yuhs can't drive  NO more, than at least Y'all should travel in style, right? As this is the last time I've been to some of my most cherished automotive hunting grounds! As I really need to go back again - pronto!

And as typical in life, much has changed over the past  20yrs, including Concorso Italiano apparently outgrowing the Quail Lodge, or was it finances? As there's a different car show held there now - and quite a bit pricier! While Concorso Italiano has moved to Fort Ord.

Also, it's not called the Monterey Historics anymore,  since Steve Earle sold out 'N retired, with the event now being known as the Monterey Motorsports Reunion instead.

And the Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance, which should be experienced at least once has more than tripled in price since I attended; YIKES! As I know I've got my ticket stub that I seem to recall paying $80 for. (Or at the very most I paid $100) But don't have the time, inclination or effort to hunt for it... With 2014 event Pre-sale tickets now setting you back 275 'Smackeros, with day of show tickets costing $300!

And lastly, as mentioned before, I've got extremely CRAPY eyesight - Otay, I DON'T like telling anybody "I'm Blind!" Which Mary Ellen likes to remind me about, just in case I've somewhat completely forgotten or somehow miraculously been cured...

Thus, its 'Uber  annoying that I cannot recognize the pictures I took 20yrs ago, which hopefully I've labeled correctly in this story - along with finding it a bit strange that I've kept my programs from said event tucked away in a box, as they've laid perfectly flat  all this time and even still in their original corresponding plastic "Grab bag" handed out at Concorso Italiano; Aye Karumba! Which I haven't par-taken in 14-years now...

Kudos to long-lost friend's Roberto; purveyor of ALL things "FoMoCo," chiefly Shelby; also introducing Mwah to the De Tomaso marque, a la his AWESOME Pantera GT5! Along with wife Kimberly and daughter 'Cammee  who coined the word 'Hystericals... And ex-boss & goalie Jeff, who insisted I really needed to experience  the Monterey Historics weekend, confirming what Roberto had already told me.

And lastly, major Kudos to Marcus, Shirley and his Dad for their hospitality, transportation & assistance during my two brief stays in California!