Every August the attention of most auto enthusiasts on the planet turns to the Monterey Peninsula in central California for the legendary Monterey Car Week. This year I was lucky enough to attend, and it was certainly a pilgrimage because the week truly has something for any automotive junkie to enjoy. From the Concours d’ Elegance on the grounds of Pebble Beach to the Concours d’ Lemons held in a public park just off the main highway, there is truly something for everyone.
A great part of the week is that you get to see cars in person that you have only seen in magazines or perhaps on Top Gear. Bugatti Veyron? Yep. Saw at least a half dozen of them. Lamborghini Espada? I got passed by three of them in a line while I was waiting at a stoplight. I even managed to see a 1937 Tatra T77 filling up at the corner gas station just after it had made the trip over from the Netherlands in a container.
Most of these super rare and expensive cars are usually tucked behind velvet ropes quietly resting in museums or private collections, but in Monterey you can get right up close, and if you ask nicely, even take a seat behind the wheel or get a spin around the block with the proud owner. It is an amazing experience even if you don’t get a chance to hit the main shows and auctions during the week because the peninsula is inundated with cars and motorcycles of nearly every vintage and genre.
The main thing you notice when you get up close and personal with some of these legendary cars is that often you can see clever bits of engineering rarely mentioned in books or magazine articles because they are such minute details. I was lucky enough to get an invitation to attend a tour of the Bonhams auction with a knowledgeable friend who has spent time under the helmet and also under the hoods of some interesting racing cars. I took a good look at a few Formula 1 cars from the 1960s and 1970s, and I could see many fascinating details that showed how the engineers went about solving challenges with the cars to squeeze the very last bit of performance out of them while staying within the four corners of the rulebook. What struck me was how simple these cars were, yet they were monstrously fast in their time, which is a credit to the brains that created them and the brave drivers that hurtled them around the circuits.
In many ways, you will see this same sort of spirit and creativity in NASA racing around the country. Many classes are restricted in how inventive you can get, but then there are classes like Performance Touring and Super Touring where the mad genius is the man or woman of the hour scheming up new ways to increase speed without accruing points that would bump them up into a faster class. You can see some of that same ingenuity in the articles in this issue of Speed News, with features on how to fix a bumper fascia using the ubiquitous zip tie, tips on aligning your car to get it in top form, and even how to doctor up your tow vehicle to keep it from sagging down the highway like a teenager’s blue jeans.
You may not be working on Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari F1 machine, but every time you contemplate how to make your car faster or somehow work better, you are channeling that same spirit that flowed through the hallowed garages of the Scuderia so many years ago. Start dreaming. Who knows what new demon tweak you may come up with using some zip ties, a roll of duct tape, and your imagination?