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The History and Evolution of Monterey Car Week

Monterey Car Week

If you love cars with a passion, you'll probably have heard of Monterey Car Week. Held each August in Monterey, California, it's become the most unmissable event of the year for anyone with a love for old automobiles. Its origins date back to the 1950s, when a bunch of car enthusiasts decided that Pebble Beach's lanes made the ideal place for a car race. To attract more interest, they came up with the idea of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, an automotive charitable event in which hundreds of vintage cars compete for the title of Best in Show. Over the years, the event has grown in size and popularity to the extent that it now serves as the highlight of an entire week of automobile-related events.

The Founders

Monterey Car Week was founded by D. Brian Smith and Ben Moment, two motoring enthusiasts who've been mad about cars for longer than they'd care to admit. Moment developed his love for all things four-wheeled when his dad, an Austin-Healey restoration expert and retired rocket scientist, began taking him to sports races as a kid. He got hooked on speedy, well-designed motors, a passion that's only intensified during his years flying planes for the US Army. Smith was also introduced to cars by his dad, and the pair have been attending races and car shows ever since Smith was a toddler. In the mid-1990s, Smith landed a job as a staff editor on four Petersen Publishing NASCAR magazines; since then, he's continued to earn his living writing about and photographing some of the coolest cars on the planet.

The Genesis of Monterey Car Week

According to their official website, Moment and Smith created Monterey Car Week with one simple goal in mind - to create a shared experience that allows everyone that loves cars to come together and appreciate a nice piece of vehicle engineering. Ultimately, car events aren't new. They've been going on for years, and take place all over the globe. Races, exhibitions, expositions.... whatever you've got in mind, there's a good chance that one is happening somewhere within traveling distance in the not-to-distant future. Yet despite their ubiquity, few boast universal appeal. And that's where the Monterey Car Race comes in. These days, the Monterey Car Week consists of a series of events, culminating in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It didn't, however, start out that way. Dial back 75 years ago, and car lovers were looking for a good place for a town race. Pebble Beach's narrow, twisting lanes were perfect, but its organizers knew that a race alone wouldn't draw the kinds of crowds they wanted. So they came up with the idea of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, a car show that showcases some of the most elegant and significant cars on the market. It worked... the crowds came, the cars wowed, and everything went swimmingly until 1956, when a fatal accident put an end to the race for good. The car show, however, continued, turning from a secondary event into the mainstay. As its popularity grew, it turned from a one-day event into a weekend and eventually into an entire week.

The Main Event

The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is, of course, the mainstay of the Monterey Car Week. This, as, says, is the cherry on top of all the amazement that surrounds the series of events. Described by Forbes as an "awe-inspiring drive that traces portions of the famed 17-Mile Drive," the parade travels from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Pebble Beach. 175 vintage vehicles participate, offering viewers the chance to watch some of the most beautiful cars ever made do their thing. Cars are divided into three different categories based on country of origin, marque, time period, and several other factors. Prizes are available for the first, second, and third winners in each category, and at the end, an overall winner is declared.

Other Events

Asides from the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the Monterey Car Week boasts a smorgasbord of fun events and activities for car enthusiasts. As per Wikipedia, this includes...

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Held on the final weekend of the Monterey Car Week, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion was first established by Steve Earle in 1974 as the Monterey Historic Automobile Races as a meeting for his friends to race their cars. Over the years, it's grown in status and now regularly attracts around 500 participants each year, with each event focusing on a different marque.


Throughout the week-long event, various auctions are held around the Monterey Peninsula by houses such as Bonhams, RM Auctions, Russo and Steele, Gooding & Company, Mecum Auctions, and Rick Cole Auctions for anyone hoping to get their hands on a vintage motor (although be warned - you might need to win the lottery before you do). According to MSN, some of the most prestigious sales over the years include a 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Sanction II, a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 26/120/180 S-Type Supercharged Sports, a 1930 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing Top, and a 1931 Bentley 4½ Supercharged Blower. In 2014, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta was sold for a massive $38,115,000.

Jet Center Party

Each year, the Monterey Car Week kicks off with the Jet Center Party, an invitation-only event hosted by Gordon McCall. With both private cars and exotic cars on display, it's always a great way to get the festivities underway.

Legends of the Autobahn

If you like German motors, the Legends of the Autobahn is the event for you. It started life as a BMW Car Club of America event but has since grown to embrace other German marques. The event is free to attend and is held at the Nicklaus Club.

Porsche Werks Reunion

The Porsche Werks Reunion used to be a part of the Legends of the Autobahn but broke away in 2014. It now hosts around 500 Porsche vehicles per year at the Rancho Cañada Golf Club in Carmel Valley.

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering is a super exclusive show that's limited to 200 cars and 3000 attendees. The vehicles shown are judged, with the car that wins Best in Show qualifying for the Peninsula “Best of the Best” competition in which eight vehicles go head to head at an event held each year in Paris, France.

Concorso Italiano

Held at the Bayonet & Blackhorse Golf Club, the Concorso Italiano showcases the very best vehicles to come out of Italy.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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