MONTEREY, Calif. — The Mors took second place in its show class. The Abarth Simca staged a remarkable race despite a series of mechanical challenges. The Porsche 906 Carrera performed well on the track until it was sidelined in a motoring mishap.
That’s a quick synopsis of how the Collier Collection cars from The Revs Institute fared during last week’s Monterey Car week. Three cars made the trek west from Naples: the Mors 1908 Grand Prix car for display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and the Abarth and Porsche Carrera for the Rolex Reunion races of historic cars at the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway.
Getting to Monterey was the easy part. All three cars faced challenges during the week — including, for the Mors, the simple act of starting its engine on the show field. The car’s massive 12.5-liter engine (not untypical for early racers) can be touchy to start in chilly conditions, such as the mist-laden post-dawn hours on Pebble Beach’s 18th fairway alongside Monterey Bay.
“We anticipated a possible rough cold start in the 55-60 degree temperatures, and you must start the car for the judges close to 8:30 a.m.,” says Scott George, Revs Institute vice president. “But the car started on its first hand pull.”
That afternoon — last Sunday, Aug. 20 — the Mors started again (whew!) for the drive across the Pebble Beach stage ramp to collect its second place award in the Concours’ Open Wheel Racing Class. First-in-class went to another early French car: the 1907 Renault AI Vanderbilt Racer owned by Robert Kauffman of Charlotte, N.C.
Meanwhile the previous morning, over at Laguna Seca, Revs’ Porsche 906 Carrera was bumped by another car during a morning qualifying race. “This incident was avoidable and damaged original Porsche parts that are no longer available,” says George. While vigorous competition is fine, “historic racing should be about sharing special cars in a special venue where the cars themselves are the stars.”
That was the case the previous weekend with the Revs Abarth Simca 2000 GT. The late Carlo Abarth specialized in taking ordinary small cars, mostly Fiats but occasionally others, and converting them into race-worthy pocket rockets. On Sunday Aug. 13, the first weekend of the Rolex Reunion races, driver Gunnar Jeanette drove the Abarth Simca from a 28th place start to a fifth-place finish, while the track announcers slipped into verbal overdrive to praise the car’s performance.
The Abarth Simca is a fast but fragile car, and in the ensuing days it had a series of mechanical problems culminating in a broken transaxle that knocked it out of action. Still, George’s fondest memory of the week was “seeing the delight on Gunnar’s face” after his Aug. 13 ride, he explains, adding: “To see it driven so well and so quickly is an experience one does not get to witness often.”
We asked some other members of the Revs team to share their best memories of Monterey Car Week, and here are some of their replies:
● John Lamm, contributing editor. “I love the one day in the week when I do nothing but photograph race cars (at Laguna Seca). There’s Turn 11 as they brake hard for that corner then swoop out onto the front straight. There’s the famous Corkscrew with at least four camera angles. And I love it as they slide through Turn 6 and provide a long lens shot as they rush up toward the Corkscrew. I’ve never worn earplugs, as my wife can attest!”
● Keith Grey, technician and photographer. Amid the pomp-and-presentation of last Sunday’s Concours d’Elegance, “I somehow attracted a lonely dog that kept leaving her owners and following me. Her name was Sadie, the same as my dog that died two years ago. It was sort of like Sadie coming back to visit me.”
● Mike Fiala, photographer/videographer. If the Concours d’Elegance can be self-important, the surefire antidote is the previous day’s Concours d’Lemons in nearby Seaside, Calif. The free-of-charge Concours d’LeMons proudly bills itself as “an oil stain” on the exclusive events of the week. “Hoopties, rust buckets, misfits and mistakes” all competed for the much-coveted ‘Worst of Show’ award. Categories of cars included Rust Belt American Junk, Swedish Meatballs, Needlessly Complex Italian and everything in between. This year\s Lemons featured new, larger venue and the addition of the Lemons Rally, a five-day road trip through Washington State, Oregon and California. Though the week’s more prestigious auto events are nothing less than spectacular, the informal, easy-going spirit of the LeMons made it my favorite to attend.
● Paul Ingrassia, editor-in-chief. I love the Carmel Mission Classic, aka the Blessing of the Cars, in the courtyard of the historic church where Fr. Junipero Sera did his missionary work. There’s something uplifting about the remarks of Catholic Bishop Richard Garcia invoking cars as things that bring people together before sprinkling them with holy water. It was distilled holy water, to be sure, to protect the finishes on the sacred automotive artifacts on display.
● Johnny Miles, contributing editor. In addition to the Concours itself, one of my favorite parts of Monterey Car Week is seeing the array of million-dollar hypercars that descend on the peninsula. Unless you live in London or Dubai, you don’t often come across Koenigseggs, Paganis and Bugattis casually cruising or parked the street. This year, I was even able to finagle a short ride in a Pagani Huayra, which was as loud as it was memorable. The owner explained how the car was designed to feel like a jet fighter at speed. Although that analogy is bit of a cliché, in the case of the Huayra, it felt accurate.