Five Lessons from My First Monterey Car Week

August 17, 2021

Aaron and I rolled in at 11 p.m. last night, returning from Monterey. I am beat. No amount of caffeine will make a dent in this level of exhaustion. However, I’m also deeply content as I process all of the experiences of my very first Car Week. It was all I had imagined: joy, camaraderie, and excess.

Monterey Car Week was an event I had always intended to go to, but the roiling seas of work and life demands never seemed to part long enough for me to make it happen. This year, Car Week is squarely in the center of work and life.

The 11-hour drive north on I-5 yesterday offered a lot of time to reflect. Here are a few lessons I’ll take away after my rookie year.

Lesson 1. Appreciate Your Clutch (Before It's Gone)
No clutch. Busy intersection. Not ideal.

We all love the third pedal, but you sure miss it when it’s gone. Mine left me in the middle of traffic in a busy intersection on an incline. Not ideal.

We were driving the Maserati over to Concorso Italiano to place it on the lawn on the eve of the event. We already knew it was wounded as several cylinders were down on compression. The plume of smoke was also a hint. But it ran, so we drove it.

Then it happened: a shift felt funny. I got that shot of adrenaline you get when you notice the first sign that something is off. A moment later, I went for an upshift and it didn’t go into gear. Yikes! My mind raced to figure things out as I blocked traffic. “Work the problem,” I muttered to myself.

The answer: Put the car in gear when it isn’t running. When the light turns green, hit the ignition and gas it around the corner. My left foot started to “sewing machine” while I waited. When the light changed, I pressed the ignition button and the car lurched forward as the engine roared to life. It worked! I quickly found a safe place to pull the car over. A wave of relief crashed over me.

One of us went to get the trailer while the other sat by the side of the road in what feels like the car person’s equivalent of the “walk of shame.” (Thanks Aaron for taking one for the team!)

Lesson 2. The Terror of Backing Up a Trailer
Drove 8 blocks just to pull in here.

It had been years since I had to exercise the art of reversing a trailer. At one time I was competent, but that was quite a while ago. Now the thought gives me flop sweats. I knew we would have to back the trailer up during the trip, I just didn’t think it would be so soon.

On the drive south, we encountered a huge traffic jam. Google offered an alternate route and we took it. We saw signs like “Dead End” and “Not a Through Road” at least three times in the first mile or so. We dutifully ignored them each time. It was pure hubris. We were far from alone; Google Maps had turned us all into cocky lemmings. 

It will not surprise you to know that this bypass didn’t work out. It actually was a through road, but it was a tiny one that a short-cutting semi managed to jackknife on. I discovered this when a) turning around was simply not possible, and b) there was an audience.

I clicked the lever into “R” and made it four feet before the trailer was catawampus. I had at least 100 yards to go to reach an intersection where I could turn around. By the fourth or fifth attempt I could keep it kind of straight for 20-25 yards by learning that I needed to turn the wheel a lot less. Eventually, we were free and after taking the recommendation for another shortcut from a local, we got on our way.

Eventually, Aaron and I developed a workable system. It consisted of him being the drone pilot and me the drone. I simply executed his instructions as we reversed at what could generously be called, “glacial.” That was okay, it was not a competition, but simply an exhibition.

We are still awaiting our call from the Teamsters Local.

Lesson 3. Get by With a Little Help from Your Friends

The amazing Concorso crew!

At nearly every step during our trip, friends and complete strangers went way out of their way to help us. We honestly couldn’t have experienced Car Week without them.

  • Ed Godshalk started by generouslly offering use of his car hauler. This one kindness set off a spectacular chain of events and adventures.
  • Perry, the manager at our hotel, went way above and beyond in helping us get our trailer situated in the perfect spot in the hotel parking lot. Five-star service!
  • James Raia and Bruce Aldrich of The Weekly Driver shared their advice over beer and tacos.
  • Philip and Barb Yanni of the Maserati Club of California gave us the gift of Tarpy’s and a ton of laughs. We could ask for nothing more.
  • Mark Hendricks scored us a pass to The Quail, but we were unable to use it because we were recovering the Maserati.
  • The Concorso logistics crew was unbelievable. They not only helped us unload the car,  they towed it down the hill and placed it on the green for us. It seemed like a miracle that it even happened as I had given up hope the night before when the clutch failed.
  • Our car got a sweet detailing thanks to the elbow grease of Fred Russell -- not to mention John Clemson’s detailing kit.
  • Cindy Banzer of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club invited me to judge the Alfa class, and introduced me to so many new friends in AROC and ARA.
  • Kyia Friesen of Vintage Underground bled some air out of the Maserati’s clutch on the lawn at Concorso which allowed us to return it to the trailer under its own power.
  • Finally, Sports Car Market's Darren Frank generously offered to make a Pebble Beach dream come true but it will have to wait…
Lesson 4. Start ’em Young
This young man looks the part.

What makes us into “car people?” It can be a million things (a movie was a catalyst for me), but having an impactful experience with a special car is certainly one of them. In that spirit, I love to share my cars with kids.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to do this, but it honestly is one of the best parts of having a collector car. I didn’t have access to cars like these when I was young, but my world would have tilted on its axis if I could have sat in, or even ridden in, a sports car, exotic, or classic vehicle.

We had a couple of dozen young people sit in the car. Hopefully one of those kids will pay it forward to the generation after them. The thought of that makes me happy.

Lesson 5. IRL > Virtual
Reunited with Cindy Banzer!

Since COVID-19 came into our lives, we have been forced to adapt to connecting in new ways. We started CPX at the pandemic’s onset so we have only met the many folks we call friends through videoconferencing. It was a worthy substitute in a time of need, and I am truly grateful for it.

Getting to see people IRL again was heartening to say the least. (For the non-Gen Z folks, IRL stands for “in real life.”) Suddenly sitting across from folks that you had only seen in 2D was revelatory. You don’t eat dinner on Zoom. You don’t walk along a row of cars pointing out your favorite elements on Zoom. You don’t smell combustion and feel the engine rumbling either.

Having never attended Monterey Car Week before, I don’t have an informed opinion, but it seemed to me that this year felt special for many. The chance to be reunited and make new connections and acquaintances after a “gap year” helped people appreciate the experience a bit more.

I am looking forward to 2022 already so I can take in some of the events I wasn’t able to see this year, and to reconnect with those who made 2021 so special for us!

Meeting Mark Hendricks and a 917K.

latest articles

Diminishing Returns: The History of 16-Cylinder Engines
Typically in automobiles, more is better but 16-cylinders shows that is not always true.
read more
Brooklands — The Lost Birthplace of Motorsports
Brooklands was the first banked track and was the forefather of Indianapolis and Monza, but now has been lost to time.
read more
The Fiat 1100 Engine and the Rise of the 'Etceterinis'
Were it not for the Fiat 1100 engine, an entire generation of handmade Italian race cars known as 'Etceterinis' may never have come to be.
read more