Andy's Advice: Monterey, More Than Just Mega Money

Story By Andy Reid

Of all the events in the sports car hobby, my very favorite is the week in Monterey. It’s a seven-day automotive festival centered around historic sports cars. The events run the gamut from the Rolex historic races at Laguna Seca to The Quail motorsports gathering to the Pebble Beach Concours—and last but not least, there are the auctions.

No matter what your automotive poison, you are likely to find an example up for sale at one of the Monterey auctions. At last count, there were six of these sales held during that one August week. You might not always get the best deal at these auctions, but you will find a terrific selection of classic sports cars. On top of that, you are guaranteed to meet people who share your car interests and passions.

While it’s my favorite event, Monterey does have its downsides. For one, attending everything can get expensive. Figure admission to all of the events can nearly total what you’d pay for a good Fiat Spider. Then there is the physical challenge of attending all of the events, as many overlap. I personally attended Automobilia Monterey, Christie’s auction, The Quail Motorsports Gathering, Concorso Italiano, Bonhams’s Quail Lodge sale, RM’s Monterey Sports Car sale, the Pebble Beach Concourse, three days of the Rolex Monterey Historic races, and the Gooding and Company auction. (If this sounds like a tremendously busy schedule, it is.)

As you can imagine, most of my time during this week is spent at the various auctions, and with five different sales at five different locations this can be a bit difficult. If I have one complaint about Monterey it is that there are really too many events to even hope to attend. I mean, there is absolutely no way to be at every auction during the week.

What this does is to force us to make some choices. If you like sports cars—and who doesn’t?—then the first sale I would label as a must-see is the RM sale at the Portola Plaza in downtown Monterey. This year’s RM auction saw 178 out of 192 cars sold. Practically all the lots were sports cars or true classics like the odd Duesenberg or Delage. Even just taking in the preview was a treat, as the collection was that impressive.

The second sale, and another one of my favorites, is the Bonhams affair at The Quail Lodge. This sale always has a little something for everyone—competition machines, touring cars and even the occasional modern exotic. They have fewer cars for sale, but this is a good thing as it makes the auction easier to manage. The fact that the Bonhams sale takes place next-door to The Quail Motorsports gathering also adds to the convenience.

Another event I at least preview every year is the Russo and Steele sale in Monterey. In the past, this has been a bit of an oddball sale featuring a lot muscle cars that did not really fit the Monterey scene. Neat stuff, but a little out of place.

However, this year they had a bunch of sports cars up for grabs, following a trend we saw them start at Phoenix. I would recommend attending next year’s event. Since the Russo sale takes place right next-door to the RM sale, it’s an easy stop to make.

The final sale of the week is the Gooding and Company auction at Pebble Beach. This one tends to have mostly high-end cars with an affordable one or two thrown in to broaden the sale’s appeal.

While going to these sales are fun, most people don’t think that there are any deals to be had at these events. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Even though several cars sold for millions of dollars, there were also a great number of cars trading hands for affordable, market-correct prices. Examples of the latter include a pair of TR4s for less than $25k each, a number of Porsches for sub-$30k prices, and even a Ferrari or two for a fair price.

I urge you not to write off auctions as only the domain of the rich and famous. We all know that there are silly prices at times, like the $90,000 TR4s and VW campers from recent sales, but there are also bargain-priced Bentleys and Alfas as well.

Here’s my point: If you are a sports car fan, collector, vintage racer or aspiring owner, you owe it to yourself to attend Monterey sports car week. No matter what your taste and budget, you’ll find something that makes the trip worth it.

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