Nuts & Bolts: Pebble Beach Faux Pas

I am always nervous when I’m out representing the magazine at Monterey and Pebble Beach. Those who know me understand that I am much more comfortable in junkyards than at big social events like the Mercedes or Rolex parties.

For those of us in the car magazine business, though, Monterey week is kind of like our Super Bowl. The cars, the connections, and the sales represent a good portion of our year’s work, both financial and creative. So I try to go prepared.

Ideally, I like to attend the concours and auctions when I am not limping or in a cast, so as part of my preparation, I usually try to get some extra rest and not do anything stupid before I leave. My activities in the garage make that more difficult than it should be, though: Last year, for example, I wrecked my shoulder so badly the week before Monterey that I needed surgery the day I got home. Of course, I was miserable the entire week as I tried to maneuver around the inevitable, constant handshaking.

My shoulder is better now, but I haven’t learned a damned thing from that experience. This year, the night before I left, I decided I needed to fix a little spot on the door of our Shelby project. My wife saw me pulling the telltale old T-shirt over my pajamas and tried to stop me, saying, “Really, 7 hours before you get on a plane to California, and you want to go out in the garage?” I promised her that after I fixed one teensy rust spot and, oh yeah, painted the dashboard quick, I’d be right back in.

I put on some rubber gloves as soon as I got in the shop because I planned to use some POR-15. Anyone who has ever used POR-15 will tell you two things: First it is a wonderful restoration tool; and second you absolutely do not want to get it on your skin because it is very, very hard to get off. Once you paint yourself with this rust preventive coating, you will be sporting grayish blotches until the last remnants slough off. And I did not want to be holding out a spotted paw when I went to shake the hands of all the movers and shakers at Monterey.

Another amazing property of POR-15 is that it is some seriously sticky stuff, and I couldn’t get the lid off the can. Apparently I hadn’t been too careful about cleaning the rim after my last use, and this stuck-on lid threatened to throw off the whole delicate balance of my overscheduled evening. So I put the can in a vise and grabbed a pair of water pump pliers out of the toolbox.

I had that cover off within 10 seconds. My victory was short-lived, however, because the open can fell to the ground and started splashing POR-15 all over me. My gloved hands fared well enough, but my forearms were quickly rustproofed. The POR-15 also went all over my pajamas, targeting the area the Brits call the “wedding vegetables” as precisely as any smart bomb could have achieved.

In horror, I whipped off my T-shirt and pajamas and started dousing myself with lacquer thinner, muttering, “I can’t head to Monterey looking like this!” I did manage to get most of it off, but at that point, I just burst out laughing as I realized what I must look like dancing around in my shop in the middle of the night, wearing nothing more than my POR-15-soaked skivvies. My relief that I was alone and not doing live video for our website faded as the burning sensation from the thinner increased, and I concluded my evening by creeping back up to the house wearing nothing but my stained, stinking underwear.

This is not the most recent image you want to be carrying in your head when you’re casting about for conversation at the Rolex dinner at Monterey. The entire topic would be a Pebble Beach faux pas, something of a specialty of mine.

I did manage to avoid talking about my spotted junk, but as I was chatting with longtime friend and West Coast Ford PR guy John Clinard, I committed an even worse error. Another guy walked up to John and acted like he knew him well, so I nonchalantly asked this fellow if he was a Ford guy, too. He quickly retorted, sarcastically, “No, I’m a Chevy guy. What do you think?” John looked over at me and quietly said, “Tim, I would like you to meet Edsel Ford.”

At least the remnants of the gray paint covered up some of my embarrassed blushing. And it all turned out well, since I ended up talking to Mr. Ford and his son, Henry, for half an hour. Hard to believe these guys can be so down to earth. They shared some very cool stories about going to Le Mans as kids and running the company my dad sold cars for.

My most memorable Monterey faux pas involved one of the owners of Wal-Mart. I was on the lawn at Pebble a few years ago with my buddy Mike Pierce, and he asked me if I wanted to meet Rob Walton. I said sure, that would be kind of cool, since most folks in this business know that the guy is a major car collector. Now, this was the year that I had a different sort of midnight pre-departure crisis: the sudden realization that I didn’t have any presentable khakis to pack. Well, I don’t know about you, but in my world there’s only one place to solve a nocturnal need for khakis, so I headed out and picked up some at Wal-Mart. I probably bought some oil and a gallon of milk, too, because that’s just how I do it.

Anyway, back on the lawn at Pebble, Mike introduced me to Mr. Walton, who was kind enough to say, upon spotting my Classic Motorsports shirt, “Oh, Classic Motorsports? I read your magazine.” A bit humbled and more than a little nervous, I looked down, grabbed my pants leg and, in the spirit of returning his compliment, said, “Thanks, and I’m wearing your pants!” I probably should have kept that one to myself.

We had a great time at Monterey this year, despite my usual best efforts to the contrary. We went to every event, and we got some great pictures and some terrific stories to share with you in this issue. Enjoy, and if you ever get to Monterey—and believe me, you must do this at least once in your life—look us up. I love to share a beer at the Baja Cantina or swap stories with our readers. Just don’t expect much, okay?

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View comments on the CMS forums
1/3/14 4:35 p.m.

shopping at Walmart=negative karma...

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