Monterey Peninsula: a mecca for all things automotive

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Monterey Car Week is a misnomer. The yearly congregation of nearly all things automotive lasts 10 days. The car shows, auctions, tours, exhibits, forums and memorabilia sales presented in August are also held in cities throughout the Monterey Peninsula.

A rare Kaiser Darrin at Monterey Auto Week
The art deco Kaiser-Darrin is often displayed at theConcours on the Avenue in Carmel as part of Monterey Auto Week. Image © James Raia/2014

The 2017 diverse motoring collective (www.whatsupmonterey.com) will be held Aug. 11-20. The automotive sensory overload will begin with a classic car show of 30 vintage race cars and their drivers in downtown Monterey from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 11. The Concours d’Elegance, the country’s most esteemed competition among elegant vintage rarities, is always the finale. It’s scheduled 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 20 at Pebble Beach.

With the Pacific Ocean backdrop as well as the famous golf courses, galleries, restaurants and area’s history, the industry’s celebration also presents a traveling dilemma.

Whether it’s automotive enthusiasts from the Bay Area or fans from other countries, the small region has limited available accommodation options. The global audience of car fanciers competes with general interest visitors to the famed tourist destination.

Particularly in downtown Carmel, where nearly 1,000 rooms are available in a one-square-mile area, many properties are already sold out for August’s celebration. Several groups of establishments, including the four-location Inns By The Sea (innsbythesea.com) in Carmel having waiting lists. A representative from Wayside Inn said cancellations sometimes occur since reservations are often made for the following year the day guests check out following the Concours d’Elegance.

But automotive enthusiasts interested in visiting the Monterey Peninsula have several alternatives as primers to a possible visit in August.

Among its many compelling attractions, Carmel is an art gallery mecca. While the number of businesses has decreased, more of the city’s artists are working in their galleries, and the variety of mediums is increasingly diverse.

Automotive art is the focus of light+shadow fine art (www.lightandshadowfineart.com) located on Sixth Ave. between Dolores & Lincoln. Artist Thierry Thompson has spent his life around automobiles. As a young boy, he watched his father restore and race sports and classic cars. The young Thompson’s career expanded from a university fine arts degree to vintage car collecting and a commercial and advertising art career to his automotive and aviation fine art gallery offerings.

Thompson’s talent is diverse, but a main focus is open wheel racing. Titles include “That day in the rain at Watkins Glen,” “American Dream” and “Force Recon.” Realism defines the artist’s works.

Another automotive option for Monterey Peninsula visitors is a short trek to Mazda Raceway Laguna (www.mazdaraceway.com) on Hwy. 68 between Monterey and Salinas. It’s an integral part of the Monterey Auto Week. But the facility has a nearly a year-round calendar of local and international events. The first prestige event of 2017 is Ferrari Challenge, May 12-14. Vintage cars and Superbike racing as well as sprint and endurance events are also on the international calendar that extends through mid-October.

Considering its status in the automotive world, the Monterey Peninsula is also home to many car collectors. An unheralded, worthy stop is the Martine Inn in Pacific Grove (www.martineinn.com). The historic B&B along Ocean Ave. is also the home of owner Don Martine’s small museum of vintage cars and automobilia.

The six-car, on-site collection is part of Martine’s larger restoration business. The overall collection includes 16 MGs, three Jaguars, and a 1953 Daimler Empress Slabside, according to the company’s website (www.martineinnmotorsports.com). A current restoration is a 1932 MGD Tourer.

(Originally published Jan. 8, 2017 in the San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times.)

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