Driving up Highway 101 from Monterey to the San Francisco airport, it was clear that the ball was over.
Instead of Monterey Car Week’s sea of candy-colored Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, a swarm of Kias, Toyotas and Chevrolets peppered the landscape. An occasional modern Fiat 500 served as the token exotic.
This was my 28th year of trekking to the Monterey Peninsula. My schedule was full. Things kicked off for me on Wednesday evening with Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival at the Monterey Jet Center. Thursday morning was “run-around” time, when I picked up passes for various events.
We went to a private party on Thursday night where there were at least $100 million worth of cars on display — all from a single collector.
On Friday, I was emcee of Legends of the Autobahn, and my eyes were treated to a sea of BMW E9s, which were the featured model. Friday night, it was off to The Beach & Tennis Club at Pebble Beach for the Mercedes dinner, where a moving tribute to Denise McCluggage highlighted the evening.
Saturday was a full day, as I emceed the SCM Insider’s Seminar at the Gooding & Company auction in the morning, and I emceed Concorso Italiano (for the 17th year) in the afternoon.
We were off to another private party on Saturday night at Tarpy’s Roadhouse. My good friend Joseph Molina, owner of JMPR — a prominent public relations firm with many ties to the auto industry — was the host. I had the good fortune to sit across from designer Henrik Fisker. He described what it was like to have responsibility for the designing the landmark BMW Z8 when he was in his late twenties.
Sunday brought the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and I spent the day meandering around brilliantly restored exotics. I thought about the many concours I have the opportunity to be a part of, and how nearly any car on the lawn at Pebble would be considered a star car at another event.
On Sunday night, I attended the Gooding & Company auction at Pebble. I watched a fiberglass Ferrari 308 sell for over $200,000, and a Ferrari 250 GTE brought well north of $700,000. When a nasty — but very original — 1958 Porsche Speedster brought nearly $600,000 (a world record for a Speedster – and for a car that needs another $250,000 to be presentable), I knew that the world of collector car values had changed. And dramatically.
We’ll have a chance to reflect in depth on the prices and trends of Monterey in our next issue, but there certainly appears to be no shortage of money in the collector car world.
I sense that very little of this buying — at least at the Monterey auctions — is speculative. After all, the cars on offer here tend to be fully priced, so bidders seem to be satisfying personal fantasies and buying the cars they had always wanted. And they had no hesitation when it came to spending what it took to get the job done.