Concours & Car Shows

2017 Monterey Car Week Preview: The Car Shows

Our guide to a week’s worth of killer car events, designed to fit any budget

Monterey car week, as it has become commonly known, is an automotive experience unlike any other in the world. With events held all over California’s beautiful Monterey Peninsula, it has blossomed from a relatively low-key weekend into a shiny, manufacturer-sponsored multiday extravaganza. In addition to famous signature events including the granddaddy of them all since 1950—the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—Monterey Car Week is a bucket-list affair for enthusiasts of all stripes, especially so for fans of classic cars, and it gets bigger and more impressive every year.

There have been a few downsides to the growth, namely the ever-burgeoning crowds and ballooning ticket prices that have made several Monterey events difficult to attend for some. On the plus side, the number of low-cost options designed to fit virtually any budget has grown as well. You’ll find it all in our soup-to-nuts spotter’s guide to the car shows that have popped up around the Concours that will be taking place during the 2017 Monterey Car Week.

Tuesday, August 15

MUST DO: Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue

Spectator cost: Free

We attended the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue last year and found it to be one of Car Week’s gems, hidden in plain sight and featuring an eclectic mix of vehicles—from hot rods and muscle cars to European classics and racers. Because most car enthusiasts don’t arrive until closer to the weekend, it isn’t a madhouse to navigate. You’ll enjoy the generally laid-back atmosphere, especially so if you’re with someone who doesn’t eat, sleep, and drink cars. Take a break from the machines casually displayed throughout Carmel-by-the-Sea’s picturesque shopping district to grab a bite at a local cafe or duck into some of the area’s numerous trendy art galleries and boutiques. Finding parking is only slightly more difficult than any other Tuesday, and best of all, admission is free.

Wednesday, August 16

Carmel Mission Classic

Spectator cost: $50

The 1930 Duesenberg J Convertible stars at the Carmel Mission Classic

Former Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan is scheduled to be the honored guest at this intimate event, now in its fourth year, held at the historic Carmel Mission. Spectator admission is $50 and includes wine tasting. This year’s featured car is the 1930 Duesenberg J Convertible Sedan, and everything from Packards to Corvettes will be on display.

The Little Car Show

Spectator cost: Free

Little cars are cars, too, as the organizers of this annual show held just down the road from Carmel in Pacific Grove like to point out. There is no admission fee, and should you happen to have a Nash Metropolitan or Fiat 600 Jolly you’d like to display (cars must be at least 25 years old with engine displacement less than 1,601 cc), registration will only set you back $25. If microcars are your thing, you have found your nirvana. Even if they aren’t, this eclectic show, which this year focuses on Scandinavian cars, is worth checking out.

McCall’s Motorworks Revival

Spectator cost: $395 and up

Hobnob with the VIPs at McCall’s Revival

The premier event for overprivileged Car Week attendees, McCall’s is a hip cocktail party for people who want to be seen. Think high-end outdoor club atmosphere with enough exotic cars, private jets, and trophy wives to make even the well-to-do feel appropriately humbled. Tickets start at $395 per person—you know, to give it that behind-the-ropes, VIP appeal.

Friday, August 18

Legends of the Autobahn

Spectator cost: Free

If you’re a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi fan, you won’t want to miss this free show presented by Michelin and organized by car clubs for the three German marques. You’ll pay a small amount to display your car, but spectating is free (though on-site parking is $20 per car).

Werks Reunion Monterey

Spectator cost: Free

Why are Porsche guys so special that they get their own free concours event? Chalk it up to the sheer number of Porsches prowling the peninsula for car week and the sheer volume of owners who enjoy participating in such events. Like Legends of the Autobahn, you’ll pay a small amount to display your car (be sure to register ahead of time), but it’s free to spectate. Parking fees may apply.

Pacific Grove Concours Auto Rally

Spectator cost: Free

Friday is full of great events that boast free admission, but plan for heavy traffic between shows.

Last year at the Pacific Grove Rotary Concourse Auto Rally, we saw everything from a ’60s MGB to an electrically propelled Ferrari 308 to a brand-new McLaren 650S. This run-what-you-brung event begins with the cars on display on Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove in the afternoon before participating cars set off on a tour of 17-Mile Drive in the evening. Dinner will follow. Participants pay a small fee, but viewing is free. This is one of the week’s most refreshing casual events.

Exotics on Cannery Row

Spectator cost: Free

This is the perfect event for the 8-year-old in all of us. Exotic supercars start setting up late in the afternoon, and by dusk historic Cannery Row transforms into a multimillion-dollar parking lot. Stroll along the closed-off street, and grab some dinner in this touristy area of Monterey. If you want to spot the latest and greatest supercars in town, this is the prime event to do that.

Hot tip: The Sardine Factory is one of the better restaurants in this area and was featured prominently in the Clint Eastwood film “Play Misty for Me.”

Saturday, August 19

MUST DO: Concours d’LeMons

Spectator cost: Free

By Saturday you might find yourself getting a little desensitized to all the exotic machinery you’ve encountered. (Is that the 11th or 12th 300 SL Gullwing we’ve seen this week, honey?) The cure, of course, is Concours d’LeMons, which pits the worst of the automotive world against each other. If you’ve got a rusty Renault LeCar, a cherry Ford Mustang II, or anything in between, you’ve got a shot at taking home a trophy. It’s free to attend. Just make sure you’ve had a tetanus shot first.

Hot tip: If you register a car for this event, be sure to bring a bribe for the judges!

The Barnyard Ferrari Event

Spectator cost: Free

Carmel Valley is full of cutesy shopping centers, and The Barnyard is one of them. This event, hosted by the Ferrari Owners Club, is often a mix of a few very high-end Ferraris among a wider selection of more common cars. (Only during Car Week will you come to realize a Ferrari can be called common.) It’s a great event and a perfect spot to end Saturday, with several top-notch restaurants in the area. Food and wine are available for an extra charge.

Concorso Italiano

Spectator cost: $150 and up

If the idea of row after row of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, and Alfa Romeos arrayed on manicured fairways gets you hot and bothered, then Concorso Italiano is your kind of show. Any Italian car is welcome to attend (even Cadillac Allantes get a pass), and there’s plenty of Italian food, music, and atmosphere to almost make you feel as though you’ve teleported to Italy. This show isn’t inexpensive, but it’s worth doing at least once. The classic Alfa Romeo GTV is featured this year, along with the new Giulia sedan and 4C sports car. Pricier admission tickets include a
catered breakfast and lunch.

Hot tip: If you register your Italian car for display, you’ll pay the same amount as a single general admission ticket ($150) but receive an extra pass for a guest as well as complimentary snacks and coffee.

Where to Stay

Finding a place to stay around the peninsula is arguably the hardest part of planning a trip to Monterey Car Week. Even the most basic and inexpensive hotels in the area can book up a full year in advance, and room rates skyrocket. If you’re late to the game, try neighboring locales such as Santa Cruz or Salinas, or perhaps there are still some Airbnb options available. For those on a budget, tent-camping spots might still be available at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca or at campsites around the Big Sur area, but even these book up fast. It’s never too soon to start planning for next year.