Monterey Car Week is mostly a slow, meandering cruise through some of the loftier points in automotive design. At least at the primary shows, the cars are stationary, polished, and wrapper-fresh, gawked at by billionaires with platinum on the wrist and champagne on the breath —it’s good fun, if only for a little while. Luckily, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion occurs at the same time, providing a perfect counterbalance to the frivolity on the 18th green. After you’re done walking the pits and observing a top-end teardown of a Pre-War Maserati, plunk yourself down on the grandstands with a burger and a beer for some of the best automotive visuals imaginable.
We didn’t have a ton of time in the stands, but we walked the pits for hours. Just like the rest of Car Week, it’s impossible to cover everything, but here are just some of our favorites.
Just like The Mitty earlier this year, Nissan was the featured marquee at the Motorsports Reunion. Some seriously rare Datsuns emerged from the paintwork, including this excellent 510 Bluebird, wearing some wicked period-correct hardware, including those amber headlights.
Mazda’s Moment of Sound
Mazda rolled out four of its greatest rotary-powered weapons this year, including a 1992 Mazda RX-792P IMSA GTP, 767B, 787, and RX-7 IMSA GTO. As a special treat, all four cars were cranked up for a sound-off, resulting in hearing damage and induced arrhythmia. Worth it.
1964 Iso Rivolta GT
Rivoltas don’t often hit the track, so this was a shoo-in for our favorites. Like big-brother Iso Grifo, a Chevy V-8 provided reliable and low-maintenance power to the delicious Italian wrapper. In this case, a 5.3-liter (327 ci) was the factory-supplied engine, but there’s no telling what’s inside this highly modified example.
1985 Buick Somerset Trans Am
Kind of unsettling, isn’t it? Seeing the four-eyed Malaise-era grille mounted on the swollen Trans Am body is fascinating, reminding us when racers didn’t have sleek, timeless designs to pull from. According to the accompanying placard, this is the only Buick to win a Trans Am race, taking home first in 1985 in both Detroit and Sears Point. In place of the original V-8, a 4.5-liter turbocharged V-6 spins out a 507 hp.
Not everything in the pits is there to race. Some of the participants brought along some wild support vehicles, including this Austin-Healey. In stark contrast to the concours cars, this was in a wonderful state of patina, wearing faded paint and cracked leather.
1966 Shelby GT350
This is one of those you have to see in person. We’re lucky to press out faces on some of the rarest and well-restored cars in existence, but this GT350 was on an entirely different level. This is the cleanest restored Shelby we’ve run across, with 100-point paint, a spotless engine bay, and period-correct parts that are usually replaced, including these hyper-rare Kelsey-Hayes steelies.
1977 Porsche 934.5
We’ve sung the praises of the alluring 934.5 before, but it’s always nice to see these sitting in the environment they were designed for.
McLaren F1 GTR
McLaren brought two F1 GTRs to the paddocks, one of which was the overall winner of Le Mans in 1995. Our eyes were glued to the incredible FINA short-tail sitting next to the Ueno Clinic car, wearing the classic red-white-blue livery we’ve seen in so many photographs.
BMW’s Paddock Takeover
Along with Porsche, BMW took over an entire portion of the paddock area, stuffing the pop-up tents full of 3.0 CSLs, M1 Procars, M3 touring cars, and as evidenced above, a very clean and very red BMW Z1.
Meissen Blue Porsche 356
Just like the patina’d Healey above, this clean 356 served as a pit car and Monterey runabout. Bonus points for parking it so close to the semi—we dig the size contrast.
Sixty Horsepower of Rust-Perforated Glory
We dig just about any small-bumper Euro-spec W123 Mercedes-Benz, but this particular ’82 200D stole our hearts. Spotted in the Laguna paddock, the decrepit, non-turbocharged rust bucket had over 826,000 kilometers on the clock and was loaded up with roof-mounted fuel tanks. A note, signed by eccentric car collector Blue Nelson read, “The driver’s floor finally fell out on the way here, which caused the seat bottom to crash down but fortunately there was a nice piece of wood to shove under it to semi-support it to finish the drive here.” Keep on keepin’ on, Blue. —Basem Wasef
Check out the Best Photos from the 2018 Monterey Car Week here.