In recent years the August conglomeration of automotive events (car shows, races, auctions and tours) on California’s Monterey Peninsula has taken on the generic title of Car Week. A ‘bucket list’ happening for car lovers, but with a derisive tone by some of the locals who are prone to complain – all the way to the bank.
Numerous enthusiasts of vintage racing were gratified to see six Allards running in the 2017 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. This year’s Group 5A of 1947 – 1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars raced on Saturday for the first time in several years (the group usually races in Sunday).
Augie Grassis raced the J2X that was Carroll Shelby’s principal mount back in ’53 and ’54. The car’s previous owner, Peter Booth, regularly raced it at Laguna Seca throughout the 1990’s. The two red K2’s of Jon LeCarner and Doug Klink brought back fond memories of the long-term friendly rivalry at Laguna Seca and other west coast venues between Jim Degnan and the late George Myers. John Mote returned this year with his bright blue Buick-powered K2. This car’s previous owner, Paul James, was a frequent Laguna Seca participant back in the 1990’s.
The Allard pack was filled out by Vince Vento who again demonstrated his mastery of outwitting his J2X’s HydraMatic around the hills and turns of Laguna Seca, and Ted Herb who was racing his recently acquired and beautifully refurbished “BRG” K2.
A well-established Friday tradition plays out when a group of select racers, under the enthusiastic escort of the California Highway Patrol, depart from Laguna Seca to make the 14 mile trek up over Laureles Grade, and westward along pristine Carmel Valley Road to intrude upon the sedate, exclusive and lavish Quail Motorsports Gathering.
The Race 5A participants were this year’s select group, and Vince Vento graciously allowed Colin to ride ‘shotgun’. A few tense moments arose when Vince was informed of a flat tire as they were lining up to depart. However, Chris Campbell of Vintage Connection – with the combination of experience, the right tools and knock-off hubs – came to the rescue. Vince’s return to Laguna Seca also got momentarily delayed (by Colin…a story for another time), and might have missed the group were it not for another enthused CHP officer who made full use of his motorcycle’s lights and siren to escort Vince through and around the leisurely homebound traffic of Carmel Valley Road.
Thursday’s highlight is the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance when 100+ contestants in Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance make a two-hour tour around the Monterey Peninsula, down Highway 1 to Big Sur, and then return to line up on Carmel’s Ocean Avenue. This provides a special opportunity for thousands of car lovers to get a close hand look of the Pebble Beach contestants – free of charge.
Seven of the RMMR Group 5A cars at Laguna Seca were California Specials. These unique home-built racers held their own on west coast road courses – including the Pebble Beach Road Races – against a variety of European imports in the early fifties. California Specials were further honored this year by comprising a special class at the Pebble Beach Concours.
Bruce McCaw’s faithfully restored 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer was this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Best of Show award winner. Bruce has gathered an enviable collection of historic vehicles that includes several significant Allards including the Steyr, Sydney’s ’53 Le Mans JR, Walt Grey’s J2X Le Mans, and Irwin Goldschmidt’s Watkins Glen winning J2.
The infamous customized black & yellow Von Dutch Allard K2 crossed the ramp at Gooding & Company for $242,000.
Finally, Bill Marriott graciously shipped the iconic #14 J2 out from the east coast in honor of the late Bill Pollack. While in California, it was on display at both the McCall Jet Center Party and The Quail. The car was the focus of attention one week later as it took center stage on the front lawn of Bill Pollack’s Sherman Oaks home as friends & family celebrated his full life.