America’s Best Vintage Car Gathering

I walked row after row, over and over again. Step after step, mile after mile. I went up to the Corkscrew and went back down. My ears searched for every sound, Trans Am V-8, Cosworth DFV, twin-cam Alfa and BMW racing V-12. I saw long-nosed Panozes and high-wing Chaparrals and Ferraris in all shades of red. I still felt like I hadn’t seen a single car.

Porsche RSR next to Williams F1 Car

This is the feeling of the Monterey Historics. Every year, within walking distance of the oyster and caviar bar car shows that make up the rest of Car Week, vintage race cars take over Laguna Seca. Each pit stall is filled with something unique, irreplaceable jewels from each era. A 1960s Penske Camaro slowly rolls off a coolant-covered platform down one avenue while a 2000s Peugeot LMP1 diesel car is loaded on another. In front of the two is a race car so old it has wooden wheels and the team brought their own forge in case of repairs.

A 1974 Porsche RSR sits next to a Williams FW08 F1 car from the year it won the championship in 1982 next to a kei truck with the top cut off for pit ferry duties. The scorching sun beats down on the unlikely trio, smoke from a barbecue wafts past them. It’s a misty, shimmery environment, or maybe some kind of gravity well. All the interesting vintage race cars from the state of California are here. That includes all of BMW’s most prized historic racing cars, even the V12 LMR that so briefly stood at the top of the racing world at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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My neck snaps as it comes to life in the pits beside me, my ears bleed as the driver honks the throttle, heat-soaked crowds parting as he heads toward the track. It’s fascinating, a white bar of soap with a more developed version of the already legendary McLaren F1 engine.

In the heat, we all walk toward the Corkscrew, watching lap after lap as it skims the pavement on its descent, tenderly stepping back on the throttle as the ride spills further downhill. I see two grown men, feet apart, camera to eye, standing like twin statues on the fence, waiting for cars to pass again. We were all there in unison, melting, trying to capture that sense of recognition. to see to know Twisted in these vintage cars, there is a sense of understanding. That we can see them in their entirety, experts ourselves, as if we were wise, as if we were there when they first ran, seeing those new paint schemes for the first time.

Each of these cars is a kind of story, a victory, a highlight in motor sports or car design. There are triumphs in them. That’s the first winged car, that Chaparral. That is the last Le Mans winning Ferrari, that 250 LM. That’s the 787, the predecessor to Mazda’s successful 787B, howling on the track. I feel its glow on my sunburned cheeks, radiating upwards, as I walk. I try to capture it on my camera, car after car, row after row.

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