Monterey Car Week 2019

Ferrari F40 & the McLaren Senna
September 13, 2019
View on the Car Market – Q3 2019
September 30, 2019

This was our first time at Monterey Car Week.  I would probably best describe Car Week as combination of the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Goodwood Revival spread out over multiple stunning locations and then supersized in the best American tradition.  We arrived on Wednesday late afternoon and departed the following Monday morning (see: McLaren 675LT Spider Road Trip).  In between, it was pure petrolhead sensory overload. The amazing thing is it happened at all. Two weeks before Car Week we were sitting in Montana without tickets to any of the key events.  Fortunately, a gentleman at McLaren stepped in and was able to help us secure tickets for the two main events, The Quail & Pebble Beach.

Our first full day in Monterey was Thursday.  I had a morning test drive with an Aston Martin DBS Volante scheduled so I headed down to their hospitality center in Carmel by the Sea.  Car Week traffic turned a 5-mile drive into a 30 minute crawl but at least the traffic was much more interesting than usual with a few Paganis and Koenigseggs scatter in the traffic.  Upon arrival at Aston Martin, I was initially turned away from the parking lot (I guess the McLaren 675LT Spider didn’t impress) and was told to go find street parking.  It was only after I mentioned that I had a test drive scheduled and would likely miss it if I had to go find street parking that I was finally allowed into the Aston center to park.  The DBS Volante was the only test drive I had scheduled for car week which turned out to be a good thing.  Given the plethora of activates and traffic, the test drive didn’t offer any opportunities to really get a feel for the car.  About the only thing I can tell you about the DBS Volante is its very comfortable and handles traffic well.  Post the test drive Mrs. SSO and a couple of friends joined me at the Aston Martin hospitality center.  While I was waiting for them to arrive, I had a very interesting conversation with the Director of Aston Martin Special Operations.  To say Aston Martin has ambitious plans going forward is an understatement.  The Valkyrie and Valhalla are just the start.  If they can pull it off it will transform the company.  Given Aston Martin’s financial results in the first half of 2019, my question is do they have the financial resources to properly fund their ambitious plans.

From Aston Martin, we headed over to Pininfarina for cocktails and to see the new Pininfarina Battista.  As you would expect for a car wearing the Pininfarina badge, it’s gorgeous. At $2.5 mil it’s also not exactly a bargain and I have no idea how well an all-electric car is going to age.  The claimed performance figures are off the charts as one would expect for a car with 1900 bhp.  While Pininfarina is designing and building the car, Rimac is providing the powertrain and battery pack.  I heard that Pininfaria has orders for 25 cars so far and while I wish them well, I think filling the 150 announced build slots will be a major challenge given the price point and electric drive train.  While we were there, we also had the opportunity to see a short presentation on the SUV that Pininfaria has in development.  The renderings looked stunning, very “yacht on wheels”.  I believe the price target is in the $300k range which would make it the “green” alternative to a Bentley Bentayga.  

After Pininfaria it was off to the Singer Vehicle Design 10thAnniversary Party.  For the party, Singer rented out a spectacular estate about 15 miles outside of Carmel.  The Singer Porsches on display were spectacular.  Singer’s build quality is world class and each car Singer touches is a work of art.  The food at the party was both excellent and creative.  Mrs. SSO even sampled one of the handmade cigars that were being made by a Master Cigar Roller.  As good as the Singer Party was, my personal highlight though was following 3 Amigos (@epicwin_F50, @mrtrig, @dennis_akoyaking) in their Ferrari F50s on the way back to Monterey when we were leaving.  It had been a long time since I had the pleasure of following a few F50s.  I don’t know if they were pushing at all, but in terms of how technology progresses, keeping up with them in the McLaren 675LT Spider was not a problem.

Friday was Quail Day to be followed by cocktails with McLaren at Bernardus Lodge & Spa.  As we were warned that the traffic would be horrific, we arrived quite early and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Porsche Center.  When the gates opened at 10AM, our first stop was the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus where after multi years of exchanging emails, I finally met the great man.  Jim could not have been more welcoming.  He spent a considerable amount of time showing us around both the new SCG Boot and the SCG 003S.  The fact that the Boot was even at The Quail was impressive given it was only completed the weekend before.  I am a big fan of what Jim and his team are aiming to accomplish in the next several years (Ambitious Plans of SCG).

From the SCG area, it was off to Aston Martin to finally see the Valhalla.  Good news, Mrs. SSO was impressed.  In fact, she jumped into the Valhalla before I even got a chance to. The cockpit layout and ergonomics are outstanding.  You feel like you are sitting in a single seat racecar just above the asphalt.  I can’t say I loved the front end of the car (the lights looked a bit small) the first time I saw pictures, but it is growing on me.  While the gray on the display car helps highlight the carbon fiber roof and wing, I think this is one car that will look good in brighter colors.  Probably the best angle to view the Valhalla is from the rear three quarters.  From that angle you will definitely not mistake it for anything else on the road. If I had one ask for the Valhalla as it enters the final stages of development, it would be to swap out the V6 for a V8. 6-cylinder British supercars don’t have a great record of success and tend to be highly controversial, even 25 years after they were launched.  

The rest of our day at The Quail was spent meeting up friends, sampling the multiple excellent food options, and stopping by a few of the other manufacturers displays.  When we were at the McLaren stand, we got a polite tap on the shoulder and were asked to be at the McLaren Owner’s cocktail party a few minutes early for a special presentation.  Right before we left, we ran into @cjwilsonphoto and had a great discussion covering, cars, photography, and philosophies on life and travel.  

The presentation by McLaren was for the new Ultimate Series Roadster, currently designated the P26. From a purely design standpoint, it is just stunning.  If the Senna is hard and purposeful, the P26 is all curves and lustful.  The number of new cutting edge design elements being incorporated into the P26 is very exciting.  I just hope that current homologation rules don’t ruin the purity of the concept.  As lap times are not part of the brief, the P26 will have less bhp than the Senna but will also weight less which should make it even better to carve up an empty country road.  McLaren indicated that only 399 would be built, making it a rarer than the Senna and only slightly more common than the P1.  My only surprise was that the P26 is coming so soon after the Senna.  In the past, McLaren had put multiple years in-between the launches of the Ultimate Series cars.

Saturday was our day of rest and we needed it.  I overslept the 6AM meet time for a breakfast drive.  Hence, we missed out on what would have been a great opportunity to personally meet a few other guys that I have been trading messages with on Instagram. We spent most of the day just touring the area with short stops back at the Aston Martin Center for another look at the Valhalla and at McLaren’s base at Bernardus Lodge & Spa for lunch.  At the Aston Martin center we ran into one of my favorite auto journalists, @henrycatchpole.  We had a great conversation on EVO Magazine and a few other of his current undertakings.  The evening kicked off with cocktails at Bugatti.  What I was really interested to see is the place of pride that was given to the Bugatti Centodieci, Bugatti’s homage to the EB110.  It wasn’t too long ago that the reborn Bugatti (under VW’s ownership) wanted nothing to do with the EB110s.  From Bugatti it was off to the Rimac party to take a quick look at the C_Two.  Post our time at Pininfaria, I was quite curious to see what the Battista’s powertrain looked like in its original package.  

Following the same “beat the crowds” strategy as we did for The Quail, we headed off early Sunday morning to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  Unlike The Quail where tickets are limited, Pebble Beach is open to anyone willing to spend $450 to wander around the 18thfairway for a few hours.  Hence the crowds are much thicker and moving around more of a challenge.  Fortunately, we had passes to the McLaren Brand Center which is where we camped for significant portions of the day.  Mrs. SSO enjoyed the continuous flowing champagne and the food was not too bad.  We had a great conversation with Mika Häkkinen who tried to talk us into adding a McLaren GT to the collection.  We also discussed the Pure McLaren Arctic Experience which is now high up on the bucket list of things we definitely would like to do in the next year or two.  It was also great catching up with two of my favorite McLaren Dealership Brand Managers and a few members of the McLaren Senior Management Team.

The cars on the lawn at Pebble are truly the best of the best.  Each is an automotive work of art.  While I am not personally interested in owning the vast majority of these autos, it was still fun to wander among the old Bentleys, Alfas, Ferraris, etc.  My favorite car on the field though was without a doubt, Jim Glickenhaus’ stunning 1967 Ferrari 412 P SN 0854.  The 412 P is both insanely cool and just drop dead gorgeous. We had another great conversation with Jim and his son Jesse on SCG’s plans.  As an added bonus, we finally met @jasdhillon67 and his lovely wife.  Jas is a true enthusiast with a wonderful collection. He is the current keeper of the Jaguar XJR-15 (Our Jaguar XJR-15) we owned a few years ago.  

In the end it was a wonderful and exhausting several days.  I estimated that we actually ended up only going to half of the events that we could of and despite this still felt that we were constantly on the move. The variety of activities is enormous and so are the crowds in general.  The variety of rare cars, both modern and vintage, that you see just driving around the Monterey area makes the journey worth it by itself.  By far our favorite major event was The Quail and it is the one we would be most likely to return for in future years.  I’m very glad we went to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance but one visit is probably enough for us.  The number of $1 million plus supercars being presented which are in development by various manufacturers is overwhelming (article on this to follow).  Both Aston Martin and McLaren clearly invested heavily and put on very impressive shows for the week.  

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September 2019

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