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Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea…

—Peter, Paul, and Mary

 

Whether you’re a little boy named Jackie or a grown adult who’s an avid automotive enthusiast, it’s hard not to believe in dragons if you’ve spent the day in Carmel for the Concours on the Avenue, the kick-off event for Monterey Car Week.

Tuesday, August 16, was certainly a day that fit the description of the mythical Honah Lee. It was cool, misty, and if you got there early enough, lonely and with the portent of something wonderful to come. And it did. 

Slowly, at first one at a time, then by the handful, priceless pieces of automotive excellence, history, and curiosity parked in queue on San Carlos street, their owners both flowing with enthusiasm and just a little bit nervous of what the day would bring…

Gradually, the glittering jewels start to roll forward through a corridor of people issuing alternating rounds of applause, oohs, and aahs reminiscent of a model’s catwalk during New York fashion week.

This year’s offerings included the usual sprinkling of Ferraris, Maseratis, Bentleys, Cobras, 60s era Can-Am cars, custom rods, Corvette Sting Rays, and Jaguars, flavored by a very healthy serving of Porsches. Several 356 Carreras and Carrera 2s were on hand, along with a few Speedsters and at least one beautifully prepared 550 Spyder. All were handsomely turned out, but it was a recently completed outlaw and a couple of 356 racecars that stole the show.

Fred Veitch’s Fashion Gray Gesetzloser 1953 356 drew looks from a multitude of enthusiasts as much for its subtlety and attention to detail as it did for its non-traditional approach. In case you’re wondering, Gesetzloser is the German word translatable to “lawless.” If we extend that meaning to rule-breaker, Veitch has broken every 356 rule in the book in a style so subtle as to be unnoticeable…till you look closely at fine-tuned detail after detail…starting with the top-mounted wipers on the windshield, through the hand-airbrushed Shell symbol on each fender, and the push-button dzus fasteners holding each deck lid in place. The list goes on…

On the far end of the subtlety spectrum was Australian Ron Goodman’s 1954 Pre-A racecar. Goodman has been building this car for years, but an incident in last years Rennsport Reunion V in which the car was wadded up in a ball inspired Goodman to take it up a notch during the rebuild. Smokey Yunick would have been proud of Goodman’s flair for taking the rules to the limit while keeping everything as immaculate as a SEMA show-car. Impressive whether you’re admiring the craftsmanship or cursing him for tromping on the spirit of vintage racing… For his efforts, Goodman won the Barry Rilliet Laguna Seca Award.

Another impressive car piece, Renée Brinkerhoff’s Carrera Panamericana 356 crossed the stage to take the Laguna Seca racecar award. Renée is a Colorado-based racer who has taken a great interest in the historic version of the Carrera Panamericana open-road race. Her 356 racecar is powered by a two-liter 912E motor paired to a 5-speed transmission. It has 911 rear suspension and sports an 80-gallon fuel tank suitable for all-day racing… As with Goodman’s car, Brinkerhoff’s suffered a major crash in the 2015 Panamericana race and was completely rebuilt in the last year, finished just in time for Monterey Car Week.

In addition to the 356s on hand, there were several excellent examples of early 911s, many of them with long race histories reaching back to legends such as Bruce “King Carrera” Jennings, Jim Netterstrom, Jim Busby, and some extremely rare 924 variants.

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With all that, even the most ardent of Porsche enthusiasts would have been awed by the collection of candy colored hot-rods, surprisingly small Lolas and McLarens of the late 60s Can-Am era, or even the outlandish pre-war-style Batmobile tribute.

While the mist may have rolled out for another year, all of us automotive Jackies eagerly anticipate next year’s Carmel event.  No matter how old we get, we’ll still be little boys and girls in awe of the magic dragons.