Tailgate Party: Carmel Concours on the Avenue

Photos by Sean Cridland

Everyone anticipates the Big Game. For football, it’s the Super-Bowl. For us car-types, it’s Monterey Car Week, culminating in the Pebble Beach Concours and the Rolex Motorsport Reunion.

But just like every other big game, the pre-events often eclipse the events themselves. Many see Carmel’s annual Tuesday opener as the highpoint of the week, more fun than the Big Game itself.

If you’re lucky enough to have your car accepted for the show, you know which time you’ll need to show up. If you’re a spectator, you know early is best. Not just for the parking, but for the ambience of being there before anyone else. Walking the early morning streets of Carmel on concours day is special; hearing the first car roar up the street to take its spot in line, surreal, maybe even sublime.

During the first grouping, people just hang out and talk; cars, weather, family, it all blends together. The early-morning enthusiasts talk in normal tones and enjoy the conversation as much as the show. If Pebble Beach has its Dawn Patrol, early morning Carmel has its Peaceful, Easy Feeling.

But, it doesn’t last long. Those fortunate enough to have rooms in Carmel find their way to the street alongside of those who circled Carmel several times before finding parking. By the time the second and third waves of entrants park their cars, the serenity has become bedlam, the casual a melee. Game on! Vroom-vroom! It’s kick-off time! The key players, the racing 911s, the immaculately restored 356s, the Ferraris, the coach-built beauties of the 1950s have been joined in recent years by the hotrods. Everyone has a favorite to cheer for…and to hiss at. No matter, they’re all a part of the show.

If we had to pick two cars to feature, one would be the immaculately prepared Porsche 356 of Denver-based Renee Brinkerhoff. The car is pure beauty, but it’s also built for speed and purpose. A veteran of several of the reborn Carrera Panamericana events in Mexico, Renee has dreamed up an even more ambitious project for the next few years. She intends to race a 356 in six races, on seven continents! Yes, you read that right. She’ll race her 356 in races in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Currently, there are no races in Antarctica, but she intends to ship the car there anyway. Just to do a few laps around the streets of McMurdo Station.  Book your tickets now.

If Renee and her 356 got much of the attention, another car had people mumbling to themselves: the 1973 Brumos RSR that seems to have arisen from the ashes of history as either a phoenix or a pariah. For 44 years, the accepted historical account was that after Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1973, Porsche collected the car, took it back to Germany for vivisection and it was destroyed. Then, earlier this year, the car re-emerged, fully restored, to a breathless reception. Almost everyone is skeptical – you have to be – but there are some very influential true believers, including some important seventies-era Brumos team members. Will anyone ever know the “true story?” Amazingly, the car seemed almost lost in the streets of Carmel.

Still, both cars were secondary to a show that included some beyond belief hot-rods with two and four engines sharing space with collections of odd-little Cyclops and 50’s era quarter-midgets, to name but a few of the attractions. Pebble Beach may still be The Big Game, but Carmel’s pre-game show takes the cake.

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