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On the ground at the 2019 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Published in blog.hemmings.com

The views from atop Corkscrew Hill are simply amazing. Here the Group 2A machines, 1955-’61 Sports Cars, make a warm-up lap behind the pace car. Photos by David Conwill.

“Pebble Beach,” as Monterey Car Week is often known, began as a sports car race among the pines near the Lodge at Pebble Beach. The Del Monte Trophy road races ran from 1950 to 1956, when the death of racer Ernie McAfee (coupled with a general reluctance to permit modern, high-performance cars to run flat out on public roads in the wake of the 1955 Le Mans disaster) turned popular opinion against road racing in its original form.

Although racing at Monterey is considered less aggressive than at, say, the Goodwood Revival, accidents still happen. This is Christopher Patterson’s 1959 Elva Mk. IV. He walked away, apparently unscathed.

In its place, enthusiasts arranged the construction of Laguna Seca Raceway, which opened in the autumn of 1957. While what is now known as “WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca” remains a modern facility, hosting modern race cars on a regular basis, it also annually hosts the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion—typically shortened to “the Monterey Historics” by enthusiasts, a reference to its earlier name—a series of races for pre-1992 sports and racing cars.

Seeing cars sitting still is all well and good, and there’s plenty of that if you walk around the pits a bit, but there’s nothing to compare with seeing a vintage race car at full song. The owners of these cars, most of them far from inexpensive, don’t hesitate to run them hard and mix it up with the other competitors.

Ed Archer’s 1915 Ford Model T sports a RAJO head and a period-correct Chevrolet support rig. It’s a regular competitor at Monterey.

Naturally, better track conditions and a slightly less competitive edge to the festivities mean things aren’t quite so bloodsoaked as they were in the era to which the Historics pay homage. That said, however, we witnessed at least one pretty spooky crackup from which the driver thankfully emerged unscathed.

Because they date from the era before racers became formulaic, the Group 1A, pre-1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars/1927-1951 Racing Cars, are some of the most interesting vehicles to watch. This is a Romano-Sturtevant Special was constructed by Eugene Romano in the immediate post-World War I era from a 1916 Auburn chassis and a surplus 1916 Sturtevant Aeroplane V-8, displacing 555-cu.in. and producing 220 hp.

If you’re thinking of attending Monterey Car Week, the Monterey Historics are  a must-see. They are not only the spiritually successor of the Pebble Beach Road Races that started it all, but they’re quite a good deal. Look for further coverage in our print magazines.

This 1926 Ford was a callback to the days of high-banked wooden race facilities, called board tracks. It belonged to Rick Rawlins.

John Kerr brought out this 1932 Ford Model B topped with a Miller-Schofield OHV cylinder head.

A 75-hp, 1911 Fiat S74 follows a 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 SS. The lead car belongs to Conrad Stevenson and the Fiat to George Wingard.

One of a pair of Ulster-style Aston Martins in attendance, this is a 1934 Aston Martin Mk. II 1 1/2 Litre, which belongs to Duncan Fairclough.