A Last-Minute Guide to the Best Automotive Gathering in America

Where to eat, stay and play for Monterey Car Week

1965 Aston Martin DB5
The most iconic Aston Martin of all time
RM Sotheby’s
By Diane Rommel / August 15, 2019 10:50 am

Looking for a new pair of wheels? 

How about Tom Cruise’s 1962 Alpha One GTO coupe from Vanilla Sky (lousy movie, great car)? Or an otherworldly 1939 Porsche Type 64? “The most iconic and recognizable Aston Martin ever built” (est: $4M – $6M)? A 1994 McLaren F1 — one of only two examples built to “Le Mans specifications” (est: $21M+)? Or maybe just a humble old 1957 Chevy Nomad

All these cars — and many more — will come up for auction today through Sunday as part of Monterey Car Week — which means it’s time to head south. We won’t tell you how to buy a car (beyond “bring money, and lots of it”), but we will tell you about everything else worth checking out in Monterey, from where to stay to what to eat to the key festivities throughout the weekend.

Airbnb
You’re gonna want to Airbnb this one (Airbnb)

WHERE TO STAY

Predictably, rooms are scarce within Monterey itself: this might be the only weekend that a two-star Days Inn is charging $459 a night. (If that doesn’t tempt you, can we suggest a two-star Travelodge for $499? A Best Western for $669?) Prices are silly — if you want to stay overnight, try a private rental in Santa Cruz, like this one

The tacos at Cultura Carmel

WHERE TO EAT

Cultura, in nearby Carmel, offers everything from $5 draft beers to Pacific Gold oysters (with chile, sesame seeds, pickled sea grapes, and cilantro) to toasted grasshoppers. La Bicyclette, also in Carmel, mixes regional (ingredients) with French (style), for dishes like local wild black cod with chorizo and escarole or pan-seared pork in a prune brandy sauce. For something quick ‘n’ casual in Monterey itself, try the Alvarado Street Brewery, with its expansive beer garden, or the Sandbar & Grill, a relaxed seafood spot on the water.

1958 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster
1958 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster (Russo & Steele)

THE AUCTIONS

Monterey Car Week includes a number of auctions selling classic and collectible cars at a tremendous range of prices. (Next to the $21 million McLaren, Tom Cruise’s ride from Vanilla Sky starts to look cheap, estimated to go for under $100K.) The most exciting is the RM Sotheby’s sale, which includes the Porsche, Aston Martin and McLaren above; the other two come courtesy of Mecum. Russo & Steele will offer a 1958 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster that “has not seen rain in the last 32 years,” while the Bonhams Quail Lodge auction will include such curiosities as a 1934 Packard Eight 1100 five-person sedan

Monterey Car Week
2018’s best in show at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (Pebble Beach Company)

NON-AUCTION ACTIVITIES

Not looking to actually take a car home? Activities are numerous and wide-ranging. The Pebble Beach RetroAuto shows all car memorabilia from across the decades. The all-German-marque Legends of the Autobahn this year includes RADwood, for ’80s and ’90s cars and participants willing to mix “period correct dress with automotive awesomeness.” Saturday’s Werks Reunion will be “Monterey’s largest gathering of Porsches.” The annual Concours de LeMons will bring the worst of the automotive world to Seaside on Saturday, while the exceptionally opposite Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance takes place the following day.