Most people think of the Monterey Historics as a weekend event, but for me and photographer Dave Gooley, it all starts a week ahead of Concorso Italiano with the first practice runs at the Monterey Pre-Historics. That makes it a ten or eleven-day assignment as we scout the entire Monterey Bay area for cars worthy of future articles. Sometimes we get story material, sometimes we just meet weird and wonderful automobiles and their equally weird and wonderful owners. For this article, we've sifted through the hundreds of great cars we encountered to introduce you to some of our favorites.

It all started at the almost empty Laguna Seca Raceway on the first Friday of the Pre-Historics, a full-fledged vintage race but with few, if any, spectators. The racers like it that way; some come to warm up for the following week's big races, and others come just for the track time. Here we found a rare Ferraro Dino 196SP trucked in from Scottsdale, Arizona, and more racing Ferraris that came all the way from Quebec, Canada (including an incredible P3). Southern California collector Peter Mullin and son were out practicing in their two matching Talbot Lago Record racers, and Northern California vintage racer Peter Giddings brought a stunning, completely original 1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo 8C-35. We were able to corner Giddings for a shoot and conversation about this car, which had taken Tazio Nuvolari to several wins in the days when the "Flying Mantuan" was running in Enzo Ferrari's Scuderia.

We found less speedy but odder fare at the Pre-Historics, too: Not one, but two (!) Lancia Appias. The first, a dark-blue 1956 sedan, was the daily driver of Marin resident Rebecca Hale-Tweedy, who was helping to set up a display of Historic Grand Prix cars. The other was actually an entry (and a sort of advertisement for) the Christie's Auction due to take place the evening of the Pebble Beach Concours. The Christie's fellows had noticed the little blue Appia driving around the Laguna Seca paddocks, and must have heard it making that mysterious Appia mating call. When the masculine Furgoncino (little truck) met the cute little Berlina, well, it was kind of like Speedvision meets Animal Planet.

Those weekdays after the Pre-Historics and before Concorso Italiano, Dave and I discovered two rare and beautiful Italians hiding in local garages. The first was a teensy little "etceterini" residing in the mountain 'burb of Los Gatos.

This little red jewel was a 1953 Giaur, the result of the collaboration between Roman engine builder Domenico Giannini and Tuscan body man Beraro Taraschi, who built cars named after the goddess Urania. Put Gia- for Giannini and -Ur for Urania together and EccoLa! It should be on display at Pebble Beach in 2002, as the organizers have announced there will be a new 750cc class.

The second prize was another red charmer. Dave and I knew Scott Emsley, a longtime Abarth fan, was sure to have something great in his Monterey garage. Sure enough, he had the very first Abarth, a 1949 205 coupe, built by Carlo Abarth with the goodies he snagged from the just-deceased Cisitalia. The lovely Vignale body, with its signature triple chromed air intakes, gives the car a Ferrari feel.

Here's a hint for dollar-conscious car nuts who want to do the Pebble Beach thing but can't afford the hundred-dollar entry ticket. Get out early Thursday morning and set yourself up somewhere along the 50-mile route of the Pebble Beach Tour. If you can get all the way down to the start line at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, you can get a close view of the creme-de-la-creme of the Pebble Beach entries (since participation in the tour gives them an advantage should there be a tie in the points judging). Here, David and I first encountered the oldest car of this event, an 1899 Mobile Model 4 Surrey. The owners were having some difficulty getting the buggy started, and flames shot high into the soggy, foggy air. When a few of us expressed alarm, the mechanic said, "Oh, that's normal for this old thing!"

Next to catch our attention in the early morning line-up was a tiny blue racer sporting Spanish slogans. It turned out to be none other than Juan Manuel Fangio's very first ride, a 1947 Simca Gordini Tipo 15 G.C. racer. We tried to talk the handsome young driver into letting us feature the car, but he said in heavily accented English that he and the car had to fly right back to Buenos Aires after the show.

Visiting from not quite as far away was the fantabulous Lincoln Indianapolis brought over from Pennsylvania. This mango-colored monstrosity combines the best and the worst of Italy's take on America's fabulous '50s. It was a design exercise by Mario Felice Boano for the 1955 Turin Show, his proof that an Italian could be just as goofy about chrome as any American. It even has huge pipes (Could they be exhaust? Intake? Who can tell?) feeding into and out of the air space in front of the doors.

Another European oddity with a sort-of American body drove up for the Tour. The 1946 Delahaye Break de Chasse or "Shooting Break" sported fabulous wood siding; it's a French Woody Wagon. The Nevada-based owners of this one-off plan to use it for regular wine-case-carrying runs to Reno from the Napa Valley wine country.

The next morning, an incredible assortment of Italian machinery rolled out onto the Quail Lodge Resort green for Concorso Italiano. The year's celebration of the 50-year collaboration between Ferrari and Pininfarina brought out some very impressive automobiles, including one that David and I were able to corral for a shoot. This 1965 Ferrari prototype was one of only two built on the 365P racing chassis. The first one went to Fiat Boss Agnelli, and the second went to the USA's top Ferrari man, Luigi Chinetti. Chinetti's son now owns the car and was gracious enough to let us examine it up close. The car's unique feature is a center driving wheel, surrounded by passenger seats only slightly set back on either side. The intent is evident: The Big Man sits front and center, racing through the city with the wife on one side and the mistress on the other. Or, for longer journeys, two mistresses, one on each side.

Saturday morning everybody heads back to Laguna Seca for the Historic races. Here's where our attraction to oddities got the best of us. The first was a tiny 1964 Peel Trident that serves as a paddock car for the Santa Cruz-based Tuttle family. It seemed barely big enough for one person, much less the two we found shoe-horned inside it! The micro Peels were the only autos ever built on England's Isle of Mann, and they're the smallest cars ever built anywhere for public use.

From a distance, it looked as if another Peel was actually out running on the track! But, as the tiny red racer roared back into the paddock, we realized it was a good deal bigger than the Peel, even if it was a good deal smaller than anything else. The mini-racer was a 1951 Crosley Hot-Shot, and Cupertino resident Mary Lou Robson races the car regularly between shifts as a registered nurse. The Crosley Refrigerator company had a lot of fun making these sheet-metal cars and engines throughout the '50s. The latter often found their way into sleek Siata bodies from Italy.

To beat the crowds at Pebble, David went out shooting at the crack of dawn Sunday morning, while the fog still rolled off the backs of Monterey Bay's lollygagging otters. Back where the transporter trucks disgorge, he encountered a lovely silver almost-Ferrari in the 1964 ATS Allemano Coupe. Born as a result of the "Palace Coup" that sent many of Ferrari's best engineers packing, these sleek coupes (and a few spiders) never amounted to much sales competition for Ferrari, but today the price of a rare ATS matches or exceeds the price tag found on many of Enzo's own.

In the world of Ferraris and trucks, there was nothing more fantastic than the Scuderia's official transporter truck, a great big Fiat complete with double-decker car carrier, workshop and team bus. Washington State collectors Pat and Doris Hart restored and displayed this wonderful machine, and it attracted so much attention, it would've won People's Choice if such a category existed at Pebble Beach.

Another car David had captured emerging from a transporter's hold was an elegant 1932 Bugatti Type 54 roadster. I spotted the Bugatti later on the field, in the same class as another one of my favorites, a lovely two-tone blue and cream 1935 MG PA/PB, one of that humble British marque's earliest successes. Another British success story was told by the racing-green Aston Martin DBR1, David Brown's first race car, displayed in the "Postwar Sports and Racing" class. Representing the domestic side, a special class set up to celebrate Ford's "Centennial of Racing" featured the screaming-fast blue-stripes-on-white of the 1968 GT-40.

Dropping back in time and a bit down the green, we were drawn to the 1938 Talbot Lago T23, with its tasteful two-tone paint scheme matched by the owner's period cocktail dress. The coupe's Figoni-et-Falaschi body is one of the classic Teardrops that epitomize the height of French pre-war design. It wasn't a surprise when we found out later that the Talbot Lago took the coveted "French Cup," though winner of that "European Classic 1925-39" class was Dave's and my favorite, a gorgeous black 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B. Dave has always been an Alfa nut, so when Hong Kong collector Chip Connor gave us the opportunity to shoot this car in private, we grabbed at the chance. If the Talbot was the epitome of French style, this Touring-bodied coupe clearly illustrates Italy's early efforts to overthrow the French. Though a real war interrupted that styling battle, the Italians won the design war by the late '40s, when Touring and Pininfarina designs were considered the best in the world. That Alfa did win its class, as well as the trophy for "Most Elegant Closed Car."

That covers France and Italy, so we must not leave out Germany. It wasn't easy to pick our favorite Kraut, as the special Mercedes-Benz Centennial celebration brought out more than two dozen examples of both racing and touring designs. While I personally succumbed to the racing nostalgia engendered by the Grand Prix cars (I couldn't decide between the '37 W125 and the '54 W196), I can see why Dave and the judges fell hard for the sinisterly elegant black roadster produced by coachbuilders Erdman & Rossi on the 1930 Mercedes-Benz SS. The car took not only "Best in Class" but also "Best in Show," something its owners, Arturo and Deborah Keller of Petaluma, have done before with other cars from their famous collection.

From that marvelous Mercedes to the minuscule Manx Peel, Nuvolari's Alfa to Mary Lou Robson's Crosley, there's no place else in the world where you'll find such a diverse array of classic automotive machinery. It's ten long, fun but exhausting days, and when it's over, Dave's job is almost done--he just has to develop, sort and label his thousands of photos. For me, though, the fun is over, and the real work--the writing--has just begun.

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