The events during Monterey Car Week embody what I consider to be the best and worst of car culture.

On one hand, you have the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The machines there are all gorgeous, stunning pieces of history — the kinds of cars you normally only read about. But they’re parked on a golf course lawn, treated like objects in a museum you have to pay hundreds of dollars just to see. It’s closed off, it’s exclusive, and you have to buy your way in. It goes against everything I hope Jalopnik stands for.

Don’t get me started on the people. Scowling, aloof multimillionaires with no interest in speaking to anyone who isn’t a fellow member of the landed gentry. All of them seem miserable as they trade awards among themselves. Everyone there has everything and no one is happy. Normally people are more interesting than cars, but at Pebble Beach, it’s best to focus on the cars and never talk to anyone.

But that’s just one event at Monterey Car Week. I’ll tell you where you need to be if you go: the Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca.

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If the Pebble Beach concours is hell then Laguna Seca that weekend is heaven. Here, vintage racing cars, and street cars turned racing cars, do battle against one another like they did in decades past. These cars are used the way they were meant to be used, not parked and ogled at.

The sheer selection of cars you see at Laguna Seca is enough to make you weep with joy. Porsches of every vintage. BMW M1s. Delages. Delahayes. Pre-war Morgan Three-Wheelers. The Formula One cars your father’s heroes used to race. So many Mustang GT350s. Massive, hulking, race-prepped Bentleys. Stuff even the most hardcore enthusiast has never heard of, let alone can pronounce.

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It’s so much more open, more accessible. You can walk through the paddocks here. Take photos. Marvel at what you see. Settle in for a race, or a day of it. The whole thing has a spirit of fun, of adventure that you won’t find elsewhere.

There are other things at play at Laguna Seca than, as my colleague Mike Ballaban put it, “showcasing the acquisition of capital.” Don’t get me wrong, that is happening here too — racing has never been cheap at any level and this kind is no different.

But there’s more going on here. The pursuit of speed, of competition, of honoring history by doing. Men and women dedicated to making sure these cars get driven how they were supposed to be driven rather than relegated to a museum, a storage unit, or worse, a junkyard.

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You can have your damn golf course lawn. I’ll take the smell of gasoline and oil and exhaust. I’ll take the ear-splitting race car noises. I’ll take the race track.

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Photos credit: DW Burnett/PUPPYKNUCKLES


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.