Walk the paddock during Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and you can get up close to some cool stuff.
When was the last time you heard a prewar Ford racer? Or saw a crew installing the bodywork on a rotary-powered Le Mans challenger? Or got up close to a Talbot-Lago?
Here’s the thing about historic racing events like the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion: You get unprecedented access to wander the paddock. You can ogle to your heart’s content. You can ask owners all kinds of silly questions. You can look at the race cars you’ve only seen in books or highlight reels—the Mazda 787B that won the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans, for one, or the Dakar-battling Porsche 959 covered in its original dirt from 1985.
And you’ll have to make the difficult decision of wandering the paddock or, say, walking up to the Corkscrew at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to see the same rare-air race cars you just gawked at, at full attack.
The sign on the windshield screams, : "DO NOT CLEAN THIS CAR! ORIGINAL DIRT FROM 1985." This is historic dirt, period-correct dirt, numbers-matching dirt. It's part of the story of how this Porsche 959, originally created to join in Group B rallying's excesses, entered the Paris-Dakar rally with Jacky Ickx and pushed through to a 1-2 finish. The 1986 winner is at the Porsche Museum, and Porsche flew this 1985 one in from Germany as well, still unwashed and all the more rad for it.
Coming straight from French collector-obsessive Peter Mullin and his museum was this 1946 Delage D6 3-liter Grand Prix, a frequent visitor to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Chassis number 880004 here, one of just five built, was the last-ever Delage to compete at the first post-war 24 Hours of Le Mans—where it placed second. Delage was taken over by Delahaye in 1946, and went out of business in 1954
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca opened its gates on November 9th, 1957, and held its first race that day. And in front of 35,000 spectators, Pete Lovely took this tired four-cylinder Ferrari 500TR and, with just two liters, defeated every well-known racer on the West Coast. The car changed hands and kept racing well into the Sixties, became a barn find in 1997, and meticulously restored to raceworthy spec, well in time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of when it defeated giants.
You can see James Bond's DB5 wandering around Monterey, but an earlier DB4 that's sitting pretty in the paddock is just as cool. No machine guns or ejector seats on this one, though.
In 1923, Pierre Marchal founded his eponymous light company. Legend has it that one day, he climbed into his car, turned on the headlights, and saw the eyes of his black cat, lit up in the night. For anyone who appreciates the midcentury iconography that graced the hoods of Ferrari's, Porsche's, and BMW's most famous race cars, as well as cute pets, the S.E.V. Marchal branding is an icon bordering on obsession. Just ask the driver of this Camaro.
There's all kinds of pit bikes here: vintage Vespas, dirt bikes, weirdo , and this mint Kawasaki Z1 (development name: "New York Steak"). Once the most powerful Japanese motorcycle in the world, it will get you up to the Corkscrew in a heartbeat.
This is not a 787B, the only rotary-powered Japanese to win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is a 767B. It says so right on the nose, which is helpful for passerby, who have to keep track of the seven rotary race cars Mazda brought this year. Predated the 1991 race winner by two years, Mazda campaigned a pair at Le Mans in 1989 to both top-ten finishes. Its four-rotor 13J engine produced 630 horsepower, setting the stage for two more years of Le Mans attempts, culminating in—well, you know how it went.
Jim Downing was a rotary racing champion, winning the 1982 IMSA GTU championship in an RX-7 as a Mazda factory driver. Mazda soon set its sights on the top-tier GTP class. And for a three-year streak, Downing would conquer the new Camel Lights with a chassis built by Argo, a two-rotor Mazda 13B engine, and a livery that wore its eccentricities with pride.
Beautifully restored pickup trucks were on hand in the paddock. Because if you're going to haul tires, why not do it with style? This GMC five-window is still rough around its curves. Your Snap-On tools couldn't find a cooler place to reside.
D-Day came to Monterey this year with the legendary Deathmobile from Animal House. The Lincoln Continental-based parade wrecker once belonged to the Volo Auto Museum outside Chicago, which also holds a rogue's gallery of . No word on what time it set around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Ramming speed!
One of America's worst cars ever made, the Chevrolet Monza redeemed itself with 600 horsepower, an IMSA win, and a beer sponsorship. DeKon Engineering built these tube-framed monsters to compete in the Camel GT Challenge, where they took on Porsches and won, three years in a row. Here's to you, bud.
Just a Dino 246 GT, hanging out with some friends. Maybe they'll hit up the In-N-Out drive-thru after this.
This 1915 Ford race car can hit 100 miles per hour, and did so, handily. It sits on top of a 1924 Model H race car hauler. You can have it in any color, uttered Henry Ford, as long as it's bright yellow.
Pan-global nostalgia runs deep with an Australian burger stand from the Fifties, a Japanese car inspired by Italian/French design, at an event in California celebrating the past. The cutesy-wutesy Nissan Figaro is now legal to overnight from Japan, so why not pick yourself up one today and embrace the retro life?