California dreamin'


Author: Graeme HurstPublished:

First day in Monterey and - despite the jet lag and chronic fatigue of an 11- hour flight (made worse thanks to a screaming infant in the row ahead) - it's been a great start for team C&SC, with a feast of myriad classics spotted during the couple of hours it took to get down from San Francisco to Monterey.

We weren't 10 minutes out of the airport before the chrome-rimmed festooned rear end of something 1960s classic loomed half a dozen cars ahead on Highway 101 - reminding us that sun-drenched California really is the land of plenty when it comes to classics in daily use.

Unable to get closer to ascertain its identity - we were in fast moving traffic and our chariot, a lethargic Ford Escape rental car, didn't imbue us with the confidence to give chase - we ticked it off as a Plymouth - possibly a Fury.

A few minutes on and colleague Ben Guynan (enjoying the performance of a new Chevrolet Camaro some miles ahead) sends us a snap of a modd'ed Ford Capri that overtook them at speed. Looks cool and rare for these parts, at least.

Switching into the car pool lane (restricted to cars with two or more occupants - which we hadn't figured out until the traffic in the remaining lanes backed up) was a chance to reel in the miles and close the gap but the Plymouth (or whatever it was) was long gone.

Our disappointment was curtailed with the sudden guttural onslaught of something big and Italian hot on on our tail: a Ferrari 512'M' as it turned out before its driver down shifted and showboated off towards the horizon, leaving us to savour the plume of hydrocarbons.

Next up was another Italian - a Fiat X19, followed by a Mercedes W126 Turbodiesel - the first of three, as it would turn out. 

These big old Stuttgart saloons may lurk in barge-cum-sub-£1200-mini-cab territory back home, but they look cool when they're in good nick in sunny California (in an 'old money' kinda way).

And the 126's styling has worn its years far better than anything from Munich or even Crewe; any one of the three we saw plying the 101 wouldn't disgrace the brand if they were pressed into service at an embassy or top city hotel today.

As we drew closer to Monterey the pace of the classic spotting picked up with cries of 'wow - check that out' and 'now, that's seriously cool' as Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 in light beige (similar to the period, hearing aid beige of a Mk2 Jag but somehow that description seems sacrilege on a Ferrari) swept up the offramp ahead.

Moments later we caught sight of a gorgeous Porsche 356 Roadster in similarly-period hue before drooling over an utterly original Maserati 3500 Coupe outside the Ebassy Suites Hotel in Seaside, which boasted a carpark packed with classic gems including a Hertz 350GT Shelby Mustang (looked pukka but we weren't entirely convinced), an MG TF and a Series 2 E-type (or XK-E as one enthusiast was overheard to call it).

But the best treasure came just a block from our final destination: an original - down to paint that's been worn through on the fins from five decades of polishing - 1962 Cadillac 390 'big block' with just 42,000miles on the clock.

And the best bit? The Caddy doesn't belong to a visiting petrolhead; it's the pride and joy of a local resident who parks it on the street and uses it as his daily drive!




Cool Graeme, have a nice time, but yes, our yankee pals do refer to E-Type Jags as XK-Es.

James Elliott

Graeme, those of us stuck in the office in London staring out of the window at the sheets of rain are obviously very sympathetic to the terrible hardship you have endured – the crying child, watching movies and drinking long-haul drinks on demand for 11 hours, then having to spend a week in Monterey forced to look at the world's most fabulous cars – and, following a democratic vote, have decided that it would be unfair, inhumane even to make you go through it all again next year.
Try not to overdo it.

Group Editor, C&SC


Felt exactly the same way this past June driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara along US-101 & US-1. Did a little California Dreaming of my own:

Driving the Mustang along the coastal, two lane only, road with the top down, although that particular day was somewhat overcast, was a thrill. Traffic was light with a lot of biker tribes (mainly Harley’s but also touring Bimmers and few Ducatisti) crossing, as well as many campers. We knew that we were on holiday land, and when fate had it that the Mamas & Papas oldie hit California Dreaming, would broadcast through the car radio, the frosting on the cake brought back many teenage memories; only this time I was there, living the very dream!

Excerpt from:

Byron E. Riginos,

Athens, Greece

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