California dreamin'

| 18 Aug 2011

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!