It’s that time of year again in California. The time of year when a hot sun bakes into rubber-scarred tarmac, where the scent of fresh-spent fuel lingers in the air, the echoing of hundreds of cylinders ring in your ears, and thousands of vintage racing enthusiasts await the cool coastal breeze in the evening.
Across town folks are drinking cheese and eating wine, or something nearly as silly as that. Don’t get me wrong, decades’ worth of concours events and hoity-toity parties are what has shaped Monterey Car Week into the massive success it is today, and there’s certainly a time and place for such activities. Frankly, it might not hurt if a bit of that high-brow snobbery were to trickle down into certain corners of car culture where people can be found hooning around and upsetting little old ladies on the street, or just generally associating car enthusiasts with knuckle-draggery.
This is why the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is the event of the week for me. It has prestige, it has class, and everyone who attends is served up a healthy dose of nostalgia and adrenaline. At the same time, it’s not really about who you know or how expensive your drinks are, and it’s certainly not about cars parked on a lawn that will never truly be driven again.
Quite the contrary. The classic cars here are unleashed in all their fury, and the result is an event which is a sensational assault from start to finish.
Before thousands and thousands of old school horsepower attacks the 11-turn road course that is WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend, I’d like to start off with something a bit more tame to prime your senses: An afternoon in the shop at Impeccable Inc.
It was actually some time last year, not long after RMMR 2018, when I visited Chad Raynal at his shop in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Chad is an incredible wealth of knowledge when it comes to vintage American iron, and I was absolutely blown away by the array of cars present when I peeked in.
It wasn’t exactly a crunch time, but the shop was packed wall-to-wall with fantastic examples of old road racers that terrorized tracks across the nation in decades past – many of which still do today. 1960s muscle cars are what got me hooked on car culture in the first place, and I think nearly everyone around the world who is interested in cars has some sort of story about one, or can relate in some way.
These cars just have a presence, and while I’m usually not much of one for originality, it totally makes sense in this case. These cars are complete time capsules, and Chad — with his father Roger, his uncle Ray, and others not present during my visit — is performing museum-level preservation work in maintaining and restoring these fantastic machines.
This is precisely what I like so much about this shop; it’s a place that strengthens the automobile’s association to art and history instead of burnouts and speeding on the highway. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burnout, but again there’s a time and place for everything.
Now, more than ever, car enthusiasts have to take the high road, and this is why I think the work that Chad and the guys and girls at Impeccable Inc. are doing is really, really important. But to Chad or Ray, a day here is probably just another day in the shop.
It’s quite clear they’re very passionate about their work and take it very seriously, but talking to these guys on the street — or even at an event full of cars they’ve restored or had their hands on — they never let on that what they’re doing is as special as it is.
That’s certainly a breath of fresh air compared to my Instagram feed where it feels like every single person is trying to shove their latest accomplishment down your throat. But I digress.
Beyond this concept of humility, the level at which these guys are performing their work is just mind-bending. Every last piece of each of the cars that Chad and company restores is just as it was when these cars were originally raced. The attention to detail simply astounds me, and I spent hours poring over the cars in their shop.
Again, this comes back to what I said earlier. This sort of preservation-type work just didn’t appeal to me when I first became interested in cars. Frankly, it seemed pointless and far too prestigious. How could it possibly matter if the headrest is in the right place, or if the finish of the roll cage and interior is the same as when Parnelli Jones raced back in the day? Is it important that the shocks are the correct shade of blue? Who even cares?
Well, oddly enough, I care — at least now I do. More importantly, lots of other folks care, too, and they have for a long time.
This sort of surgical attention to getting things right is so satisfying to see unfold, and I can’t explain exactly why it’s become so captivating to me in the past couple of years. Sure, I’ve always known these cars were special (and expensive), but I never really appreciated the craft and the care that goes into maintaining them until more recently.
I never realized how important a car’s pedigree can be, and what this level of restoration does for car culture. It’s just flat-out inspiring when you think of the amount of research alone that goes into getting every last detail just as it was years back, not to mention the craftsmanship involved in going from concept to reality.
Into The Future
Applying this to car culture today, there’s certainly something to be said about a tastefully modified car or creating something new. But if we don’t understand the successes and failures of the past as it was, how can we truly move forward?
This concours-level work amazes me today, especially when you consider the fact that many of these cars are built and maintained so that they can continue to race year after year in their most glorious liveries and trim. Others are just meant to be appreciated, and that’s okay with me, too.
With the future of car culture perhaps unknown thanks to a dwindling pool of interesting new cars to drive, it’s more important than ever to reach into our past and remember how great these cars once were. What better way to continue to have these cars as part of our lives than to have these stunning examples from yesteryear to aim at?
I don’t think there is a better way, and seeing these cars receiving a new lease on life with value injected back into them — rather than taken from them — brings me a great deal of confidence as to what the future holds for car enthusiasts. It takes hard work and dedication, but it’s all worth it in the end.
Especially during this time of year…
Trevor Yale Ryan