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Preserving, Restoring, and Enjoying Historic Race Cars on Track

Bugatti Racing

For decades, old race cars were forgotten machines – banished to museums and private collections or left covered in dusty garages and even old barns. There was no motivation in keeping them in working order.

The fate of these old race cars changed in August 1974 when Steven Earle encouraged his friends to “race” their cars. A small group of 60 vehicles arrived at the paddock of Monterey County’s 1.9-mile Laguna Seca road course where they were divided into collective groups of type and speed.

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

They were just a casual group of people who had a passion for racing their cars for pure pleasure as opposed to trophies. They named the Saturday event the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, which preceded the Sunday Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

As the years rolled by, more vintage race events have developed with race preparation and restoration shops thriving. The market for race cars emerged, and the race car lots of auction houses flourished. In keeping with the rise in demand was equally the price. The new activity also created a new market in building continuation and replicas.  

Authenticity at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Ever since 1974, one fundamental element that has remained consistent for those entries seeking consideration for acceptance into the 2010 rebranded Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion: they must be historically significant race vehicles from yesteryear that have been restored and outfitted to their original period specs.

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Gulf

It is possible to find many events that will take continuation or replicas to race, or where road-going versions of racing vehicles. These events provide a form of enjoyment by allowing their owners to drive these vehicles at speed.

However, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion takes on a different objective. Drivers and enthusiasts alike expect the best of the best when roaming through the paddock and watching these vehicles race around the track.

As recognition to their strict compliance of this rule, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is the only event based in the US that was given the illustrious Motorsport Event of the Year award in 2017 by the prestigious Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) Founding Members Cup for their “great significance to historic motoring.”   

Vintage vs. Historic 

Almost every weekend, there is a vintage race event that is happening in one part of the world. To others, the difference between vintage and historic is subtle, but for Monterey, the difference is paramount.

Brumos Porsche

Typically, vintage cars relate to those that came from the ‘20s until the early ‘80s. To qualify for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion,  cars have to have a level of authenticity and known pedigree, they should also have a verifiable history of racing back in the day, and it has been cared for throughout the years so that they remain as authentic and true to the day they raced.

The key feature of their historic nature that distinguishes the cars from club events or large vintage events where the acceptance only considers the age of the car. 

Restoration vs. Preservation 

Old cars will always demand care and attention, especially for old race cars. In the racing world, accidents happen, parts break and were swapped routinely among cars and the parts bin in an effort to do all that could be done to keep the machine in the race.  

The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion philosophy is to restore a vehicle to the time when it was raced or preserved and maintained as it was. The only enhancements should be for driver safety. 

To illustrate, during the 2010 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, they featured the Bugatti Grand Prix. During this event, thirty-four original Bugatti entries varied from a 1924 Type 35C to the 1938 Type 57 came into Monterey from all over the US, along with entrants from Germany, France, Australia, and Japan. 

Bugatti at the 2010 Rolex Monterey Reunion

The vehicles were true art pieces and ranged from exquisitely restored and immaculate pieces to the preserved paint-chipped, worn leather seats and scrapes that have been collected throughout the many years of racing.

Historians, enthusiasts, and guests all applauded the owners who decided to leave the patina of the preserved race cars showing them off like badges of honor. 

The final selection and acceptance of the cars, as well as appropriately grouping them is a meticulous process. The Selection Committee recognizes the differences between restoration and preservation as a key consideration when deciding which cars are accepted. The whole process is what makes Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion unique, much like the cars that come roaring to life in August. 

Applications for entry are currently being accepted and will continue until February 15 for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion that will be held on August 12-15, 2021 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.  

More information and details can be found at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at the Weathertech Raceway website.

[Source: Barry Toepke, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca]