Car Show Classics: Monterey Car Week Part 1 – Little Cars

     midget racer

The most publicized events of the annual Car Week in Monterey, California, are the historic races, concours, and of course auctions. Many, though not all, of the cars at those events are far from representing the core of this website. Most are perfectly restored trailer queens, as may befit their rarity and historic value; some (especially at the auctions) are overdone restomods; and many of the cars one sees on the streets are gaudily wrapped late-model McLarens, Porsches, Lamborghinis etc. But there is more to Car Week than that. Three years ago I attended the Concours d’Lemons, and this year I went back. But a few days before, I rode down on my almost-classic one-owner 1999 Ducati Monster to check out the Little Car Show. Both events are free admission, which I think is a good fit with the spirit of Curbside Classic.

The Little Car Show was in its twelfth year. It’s intended for cars older than 25 years and either electric, or powered by engines less than 1601 cc. I think a few entries fudged a bit, and some perhaps met the rules, but hardly seemed like small cars to me. I suspect the Ford based Midget racer in the lead photo has a 3+ liter Model A engine under the hood. At just under 750 cc however, this 1930 “Baby” American Austin definitely fits the bill. And it’s parked Curbside, no less.

This Peugeot 404 Cabriolet is probably also a rule-breaker, as I would think it has the 1618cc engine fitted to most gasoline 404’s. And it’s not exactly “little” … but it was very nice.

And here’s another 404, a 1968 sedan. The seats looked so inviting!

This sticker reads “Once Again, Peugeot Winner of the Safari 1967” referring to the 404’s successes in the East African Safari rally. The top ten finishers that year were represented by only three brands: Peugeot, a few Fords (Cortina), and a single Volvo 122S. A Mercury Comet was among the DNF’s.

fiat 500

OK, now for some small cars. It had been a while since I’d seen an original Fiat 500. Even in this setting, it looked small. On the ride down I passed an 850 sedan, which I hoped to see at the show but it wasn’t there. On the three lane freeway, surrounded by the usual Camries, SUV’s and Ford SuperDuties the 850 looked really tiny, although it’s almost 2 feet (600 mm) longer than the 500.

vignale gamine

There were several other Fiats. This is a 500 based roadster, the Vignale Gamine. Produced from 1967 to 1970, it might be one of the first retro cars, perhaps inspired by the American Stutz revival or Excalibur. Behind it is an 850 Spider, an X1/9, and a Honda S800.

The light green roadster, with its Italian style, is in fact a British Turner 950S. Despite the name, this example had a 1250cc BMC A Series engine rather than the standard 948cc unit.

And some Fiat 1500 Spiders as well, this one posing Curbside with a Peugeot 205 and an NSU 1200TTS.

What would a Little Car Show be without Mini’s? Mokes. Travellers, a Wolseley Hornet, a Honda-powered Mini, even a Mini with a twin cam cylinder head grafted on the A Series block.

The cylinder head is from a BMW K1100 motorcycle, complete with belt cam drive conversion at the crankshaft end. To me, a 1275 Cooper S engine is more than adequate to propel these, and the complexity of these conversions seems counter to the Mini spirit, but I appreciate the ingenuity.

This 1963 Ford Cortina caught my eye with its perfect gray paint and bodywork, and the wide Lotus-style steel wheels. But inside was the real shocker.

Bench seat, umbrella handle parking brake and column shift for the 4 speed manual transmission. It was described as an Italian market car, a Cortina Consul, not Consul Cortina as they were known in the UK; not sure if it was a mistake or if that was the naming in Italy. And belying the wide wheels, presumably not standard, it was powered by the small 1198 cc engine.

Briggs and Stratton powered? I don’t know how drivable it is, or if it’s really over 25 years old, but this was definitely the littlest car at the show.

Two Nash Metropolitans. What’s behind the convertible? Oh, just a Porsche Speedster. NOT a replica.

And a 1956 DKW. The white paper under the wiper reads “Not an Audi”.

More explanatory signage. There’s that Speedster again. It’s indicative of the variety at these shows, and the ubiquity of Porsches, that I didn’t even get a full shot of it.

A 1968 Meyers Manx. I so wanted one of these when I was a pre-teen. I still remember riding behind one on my bicycle in town when it threw a belt off the exposed VW engine.

Well, there were many more cars at the Little Car Show, but I’ll wrap up this day’s sights with something slightly larger, and not at the show but parked nearby. A 1939 Ford, For Sale no less.