Pacific Grove offers light relief during the build-up to the world’s most exclusive concours d’elegance by opening its picturesque main avenue to a selection of pint-sized machines for its annual Little Car Show.
The variety of cars and the enthusiasm of their owners made this Monterey Car Week gem really rather special.
Around 100 sub-1601cc classics gather in the town and more take to the surrounding streets, with a selection process that amounts to little more than ‘first come, first served’.
The result is a collection of classics ranging from the cute to the downright bizarre, and this year’s event, held on 22 August, was marked by the high turnout of rarities.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Minis proved one of the most popular models at the show, with in excess of 20 examples filling out the numbers.
A number of late Coopers were joined by a cabriolet, Clubman Estate, van and pickup, but the picks of the bunch were Jon and Joanie Brothers’ 1970 Austin Mini Cooper ‘S’ Mk2 and Jim Predmore’s 1966 Austin Mini Cooper ‘S’.
A less common Riley Elf drew plenty of quizzical glances from locals – as did a tatty Moke that bore New South Wales registration plates beneath its American tags.
Enrique Velasquez’s Elf seemed to have originated from New Zealand, judging by its window stickers and right-hand-drive configuration.
A charming Morris 1000 Pickup also proved a rare sight Stateside, being one of around 500 examples thought to have been imported – and much fewer to have survived.
Kevin Keebler has owned the rare machine for five years: “I bought it from an estate sale – it had been sitting at the back of a shop for 35 years,” says Keebler.
“I’ve recommissioned it but kept the body in the same condition in homage to its original owner. They’re only original once!”
This is the third example to be shown at the Little Car Show by the enthusiastic restorer: “I’ve loved Morris Minors all my life,” he says with a smile.
Another rarity had made its way to Pacific Grove via Japan, having picked up a first in class award at the previous day’s Concours on the Avenue.
Carson Chen’s 1967 Mazda Cosmo 110S was presented in remarkable condition having been sympathetically restored to an incredibly high standard.
“343 were made and between 12-16 survive,” says Chen, “and four or five of those are in the United States. I’d watched this one for two and a half years and was finally able to bring it into the country in October last year,” he enthuses.
Chen first gained an appreciation for rotary technology after buying a Mazda RX-7 project car to work on with his son.
“There’s something about this manufacturer and its innovations that is unique,” he says. “It really captured our imagination.”
Among a number of Porsche 356s, Triumph Heralds and MG Midgets, were tucked several more unicorns, chief among them Norm Walters’ 1968 BMW 1600GT, which proved a mystery to many showgoers.
Based on the Glas GT though fitted with the 1.6-litre engine from the Neue Klasse, it must surely have been one of just a handful in the country.
“The car was originally sold to the Congo in 1968,” says Walters, “and it eventually turned up in Portugal, where I saw it for sale on a German car website. I called a friend in Germany and sent him down to see it – he said, ‘you’ve got to buy this car!’ I love the colour Bristol – if it had been another colour I wouldn’t have bought it,” he jokes.
After drip-feeding payments to his German contact the car was eventually shipped to the United States, after having been driven across Europe, but not without running into problems at the DMV, which claimed the car was a grey import due to its build year.
With the help of the original Congolese documentation, Walters was able to prove the car was built in 1967 – and could therefore remain in the country.
A handful of rare Cincinnati-built Crosleys also delighted the crowds. They included a stunning Hot Shot, 1947 Convertible and 1951 Super Sport.
Show regular Michael brought along one of four Toyota S800s from his collection, having fallen in love with the model while studying at Berkeley in the late 1960s.
He reckons he covers the most miles in an S800 per year of anyone – though not all in the same car!
Here are a few more of our favourites:
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