Amongst all the fanciful events of Monterey Car Week, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca is the most egalitarian by far. From downright cheap ticket prices on Thursday and Friday to open pit access for all spectators, it's about as close as you can get to the rarest, running race cars and their respective drivers.
Better yet, the sonic experience that is these historic races is almost better than seeing the cars up close. And it's more than just unfiltered, unmuffled valvetrain noise, as the whine of straight-cut-gears and the squeal of cold racing brakes are far less common experiences. That said, earplugs are never a bad idea here.
You don't even have to particularly enjoy racing to come hang out here, as the parking lot and pits are full of interesting sheetmetal. Last year, we reported on the culture of pristine pit bikes that permeate the lot, but we mixed it up this year. With in-house shot photographs and some provided imagery from Rolex, here are the coolest things we saw at the 2024 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
French Tires, American Pride
The Trans Am class is one of the most exciting groups to watch, from the roaring V8s to the tight, almost modern-car adjacent speeds. This group is momentarily flat out, ringing through the ears of spectators on the overpass. Drivers try to keep momentum through turn three and four, as they ascend to the corkscrew.
1991 Duracell Chevrolet Camaro
Trailing the pack in the last photo, this 1991 Duracell Chevrolet Camaro is the star of the show here. Formerly racing in the SCCA Trans Am Championship, this car shows its racing heritage through its paint, but the chassis underneath is worthy of some rubbing-is-racing paint chips. Despite looking very Camaro, it's actually a custom tube chassis by Protofab with a Camaro shell on top. Good for racing and good for muscle car sales, too.
Built for Bruce McLaren himself, the history behind this car is worth a textbook for future racing enthusiasts. With a 5.9-litre V8 from Chevrolet, the McLaren M6A is not the proprietary British supercar of today, but much more. It's the epitome of 1960s Cam-Am racing, really.
Racing As It Should Be
Open air, roaring engine, manual controls, and a wide open straight.
1970 McLaren M8D
Adding to the McLaren historic collection was this 1970 McLaren M8D. A successor of the M6A, the M8D was a revised version of the M8B, in accordance with Can-Am series rules at the time. Strut-mounted wings were banned, requiring McLaren to add a pair of tail fins over a wide, low-mounted wing for aerodynamics. A Chevrolet V8 was still part of the package at this time.
1979 Porsche 935
Porsche 911s are almost commonplace at Laguna Seca, so something a little more impressive like this Porsche 935 is required to get a rise from the crowd. This particular example is owned by Hollywood producer Alan Terpins, widely known for movies like The Lighthouse and Beckett.
Never a Porsche Shortage
Rainbow Sherbet style, if you will.
It's well documented that the drop of Laguna Seca's corkscrew is about 59 feet, but the speeds at which cars come through it differ greatly between classes. In this case, the presence of downforce and an extremely low center of gravity plummet the open-wheel model into the Rainey Curve.
Minis on Minis
Watching the Austin Mini Coopers race is one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Tight, twitchy racing is always on deck with this group, but the story behind the team is equally as fascinating. Originating from the Midwestern Council Championship, the Peterman Unsbee Racing Enterprises team raced exclusively Minis.
Minis on Minis
Originally raced by John Unsbee in the 1970s, this exact model won the 1972 SCCA Class C Sedan Racing Championship. His team was made up of his own brother, Randy Unsbee, and a mechanic by the name of Bill Peterman.
Chop off the already marginal windshield on a Datsun 2000, add a roll bar, and you're good to hit the track. Without its headlights and fitted with a pair of sticky tires, the Datsun 2000 goes from sweet roadster to biting track car, but the classic sports car shape remains.
Audi 4000S Quattro
As our own Jay Ramey said, it's a miracle any Audis of this vintage are still on the road. A naturally aspirated five-cylinder engine and a fledgling, very mechanical all-wheel-drive system with locking differentials center and rear (at least compared to modern versions) made working on this vintage of Audis a pain in the butt. But driving one through the California sun must be sweet, though the need for Quattro rarely arises.
A Lotus Cortina is also a common sight during Monterey Car Week, but a racing version with an engine bay as shaved and clean as this is something to behold. Originally equipped with a 1557-cc twin-cam inline-four, this model is sporting its original equipment with what looks like some modern upgrades.
I'm in love with the shape of the Datsun 510. It's part of why I love and own a BMW E30. And seeing a pristine Datsun 510 in a bluebird-esque color is even more exciting. This particular example had period-correct seats and fantastic four-spoke wheels, but what's under the hood is a bit more modern.
If you can't see it gaping from the right side of the engine bay, this Datsun 510 is sporting a massive turbocharger. But more importantly, the original inline-four has been swapped for an SR20. Originally released in 1989, the SR20 is a more modern four-cylinder popularized by Japanese market 240sxs but also found in cars like the Primera and Pulsar.
Porsche 356 Speedster
A forever classic at this point. Nothing else much to say.
1971 AMC Javelin
Before the Duracell Camaro raced in the Trans-Am class, this AMC Javelin made its way to the track. This specific livery is the Roger Penske-Mark Donohue Javelin, which raced in the 1970s and won seven of 10 races in 1971. "Team Rambler," as an engraved piece of metal on the back of the car says.
1957 Maserati 200SI
Maserati was born out of racing and it's clear the design heritage followed as you look at this 1957 Maserati 200SI. Designed by Giulio Alfieri and built in Modena, this early racing model was instrumental in Maserati's racing heritage, as it won the Bara GP in 1956. Fitted with a 2.0-liter inline-four and a four-speed manual transmission, this is as close as you can get to analog historic racing.
1979 Triumph TR8
Originally racing in the IMSA GTO class, this Triumph TR8 is one of two built, with a strong pedigree from the British Leyland (Jaguar Triumph) factory USA racing effort. It carries eight class wins in the 1979-1980 seasons and second place in the 1980 IMSA GTO points championship. With a 3.9-liter fuel-injected Rover alloy block and head V8 and a Triumph close ratio four-speed, this model could battle it out with Corvette all day.
1973 BMW CSL 3.0 Conversion
The BMW CSL 3.0 is a classic in its own right, but this one has a 3.5-liter inline-six from a newer 7-Series. This chassis began its racing career in 2015 at the HSR Classic in Daytona, but the chassis originally belonged to Dieter Quester.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Up on four jack stands is the life of a vintage racer and accompanying mechanic who chooses to use an Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Mercedes RennTech E600
Mercedes-AMG never actually sold an E600, but the souped-up RennTech version deserved its own nomenclature. With a 6.0-liter double-overhead camshaft V8, a modified four-speed automatic transmission, and RENNtech limited-slip differential, these stately sedans are certified sleepers.
Fiat 600 Multipla
Mass car ownership in Italy is coming! The Fiat 600, much like its smaller 500 siblings, was made for the everyday person and their family. Based on the 600 sedan, the Multipla had three rows of seats and could fit up to six people inside. Talk about a cool minivan.
Chevrolet Cosworth Vega
Only available from 1975 through 1976, the Chevrolet Cosworth Vega is ultra rare. In fact, I couldn't believe I was seeing one quietly parked in the pits. But there it was, one of 3508 cars made. A joint-venture 2.0-liter inline-four engine from GM and Cosworth is under the hood, making the sticker price only $900 less than a Corvette at the time.
Datsun 240z and Japanese-Imported Acura Integra Type R
A California-spec Datsun 240z meets its younger competitor, a JDM, four-door Acura Integra Type R, in the parking lot of Laguna Seca. Which of these would you bring to your local touge? I know my answer.