Big Fun at the Little Car Show during Monterey Car Week 2018
“Why would you want to go to a little car show during Monterey Car Week? Isn’t the whole week leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours one giant car show?”
No, not little as in the show is small; it’s a big car show for little cars. The Marina Motorsports Little Car Show invites fun-size machines 25 years old and older from all makes and models to line Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove, California, and show off their less-than-1601cc displacement powerplants. This year was the ninth annual tiny car gathering, and while the cars were small, the attendance was not. Both sides of the street for three blocks were speckled with Austin Healeys, early Porsche 911s, VW Bugs, Morris Minors (in all configurations), Crosleys, BMW Isettas and 2002s, a flurry of Fiats, a ton of Triumphs, a smattering of Citroëns, and, naturally, a mass of Mini Coopers. There was more, of course… Mazdas and Toyotas and mini-bikes and go-karts. It was all so cheerful! I guess being at a show where your first impulse is to flip the car over and rub its belly—the cute little things—puts people in a good mood.
John Moulton is the organizer of the Little Car Show, which started in 2010 after he read an article in Hemmings magazine about a similar show idea on the East Coast. “It sounded like a neat show,” Moulton said while hastily eating an egg-salad sandwich in his truck (organizing 100-plus small cars and their owners is a busy gig). “Car Week was a natural draw, and at the time nothing was happening on the Wednesday before Pebble, so I talked to a friend with a Crosley and another friend who was an editor at the [Monterey] Herald and we brought it before the city committee.” Luckily for Moulton and all the tiny car aficionados, one of the committee members had an Austin Healey, so bam, in like Flynn.
“That first year we had 40 cars, and it was just us with some picnic tables and a taxi driver’s P.A.” Now the event draws so many cars that even the parking spaces outside the official show area were peppered with Porsches and Alfas. Moulton said the majority of cars at the show are British, but as I strolled the aisles it appeared the Italians are catching up. Does Moulton own a small car? “Not at the moment,” he said, quickly adding that he previously owned an Austin American, a Crosley, and a Mini Cooper, and that he’s currently on the hunt for another Mini.
The show hands out awards for everything from Mayor’s Choice to “Most Smiles Per Mile,” and volunteers from various businesses and charities pick their own winners. We interrupted Robert Jurado from the Veterans Transition Center as he was trying to pick his winners for the day. “I gotta pick two,” he said. “Under 1000cc and over.” I asked if it was hard to choose and he grinned. “Yeah, but I just see what appeals to me. I saw a car like my mom had when I was young, maybe I’ll pick that one, or an MG, like my uncle had. Or maybe this car. I saw it come in; it caught my eye.” He gestured to a green and black primer 1973 Datsun, and the owner looked over hopefully.
Moulton said he tries not to play favorites, but when we asked if anything had raised his pulse he mentioned a Crosley Super Sport that was, in his words, over the top. “It had two Webers on it! Two! It’s a 45-cubic-inch engine! How do you even fit that much fuel in it? I gotta talk to that guy.”
We didn’t manage to speak to the Crosley owner, but we did find some standouts of our own. The best part about the show was that every car had a great story, and even though the cars were small, they were surrounded by big smiles.
Nobody seemed to take themselves too seriously at the Little Car Show
It wasn’t just little cars; there were little bikes on display too.
Carson Chen brought a crowd favorite, his Rotary-powered Mazda Cosmo. It won Best In Class the day before at the Concours de Avenue in Carmel.
“I always think these look like itty bitty 1940 Fords,” I said to Carroll Sather and he beamed. “I think so too!” Sather’s 1959 Morris Minor 1000 sports a 140-hp Toyota engine out of an ’85 Corolla. It’s backed by a five-speed and a Ford 8-inch rear axle. He’s had it since 1980, and says he did the swap because the stock 40-horse Morris engine just wasn’t cutting it.
Patty Spielberg’s 1967 Toyota Sports 800 was another show stopper. “I’ve never even seen one of these before,” I told her and she laughed. “We have four!” Patty said her husband Matt kickstarted the search back in 1970 when they were dating at University of Berkeley. “Matt saw one in a campus parking lot and dragged me over to look at it. He thought it was so neat.” Years later the Spielbergs got their own and a local newspaper feature about it caught the attention of a fellow owner in New York, who mentioned owning one that he kept in San Francisco. “Did you happen to park it at Berkeley?” Matt asked. It was the same car! When the owner passed away, his wife offered the car to Patty and Matt, so it’s in their collection too. The one we saw was a newer restoration, and it was stunning.
The present-day Audi car company was formed out of several German car and bike manufacturers including DKW, which primarily made motorcycles. In stock form, these 1964 Jr De Lux models were front-wheel-drive machines powered by a 796cc engine.
Finally, you can’t leave a small car show without finding a grinning Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite. Look at that cute little face.
Find out more about the 2018 winners, as well as information about the 2019 show, at http://marinamotorsports.org