Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bucket List Trip Coda: Gooding Auction

Pebble Beach (6)

Like a vampire, as the sun came out, I had to go in. Hiking back to my rental car I passed the Gooding auction tent hoping to do some recon. I knew Gooding was a low volume, high quality auction house and very well might have some interesting cars - even by Pebble Beach standards. But I about spit up the last of my saliva when the girl told me a ticket was 40 bucks. "Bucket list! Bucket list!" I told myself, gritting my teeth as I handed over my credit card for what seemed the thousandth time that weekend.

Gooding 1956 Maserati 250F

But what do I see when I wander around the tent but a 1956 Maserati 250F! My cup runneth over. It was raced once by the factory team and won, driven by Stirling Moss. Estimated sale price? 4-6 million. What a beautiful piece of machinery. Then this guy comes over to look as well and I remark on what a find this is. "Yup, doesn't get any better than this," he mumbled. Then he proceeds to take the hood off! Fine by me, great for picture taking. Eventually an employee came over to chastise him but he said he was interested in buying it. Employee backed off.

Gooding 1956 Maserati 250F (14)

Gooding 1956 Maserati 250F (2)

Gooding 1956 Maserati 250F (5)

They had some other outstanding examples placed around, maybe 40 in all, but I had to leave. Sunburned, sore and sleepy I made my way out of Pebble and up the coastline, had me a tasty meal at Outback then found a beach access parking lot where I promptly reclined the seat in a cloudy haze. It had been a nonstop whirlwind from the moment I landed at San Jose and I desperately needed to catch my breath.

Carmel Maserati 3500GT

On my way out of the concours I had passed through Carmel and was struck by its charm. It looked like a cool place to explore but my rubber legs would have none of it at the time. But after sitting by the beach for over an hour, I got my second wind and calculated I'd have enough time for that Carmel exploration before the auction started. But as I park my car, what do I find right across the street? Another rare Maserati! Clearly, the car gods were smiling down upon me.

California 19

California 20

California 21

Old style shops with high style prices made for a unique combination of glitz and charm. Late model Ferraris and Lamborghinis dotted the main street and I knew my credit card wouldn't be seeing the light of day. Supposedly, local resident Clint Eastwood has a restaurant around there but I didn't try to research that. I was just enjoying the otherworldly feel of being so faraway transported from my everyday life and the energy that is Monterey car week that crackled in the air.

Making my way back to Pebble, I was going against the grain as long lines of cars were exiting after the concours had ended. But what really panicked me was they had already taken up the signs indicating which way to the show! I tried to remember landmarks from the first time then turned on the GPS for an approximation but you can drive around in circles forever in that area. I ended up taking a really scenic trip right along the beach back around to my original parking lot but one could say the car gods helped me most with what turned out to be a lucky guess on my part.


One cool thing, though, was all the car transporters for the show were parked behind the Gooding tent. So sure enough while waiting to park I see a Maserati 300S and a steam car among others motoring right past me to be trucked out of there. Had I known this I would have staked out the spot for some action video. Like I said, best to do a dry run first on a big trip!

Gooding Auction (2)

I was a few minutes late but no worries because I knew you don't start an auction with your best car, you build up to it with lesser ones first. Luckily, they didn't save the 250F for last, either! I'd seen the auctioneer in action several times in the past on TV but I got the full flavor of him in person and he really worked the room well, as expected. He knew when to joke, when to pick up the pace and when to drop the hammer. I started not to feel so bad about my 40 dollars.

Gooding Auction

I was shocked by some of the prices. Half a mil for a Jaguar E-Type?? And remember, a ten percent premium is charged by the auction house of the final sale price so a car selling for a million really costs 1.1 mil. Ouch! Finally the 250F comes up on the stage - along with surprise guest Sir Stirling Moss! See the video below to see what it sells for.

Holding it over my head on max zoom, it gets a little shaky

Click here to see the entire photo set

It was fairly dark as I made my way back to the parking lot. That was it, fini. No more events to look forward to, the dream was over. It literally hit me in the stomach. I wanted to stay California dreaming forever. I tried not to get down, to be thankful for what I'd received (a lot!) and not be the negative cunt I usually am. I held up fairly well, I thought. I knew I'd be feeling the aftershocks for a long time to come.

So if you see me and my eyes are far away, most likely I'm back in California walking in the mystic morning fog, driving down twisty mountains, inhaling the ocean breeze and wondering, "What if..."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bucket List Trip Day 2: Laguna Seca Track And Maserati Holy Grail

Laguna Parking Parking in the early morning fog

The greatest disappointment of my trip was my way too short time allowed at the track. I really needed a good three days to get the lay of the land, find good filming locations and then be able to piece together a coherent trip around the track on video. I also would have bought a better ticket. That's the problem with bucket list trips: you really have to do them twice to get it right.

Laguna Track

I had two enemies this day: time and sun. My glorious trip up the coast left me vulnerable to the California sun and there was no shortage of it that day. This left me unable to indulge my curiosity for a walk around the track and view some of its more famous elements like the "Corkscrew". I also lost time figuring out the parking. Who knew "Down the road to the right" meant FOUR miles down the road (which then doubles back to the track). Confusing!

Jaguar D type Jaguar D Type! Perhaps the most beautiful sports racing car ever.

Shelby Cobra Shelby AC Cobra. Seen tons of replicas, never the real thing - until now.

Delahaye (2) From the misheard lyrics department:
"I spent four lonely days in a brown Delahaye [L.A. haze]"

But when I got there, legends abounded. I obviously can't speak for all vintage races but it's hard to imagine a better class of cars at one event. Wow! Just wow! When you read about cars in the history books they sort of become like superheroes to you. Epic tales of cars stretched to their limits by gritty drivers in the halcyon pre-corporate days of auto racing. Cars were shaped as much by the senses as science and the personality of the designers shined through.

Sir Stirling Moss (2)

One particular treat was an interview with Sir Stirling Moss, a driver of many of my superhero cars, including Maserati. I recorded the interview but the sound got drowned out by ambient noise. A thousand stories he could tell if I could get him one-on-one over some beers. The man is a walking piece of history and just as sharp and agile as ever at a spry 85. Apparently he's a regular at car week in Monterey and he certainly adds to the aura in an irreplaceable way.

Maserati Display

But what of my beloved Maserati heroes?? Would I at last find the Formula 1 world championship winning 250F? Would I get to see Maserati's own gorgeous sports racers of the 50's? How about the exotic "birdcage" racers? Or dare I hope for some of the magnificent pre-war Grand Prix cars the Maserati brothers made their bones with? How far can I dream?

At Monterey, all the way!

1938 Maserati 8CTF (3) 1938 Maserati 8CTF. Blazingly fast but unreliable,
this superb beast helped spread the Maserati name.

1935 Maserati V8-RI (2) 185 in 1935! A V8-RI. What a sight to see.

1952 Maserati A6GCS 1952 Maserati A6GCS.
Sports racing cars were just beginning to take shape in the early 50's. 
It was a great time of discovery.

1957 Maserati 300S (4) 1957 Maserati 300S, above and below. Pictures say it all.

1957 Maserati 300S (2)

1957 Maserati 450S (3) 1957 Maserati 450S, big brother to the 300s. Outrageous, mammoth, victorious.

1957 Maserati 450S (2)

1962 Maserati Tipo 151 1962 Maserati Tipo 151. Just too cool!

And I finally got to see a "Birdcage" in person:

1961 Maserati Tipo 63 1961 Maserati Tipo 63

1961 Maserati Tipo 63 (3)

But what of the Maserati Holy Grail, the 250F? Of those there were two!

1958 Maserati 250F (2) 1958 Maserati 250F. Sleek, fast, highly drivable. Doesn't get any better than this.

1958 Maserati 250F (3)

1957 Maserati 250F 1957 Maserati 250F, from the year of the world championship

1957 Maserati 250F (3)

Here's some video highlights:

For the race, I finally found a spot on Turn 5 where the fence did not block me. Hard part was I was at the complete mercy of the sun, forced to cower under an outback sun hat from the gift shop. I waited anxiously for the 250Fs to come roaring down the track. They were vast overdogs in their class and naturally finished 1-2. A third Maserati (profiled in the Austin vintage races) came in third for a clean sweep. In my mind I transported myself back to the 1957 glory days of Maserati when they ruled the world stage. Just wonderful.

Laguna Parade Lap 250Fs

Laguna Parade 1957 Maserati 250F (3)

Race video shows them in action.

Alas, I had to run at this point before the Italian Concours ended, unable to stay for the grand sports cars: the 300S, 450S, Jaguar D Type among others. That will haunt me but I do take much solace in what I was able to see and experience. The plethora of Maserati wealth was dizzying and I will still be absorbing it for a long time to come.

Maserati History

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Avoid The Void (21st Century Lifestyle Wars)

"Does she love him? ...Does she really love him?"

Almost no day passed without that thought passing through his head. A commercial, a movie, a couple in a book store - almost anything could trigger it despite the fact the breakup happened years and years ago. He'd only fallen apart since that time: incriminating proof for her decision to leave him high and dry.

He was a dreamer lost in the fog of life, afraid to make his move. Dreams un-faced can be anything you imagine, safe from cruel reality. You've written the greatest book, envisioned the greatest movie, the greatest life awaits you. In the beginning, she too was swept up in the possibilities of life. But like a child frozen at the edge of a high rise diving board, her mate couldn't make the jump. So she jumped ship.

An irrational panic gripped her as she felt the cold chill of ghosts of a life wasted chasing her. What a fool to have ever believed! Having determined the dream was false she wondered just what was real. Anything? Nothing? Time to grow up. Time to die.

Marrying a banker at one point in her life would have horrified her. The idea of numbing numbers ruling her life was something she mocked mercilessly in teenage rejection. Let the dead bury the dead, she said. There was a time when she knew the brass ring awaited her, she only need let it happen to come true. Well, what rubbish that turned out to be!

Still, a secret hurt remained, unable to stab with her steely knife. Just as he was haunted by his question she was haunted by hers: "Am I being useful or am I being used?" She never passed on a chance to badmouth dreamers of the world (though she was particularly stung if they became successful). Every bitter and broken life she crossed only affirmed her decision. "Am I not supposed to eat?"

A competition of lifestyles entered her head in haughty contempt. She'd be leading the winner's life! She'd disdain money on one hand while counting it with the other. Who could possibly see through her private game? Of this, she'd never breathe a word. Charitable donations would provide the perfect cover for this upstanding citizen of the world who cared not for material possessions but just "happened" to have so many.

But the hurt drove her as mercilessly as she'd once mocked the life she now lived. What direction could she go? Certainly not towards the truth! But she couldn't be seen greedily grabbing her way to the top, either. She was above all that having chosen the true and correct path in life. But while the banking life may have filled the couple's bank accounts, the Hole That Cannot Be Filled pushed them ever closer to revelation.

As if standing on a frying pan, to stay in one spot too long became unbearable agony. You have to move or die! So they became vagabonds, addicted to the greener grass just around the corner. No more wishing and waiting on silly dreams that cannot come true, she huffed. The Greener Grass Theory was real. At one point they had become self-conscious of the constant moving, gritting their teeth for what seemed like ages to prove they could put down roots like any other allegedly normal couple. But then came a visit to the golden bay in the west.

He kept vicarious tabs on her progress. As their fortunes amassed, his dwindled. No matter how remote, he lived in fear of her finding him in poverty. "If only I could know what's real!" But to know that meant to jump off that dreaded high dive - from which he had climbed down long ago. Without her, the idea of jumping was unthinkable, a physical reality of the mind. He could have no delusions on who is the weaker sex.

For him too it became all about the show - only without the funding. "If I could just get the money, I could beat her!" Massive money was beyond his means but he'd always felt he'd kept a piece of his soul she'd lost. To have that and the big bucks - he'd show her then, loser bitch! He pondered renting an exotic car for their mutual class reunion, letting her get a curious glance at him as he drove by, leaving her mired in mystery having to question on what exactly she had given up. But the prices for that were ridiculous on his budget.

Finally, he broke. Life really is about lifestyle, she'd proven that. She'd gotten a mate and a million dollar house. She had made all the right decisions, untouchable in a world of inequality's ruthless dichotomy - a world at which he publicly railed against while she privately praised. Would he have the strength to reject the world were he in her shoes? Probably not. His rants were as empty as his life.

"If God wants to bless liars like that then I guess nothing has any point after all." Betrayed on his dreams, betrayed in the world, he had no place left to turn as her lifestyle skyrocketed. "The whore by the shore has won the war." His life was over, sitting in a room with a muted TV to give the appearance to the outside world he was still engaged. But he was only waiting to die. Goodbye, cruel world.

Needing proof of the futility of life in this universe he'd by lottery tickets just to lose. "Fuck you, nigger God and the goddam horse you rode in on! This shitty ticket proves you've doomed me to fail!" So even if he was going to die a loser he took (very slight) solace in being right about something, dammit. God: just another assassin.

But then he won, netting 46 million after taxes. He was speechless and confused. Surely he'd die on the way to collecting it. There had to be a catch somewhere! "Only I could be fucked by success," he muttered. He remembered stories of the shockingly high number of lottery winners who's lost everything. A special hate he reserved for them - but now he understood the weight of it. Still, he had an old hurt to avenge. Let war resume!

"Howdy neighbor!" crowed the bouquet of flowers delivered to her door. The return address was a six million dollar dream home on the bay (no doubt from pursuing his creative endeavors), less than three miles from her house. As he'd hoped, every worst nightmare she'd dreaded for trading in her dreams came true in a fatal, sinking instant. She'd given away her life for nothing, a sanctioned prostitute of the world rejected by heaven. She dare not even cry lest the tears drown her. "I thought I had it all figured out!" Suicide suddenly seemed not so unreasonable a thing.

He knew what he could make the world - and her - believe. He also knew what he lived. The house was a living void of harrowing hollowness, more disconnected from his dreams than ever, the world went dark. Now he didn't even have misery to push him the right direction. "Oh, this can't be! I'm going to go out of my mind!" As if his head were in an inescapable vice, he felt himself being unstoppably crushed. "I thought I had it all figured out!" Suicide suddenly seemed not so unreasonable a thing.

Only the banker man - whose heart was already dead with a winking smirk - knew the truth of the coincidence of the deaths of he and she. "Those two were fools." A practical man, the banker had long ago faced up there's no room for romance or sentiment in this world. He'd furiously chained her for years to that perverse ideology, daring her to leave him if he be wrong. The money man was the last man standing - as always. Paradise lost, again.

CODA: "Don't let them substitute their morality for yours. That's how you end up loading Jews into ovens." Rich banker man scoffed at her every proclamation of this silly sentiment. He thought her naive, stupid, and weak. (He was only projecting himself, of course.) She had no understanding of business or the outside world. Idiocies like that were holdovers from her previous mistake marriage.

But greedy banks do treasure their greed and especially relish the damage they do to lives around them - even to their own! Banker boy's way in this world had been to unquestioningly be their bitch. That's what kept him on the inside, one of the club. Who needs respect? He'll take the cash instead. But then his boss set up him up to fail, giving him tasks outside his job scope - tasks he knew the bitch would not refuse. Throw out the bitch boy and there's more for the rest of us!

It was complete and total humiliation when called into the head office for his firing. His immediate boss was there too, laying into bitch boy with righteous fury. Even the bitch began to believe he should be fired, so little moral fight left inside him. In the twinkling of an eye, his career, his home, and identity vanished forever. "I thought I had it all figured out!" Suicide suddenly seemed not so unreasonable a thing.

P.S. The land, as if seeking to purify itself, tremored beneath the once mighty house, ground zero for an angry earthquake, leaving only rubble. What had engendered such wrath from the gods? What gifts had the previous owners thrown away to so infuriate Nature herself?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bucket List Trip Day 2: Concorso Italiano

Italian Concours Maseratis!

Day 2, in which Doris gets her oats.

To truly appreciate the Monterey Automobile Week one needs to spend the entire week there. Looking back I wish I had scheduled another couple of days regardless of cost. There's just plain too much to do and see. So my Saturday got hacked into two pieces: first at the historic races and then the Concorso Italiano. By the time I made it to the concorso I basically ended up paying a dollar a minute!

I also had to sacrifice races I wanted to see. Very painful. But I had come to Monterey as much for the street cars as I had the historic racers and I figured this would be my best chance to do that. Luckily, I was right! I had come to see the car that got me into cars, the one that blew me away as an otherworldly dream as a kid: The Maserati Merak. I didn't know how rare of a care it was. I've never seen one in any car collection. I prayed I wouldn't end up bust here too.

Italian Concours Ferraris Got enough Ferraris there, Butch?

The amount of exotic cars there was unbelievable. It was like seeing a thousand Playmates of the month gathered together. At some point you just stop reacting and your eyes glaze over. Clearly, I was knee deep in serious car porn. My rushed experience left me feeling a little gypped. I never really got to exhale and let myself absorb the event the way I wanted. The Maserati mission came first, deep breathing second.

Italian Concours Panteras (2) Got Panteras?

Italian Concours Ferraris (2) Yes, that's even more Ferraris

I was barely able to glance at cars I'd normally drool over. Some were rare cars, ones I'd only seen in books. Have to come to a very special event like this to see them in person. If I'd just found one of these in real life I'd be ecstatic, like meeting a celebrity. But to find so many grouped together, it's impossible to take it in. What do you do when you meet fifty celebrities? Hard to get an intimate moment.

Italian Concours Maserati Ghibli Spyder

Finally I made my way to the Maserati section. Check out this stunning 1970 Ghibli Spyder above. There's traditionally been a sort of rivalry between the German and Italian supercars. I always sided with the Italians. Their cars are pure passion. Italian exotics are visceral beasts with throaty engines and never a shortage of cylinders. German cars have extreme engineering but with a sterile quality. Much as I appreciate them, won't find me at any Porsche festivals.

Italian Concours Maserati Mistral (2)

A Maserati Mistral, now that's a rare specimen! Most likely I'll never see another in my lifetime. Wonderful lines and this one impeccably restored.

Italian Concours Maserati Khamsin

Italian Concours Maserati Khamsin (4)

Never seen a Maserati Khamsin before, either. Heard the Maserati Club had booked the Laguna Seca track for Sunday. What a thrill to drive these cars the way there were meant to be.

Italian Concours Maserati Boras

Italian Concours Maserati Bora Maroon

A row of Maserati Boras. The Bora is the Merak's big brother. They are very popular and I've seen a few in my time. Supposed to be a blast to drive.

Italian Concours Meraks

At last, Meraks! Four in a row, I was in heaven. The famed "flying buttresses" were everywhere. I didn't know how cool cars could be until I saw one of these in a liquor ad. I cut it out and kept it for years in a notebook cover. I read about the entire history of Maserati, getting into Formula 1 in the process and starting subscriptions to car magazines. I'd entered the worldwide club of car nuts.

Italian Concours Maserati Merak SS Copper Flying Buttress Flying Buttress

Italian Concours Maserati Merak SS Black (3)

Italian Concours Maserati Merak SS Black (6) Mid-engine

"Car owners love to talk about their cars." Renee told me this as I began to feel a bit sheepish about my constant peppering of questions. She and her husband Bruce own the black Merak above. It's a wonderful example, meticulously original. Bruce raved over its handling qualities and how happy he was with the car. I'd read unreliability might be an issue but he said he'd not encountered that problem. It fed a longstanding hunger to finally learn about my dream car firsthand.

Italian Concours Maserati Merak SS Black Bruce Car owner Bruce

Seeing these Meraks and getting the chance to pester an owner for over an hour certainly fulfilled part of the hopes I'd had on making this pilgrimage. I now feel a connection I didn't have before. I may never have the money to buy one but the feeling I have cannot be repo'd. And owning one now would be a much richer experience. So while I didn't get to spend the entire day poring over the exotics as I'd wished, I did accomplish Mission Maserati and I'll carry that for life.

Click here to see the entire album.