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A collection of classic woodies at the Concours on the Avenue in Carmel on Tuesday. (Vern Fisher - Monterey Herald)

CARMEL >> Among those few things in the universe that shine as brightly as a great wax job is the gleam in the eye of a classic car owner whenever the opportunity arises to talk about the vehicle.

Sorry kids, you might be "Citizen of the Month" at the local elementary school, but don't expect Mom or Dad to affix that laudatory bumper sticker to one of the showpieces participating this week in Classic Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula. These babies are special.

Throngs of appreciative spectators flocked to Carmel on Tuesday for the annual beauty pageant known as "Concours on The Avenue," where rare and stunning automobiles were on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for anybody to ogle and photograph.

There were cars to fit every taste, from woody wagons and VW buses to legendary, vintage muscle cars, like the bright-orange 1970 Mustang Boss owned by Carmel's Robert Canepa, and the gold 1970 Chevelle SS 396 displayed by Murray Powell of Templeton.

There were Maseratis and Beemers, Ferraris and Porsches, a wine-colored MG roadster that was one of 20 built for the police force of Lancashire, England in 1937.

The event even included race cars with a special place in history: Hall of Fame drivers Graham Hill and John Sirtees owned and drove the sleek, red Lola that won the 1966 CanAm championship. Harry Bytzek drove a dark-blue Porsche 911S to a 10th-place finish at Sebring's 12-hour race in 1973.


Each is a rolling trophy today, and some come out of their hiding places only for upper-crust car shows. Others, like the '49 Cadillac Sedanette owned by Mark and Carole Klein of Pacific Grove, are driven.

"We've put 32,000 miles on this car," Klein said of the Cadillac he found rusting next to a barn in Niles Township, Illinois, 25 years ago. "I actually was looking for a '52 Chevy Belair hardtop when I saw this one. When I opened the door, and a hundred mice ran every direction, and it smelled like hell."

A San Jose man named Mike Limasa took five years to lovingly restore the Caddie for Klein, inside and out, replacing rusted-out parts with fabrications he made himself. The paint job — a shade of maroon called "wildberry" — won top honors one year at the Palo Alto Concours.

"I grew up in a poor family in Chicago and the closest I ever got to a Cadillac was when I was pumping gas," Klein said with a laugh. "When I was a high school senior I got to drive a '49 Caddy that belonged to my friend's father, and I wanted one from that point on."

The dark-red, 1967 Mercedes 300 Cabriolet W112 owned by Bill Brooks of Santa Cruz is one of only 54 that were manufactured between 1962-67. (Actor Yul Brynner, singer/actress Doris Day and attorney Melvin Belli owned some of the others.)

"I've actually never seen another one," said Brooks, who, similar to Klein, discovered his treasure under a tarp in a barn.

"It had been there for about 30 years and the rats had gotten to it," Brooks said. "I guess rats like wiring, because they ate it all up, and the rest of the car was in pretty bad shape, too."

Brooks spent $200,000 and three years restoring the car to its former glory.

"Mercedes decided to build an ultra-luxury model, and this was sort of the AMG Mercedes of its time," he explained. "They decided to put their big race-car engine in it, with air suspension. They added a little bit more wood, and chrome, and leather. In its day, this car cost as much as two houses."

Making the car even more rare is its four-speed transmission, which, for Brooks, adds to the driving pleasure.

"It's great," he said. "It goes 100 mph and it's a lot of fun to drive."

Rarer still is the "triple-black" Ford Cobra that was delivered to its first owner in January of 1966 — the last of just 32 "Narrow Hip" Cobras ever built.

"They built this car because they were having a hard time getting their wide magnesium wheels to fit the back, so they ordered 32 of these with 7½-inch wheels on all four corners," said Brooks Laudin, who drove the car from Walnut Creek for Tuesday's event. "Turns out people were upset because they didn't look like the wide-hip Cobras, so Ford went back to building those and designed a different wheel to go on them."

A remarkable feature of the car, said Laudin, is that its "skin" — the aluminum trunk, doors and hood — weigh just 35 pounds. "A Corvette body from the 1960s probably weighs around 800," he said.

The Cobra also has four-wheel disc breaks with an advanced suspension, and five additional inches of width holds a much larger engine than usual, he said.

Dennis Taylor can be reached at 646-4344

Today's events

Gordon McCall's Motorworks Revival: Monterey Jet Center, 5 to 10 p.m. Admission: $325. Featuring the latest offerings from some of the world's top luxury brands, plus food, wine, artwork and an "A list" of VIP guests.

Monterey Car Rally: 11 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m. Start at Shoreline Church, 2500 Garden Road, Monterey; end at Baja Cantina, Carmel Valley Road. Suggested donation: $10 per car. Billed as a "spirited drive through the most beautiful back roads of the Monterey Peninsula," the rally is open to all car makes and models. No on-site registration.

Little Car Show: Noon to 5 p.m. on Lighthouse Avenue between Fountain Avenue and 16th Street in Pacific Grove. A convention of itty-bitty, cuter-than-a-Bug automobiles, the fifth annual show will feature German vehicles.

Carmel Mission Classic: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Carmel Mission Basilica 3080 Rio Road. Admission: $30. A blessing of some classic cars, with a little wine drinking on the side.