The Monterey Historics: Glorious Man, Glorious Machines

The paddocks are filled once again with amazing specimens. At times, I can’t help but wonder whether I would have the guts to take my priceless car out on the track and drive it like a madman in pursuit of glory. I am thankful that these fellows don’t think that way.

But some of these machines are absolute masterpieces, the last remaining examples of the realizations of man’s potent imagination. Some are absurdly simple but elegant shapes, while others are curvaceous and spectacular. And a few from the early days of motorsport are sinewy and grizzled, but inspiring nonetheless. Unconsciously, I avoid Ferraris all weekend. In a way, they’ve become boring to me. They’ve been photographed in every possible way, and their prices are so stratospheric that they are abstract concepts. Instead, I find my eye drawn by the various Alfas, the odd BMW, the Jaguars, which are the celebrated marque, and the human element.

There’s a philosophical ocean separating an event like these Historics from something like the Concours d’Elegance. Here, you find people toiling and doing. It’s less academic, less sterile. There’s little regard here for matching numbers and period-accurate accoutrements. Cars aren’t shined to perfection with the alchemical sap of rare tropical trees. They have bumps and bruises and battle scars beneath their coats of paint. Just about every car here is going out on that track for a spirited jaunt against others, truly vehicles for man’s ambitions and glory rather than museum pieces cordoned off behind ribbons and pageantry.

Our attraction, nay, our obsession with the automobile is simple: Cars make us superhuman, though certainly not invincible. They allow us to travel fast, far, and free but for the price of petrol. They are Icarus’s wings, embodying the same potential for soaring in triumph, as well as magnifying our foibles and hurling us back down to our ordinary human forms in tragedy. And unlike airplanes or ships, we pilot cars solo as masters or saboteurs of our individual destinies.

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