MONTEREY, CALIF. — By 3 p.m., Carmel Valley Road, a stretch of blacktop that wends through Carmel-by-the-Sea, looked like the road to Woodstock. That is, if most of the cars at the 1969 music festival had been Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Several millions of dollars worth of precision European autos, along with a passel of impressive American models, were idled, their horsepower reined in by bumper-to-bumper traffic in both directions.
It was the fourth day of Monterey Car Week, an annual late-summer gathering comprising auctions, demonstrations, promotional parties and very flashy, very slow driving. With so many cars on the road, the fastest way to get from one event to another was by helicopter, which explained why the sky was dotted with them.
Some of the traffic was coming from the Quail, a party that was held at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley, where guests paid $600 to stroll among more than 200 cars parked alongside the conspicuously green fairways while sampling champagne and caviar from six food pavilions.
Down the road was the Werks Reunion, a gathering hosted by the Porsche Club of America that was as dense with expensive vehicles as a Richard Scarry drawing, if the children’s book illustrator had been obsessed with German sports cars.
Monterey Car Week draws seersuckered middle-aged men in varying degrees of crisis and resolution, as well as young confident fellows flush with cash. At many events, women wore fascinators or wide-brimmed hats while balancing on the greens in high heels. White-gloved workers maneuvered cars on and off the auction stages with the tenderness of home-care nurses, as waiters passed out drinks.
“Right now, the guys who have the money are the semiretired,” said Jay Leno, the former host of “The Tonight Show,” who has been coming to Monterey for 35 years. “You have a lot fewer young people interested in cars these days, but the ones that are are much more intense.”
“There are younger crowds coming in, and the crowds are getting bigger,” said Mr. Leno, who estimated his own collection at 138 cars.
By the end of the week, the various events would bring in $402.2 million in sales, with an average sale price of $460,656, according to Hagerty, an insurance company that covers classic cars.
RM Sotheby’s auction alone would tally $172.9 million, including the $17.6 million for a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, the highest ever at auction for that model. Among the other offerings at Sotheby’s was a 2005 Ferrari Enzo that had been intended by the Italian automaker as a gift to Pope John Paul II; at the pope’s request it was instead sold to raise money for tsunami victims. The former Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo scrawled a message under the trunk that called the car “a sign of solidarity for those who suffer.” In Monterey it sold for $6.05 million.
Over at the Bonhams Quail Lodge auction, Roger Le Comte, a 52-year-old Los Angeles-based car dealer originally from Amsterdam, was sitting with two friends beside a Ferrari, talking about the state of their business.
“Lately the market has been so strong,” Mr. Le Comte said. “It’s new money coming in. Unlimited new money.”
He said that the buyers he sees these days are younger.
“Before, the young people from the family might, say, invest in a painting,” said one of his friends, William Mamone, 69. “Today this is the investment.”
“A painting is a painting, but a car is a lot more fun,” said Victor Mantjes, 54. “The ’80s stuff is really in style now with the young millionaires.”
Danny Baker, a 30-year-old car dealer from St. Louis, confirmed this during the RM Sotheby’s auction at the Portola Hotel & Spa. “Believe it or not, we’re selling a lot of cars to guys in their 30s and 40s, especially Porsche,” he said.
Mr. Baker said he sold his first car at 15 and his first Lamborghini at 21. “I eat, sleep and breathe cars,” he said, and rattled off the names of his own, including an SLR McLaren, a Ferrari and a 1997 Porsche 993 Turbo X50. “I’m so busy, I don’t have a lot of time to drive them. I just had a kid three weeks ago.”
Where did he find room for a child seat in such sporty cars?
“Some of them have back seats, but at this point we’re keeping her in the family vehicle,” he said. (That would be a Porsche Cayenne GTS.)
The surreal air of luxury was such that it was no surprise running into Josh and Matt Altman, real estate brokers and stars of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles,” posing for photos in the lobby of the Portola.
“All of our clientele are here,” Josh Altman said.
When asked what kind of cars he owns, Mr. Altman hesitated. “I don’t know if I want to tell people what I’ve got,” he said. (He later emailed to say he has a Porsche 911 Targa, a Rolls-Royce Ghost and a “fully restored” 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle. He also ordered a $176,000 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, “a car you can drive on a track and also drive on the streets home.”)
Philip Moffat, 53, a venture capitalist from Germany who said he owns 13 Italian cars, looked out at the crowd. “There’s a certain barrier or entry to show here,” he said. “This is the high-end market. Anyone who’s interested to pick up a Mustang can go to eBay. Here, you form a collection or you dissolve a collection.”
He has also noticed the influx of younger buyers.
“You see a lot of the Silicon Valley guys,” Mr. Moffat said. “They’re buying supercars of their youth. So that’s why you’re seeing a surge in some of the ’80s cars.”
Even for an avowed car lover like Mr. Moffat, who also travels to car events in Paris every February and Monaco in May, Monterey Car Week can be exhausting.
Afterward, he said: “You don’t want to hear the word ‘car’ for at least three weeks. Then you get ready again and you look forward to next year.”
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