Carmel Mission Classic 2014: A New Must-See for Monterey Car Week

Planning a trip to Monterey Car Week is a little like playing a game of Chess. Add in a spread sheet, calendar and mapping programs, and throw in some advanced algorithms. Don't forget you'll need to clone yourself into five separate people to do all that you'd like... Really! That’s what it feels like when you’re trying to attend the week's activities of more than 50 amazing events in several distinctly different areas within one Peninsula while battling a crowd of people and cars. But it's all worth it, and this year I discovered one more jewel to add to the crown that is the Monterey Car Week, the Carmel Mission Classic.

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Of course The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which has been in existence since 1950, is the main event. Many of the more recognizable must-see’s during the week, including The Quail, Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and other races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance plus related Concours on the Avenue, have a long history. However, there are a few new and innovative offerings, the Carmel Mission Classic being a highlight.

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In its second year, the Carmel Mission Classic takes place at, you guessed it, the historic Carmel Mission located at Carmel-By-The-Sea. Established in 1770, Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo was the second Mission in California (est. just a year after San Diego). Both were founded by the well-known Spanish friar, Junipero Serra, who is buried at the Carmel Mission.

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It is currently considered to be a Roman Catholic parish church and is the only California Mission to still have its original bell tower dome. The Basilica Church was named a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1960 and has been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since 1966.

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The car show was envisioned by local resident and ex-LA Police Officer Frank DiPoala and ex-NYPD alumnus Richard Pepe who developed the idea over a few years and were then able to help implement the event through the auspices of the Knights of Columbus and the Mission itself.

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The goal being to raise funds for Knights of Columbus Charities and Scholarships, and contribute to the Carmel Mission Restoration Foundation. The first show was a huge success, leading to the current year’s event and a growing reputation for a date not-to-be-missed during Monterey Car Week.

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When I first heard that the Carmel Mission Classic described itself as a “Car Show and Blessing of the Automobiles,” I was intrigued — especially since I was informed that some pretty special vehicles were going to be featured: Gary Wales’ popular “La Bestioni," a new Pagani Huayra and one of my all-time favorites, Steve McQueen’s 1957 Jaguar XKSS, now in the collection of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

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I was surprised to learn that the “First Annual” Carmel Mission Classic only occurred last year, yet it already seems pretty well entrenched into the Monterey Week consciousness. Other than the beautiful surroundings, perfect weather, incredible vehicles, food selections and live music, there were also tours of the Church grounds and Museums, as well as a wine tasting and a showing of automobile art by illustrator Ed Greco.

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The Car Show was a well-curated but eclectic mix of rare vintage, classic, modern and exotic American and European sports cars, hot rods, touring cars and even an Indy race car. Autos ranged in age from a yellow 1913 Pope Hartford to one of the latest million dollar plus supercars, the Pagani Huayra.

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A small selection of cycles was also featured, including a red 1935 Moto Guzzi P250 and a Von Dutch-painted 1949 650cc Triumph 6T.

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In one well-chosen display area, the 1957 Jaguar XKSS held its own in styling next to the stunning Pagani and McLaren supercars.

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There were some very special moments at the Mission Classic, such as the placing of vehicles with Bruce Meyer driving in McQueen’s Jaguar and Barry Maguiar being so impressed with a pair of blue hot rods that he was actually taking pictures of them with his cell phone camera (maybe it was their superfine finish). He also had a good laugh when I told him I thought a couple of Maguiar’s Products trucks driving around the Monterey area looked better polished than some of the show cars I had seen!

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But you could tell what people were really waiting for was the "Blessing of the Cars." At 1 p.m., a procession began, headed by a Knights of Columbus honor guard.

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The Most Reverend, Richard Garcia, Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey and Fr. Paul Murphy, Pastor of Carmel Mission Basilica then appeared and carried out the ceremony.

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After an announcement and public blessing were made, Bishop Garcia walked around sprinkling Holy water onto the individual vehicles along with Father Murphy. When they came to “La Bestioni," the Bishop joked that it was so big it needed “quite a few” sprinkles.

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The whole ceremony was really upbeat and cool, and all the car owners seemed to be thankful for the extra protection bestowed upon their collector vehicles. In my opinion, the Carmel Mission Classic should be moved forward on the overall Monterey Car Week calendar to become one of the kick-off events of the yearly gathering.

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See more photos from the event in the gallery below.

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