A casual German car show? Yes, at the 2018 Legends of the Autobahn

While the hoity-toity The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering was taking place on the other side of the Carmel Valley, a much more egalitarian gathering of cars was happening Friday at the Nicklaus-Club Monterey near Laguna Seca racetrack: The 10th annual Legends of the Autobahn.

BMWs dominated the event, as they always do, with a huge flock of 2002s celebrating the 50th anniversary of the seminal sedan. There were plenty of Mercedes-Benzes and a decent smattering of Audis, but no Volkswagens. And, of course, there were no Porsches, as the Porsche Werks reunion split off from Legends a few years ago. The Werks takes place the same day, at another golf course nearby, making it easy for German car fans to get a full fix with a quick drive between the two events.

Legends is the antithesis of many of the stuffy events held during Monterey Car Week: it’s informal, friendly, cheeky, and intimate, with the vibe of a really big Cars and Coffee, but with an excellent PA system. The registration fees to display a car are a fraction of what it costs just to be a spectator at The Quail. (Spectator admission to Legends is free, although you pay for parking.)

This year, former Motor Trend video personality Jason Cammisa was the MC, and his announcements throughout the day and during the awards were both jovial and in-the-know. Cammisa is quick with a lighthearted insult, whether it be directed at an unsuspecting owner or at a car itself, but they’re all in good fun, and it was clear he knew a lot of the owners whom he poked fun at. While the finalists for all the various judging categories were being driven to the awards stage, he called on his encyclopedic knowledge of German cars to spout off esoteric facts and figures—and opinions!—on every car.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the BMW 2002, dozens of examples of the famous sedan, in stock and highly modified forms, ringed the show field at Legends of the Autobahn. The Beyondnice People’s Choice Award went to a 1971 2000tii Touring owned by Kaelin Thompson, a Legends veteran who drove up from San Diego.
Evan Klein
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the BMW 2002, dozens of examples of the famous sedan, in stock and highly modified forms, ringed the show field at Legends of the Autobahn. The Beyondnice People’s Choice Award went to a 1971 2000tii Touring owned by Kaelin Thompson, a Legends veteran who drove up from San Diego.
The 2002 Turbo was BMW’s first production turbocharged car and a case study in turbo lag. This well-preserved car is owned by Joe Cervantes and took first place in the BMW Concours class. The reverse script on the front bumper was there, of course, so drivers of other cars could read it in their rearview mirrors and get out of the way. A KKK turbocharger upped the stock 2002tii’s output from 130 horsepower to 170, big numbers back in 1974.
Evan Klein
The 2002 Turbo was BMW’s first production turbocharged car and a case study in turbo lag. This well-preserved car is owned by Joe Cervantes and took first place in the BMW Concours class. The reverse script on the front bumper was there, of course, so drivers of other cars could read it in their rearview mirrors and get out of the way. A KKK turbocharger upped the stock 2002tii’s output from 130 horsepower to 170, big numbers back in 1974.
This gorgeous silver Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster stood out in the Legends crowd not only for its flawless presentation but also for its dignified owners. It won its class, and deservedly so.
Evan Klein
This gorgeous silver Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster stood out in the Legends crowd not only for its flawless presentation but also for its dignified owners. It won its class, and deservedly so.
Less dignified, perhaps, was this Mercedes-Benz ambulance, which will likely never get within 1000 feet of a normal concours.
Evan Klein
Less dignified, perhaps, was this Mercedes-Benz ambulance, which will likely never get within 1000 feet of a normal concours.
The W201-bodied Mercedes-Benz 190E, particularly in its homologated 2.3-16 variant with a Cosworth-tuned four-cylinder that prompted BMW to build the first M3, was present and accounted for at Legends.
Evan Klein
The W201-bodied Mercedes-Benz 190E, particularly in its homologated 2.3-16 variant with a Cosworth-tuned four-cylinder that prompted BMW to build the first M3, was present and accounted for at Legends.
No gathering of Autobahn Legends would be complete without the Porsche-built Mercedes-Benz 500E, which took the world by storm back in 1992. We particularly liked this red example, which won third in its class. As MC Cammisa pointed out, “The 500E had to have those swollen front fenders, otherwise people might have mistaken it for nothing more than a German taxicab.”
Evan Klein
No gathering of Autobahn Legends would be complete without the Porsche-built Mercedes-Benz 500E, which took the world by storm back in 1992. We particularly liked this red example, which won third in its class. As MC Cammisa pointed out, “The 500E had to have those swollen front fenders, otherwise people might have mistaken it for nothing more than a German taxicab.”
Significant Audis were thin on the ground at Legends, but these three are blue-chip collectibles: At left is a green S4 Avant, aka “Ur-S4.” The white car is a 1983 Sport Quattro, or “Ur-Quattro,” with many powertrain, suspension, and bodywork modifications, including a 20-valve five-cylinder engine; it’s owned by Dean Treadway. And the blue wagon is an RS2 Avant, the first RS Audi ever built. Like the Mercedes 500E, it was assembled by Porsche, for a very limited run in 1994–95.
Evan Klein
Significant Audis were thin on the ground at Legends, but these three are blue-chip collectibles: At left is a green S4 Avant, aka “Ur-S4.” The white car is a 1983 Sport Quattro, or “Ur-Quattro,” with many powertrain, suspension, and bodywork modifications, including a 20-valve five-cylinder engine; it’s owned by Dean Treadway. And the blue wagon is an RS2 Avant, the first RS Audi ever built. Like the Mercedes 500E, it was assembled by Porsche, for a very limited run in 1994–95.
This gorgeous Frua-bodied 1967 BMW 1600 GT won third place in the BMW Concours class. Only about 1300 of these were made in 1967 and ’68.
Evan Klein
This gorgeous Frua-bodied 1967 BMW 1600 GT won third place in the BMW Concours class. Only about 1300 of these were made in 1967 and ’68.
Hideki Akiba’s 1991 Z1 took second place in the BMW Concours class. The Z1 was manufactured for only two years, 1989–91, and was based on the E30-chassis 325i sedan with an inline six and a five-speed manual. With plastic body panels and retractable—rather than swinging—doors, it’s a surefire hit at any BMW gathering.
Evan Klein
Hideki Akiba’s 1991 Z1 took second place in the BMW Concours class. The Z1 was manufactured for only two years, 1989–91, and was based on the E30-chassis 325i sedan with an inline six and a five-speed manual. With plastic body panels and retractable—rather than swinging—doors, it’s a surefire hit at any BMW gathering.
Doesn’t matter what angle you’re looking at, the BMW 3.0 CS coupe is timelessly beautiful, but when the red one crossed the judging stand, Cammisa commented, “It’s in amazing shape considering that many of them left the factory already rusty.”
Evan Klein
Doesn’t matter what angle you’re looking at, the BMW 3.0 CS coupe is timelessly beautiful, but when the red one crossed the judging stand, Cammisa commented, “It’s in amazing shape considering that many of them left the factory already rusty.”
We came across this immaculate 1995 Mercedes-Benz S600 V-12 just as owner Nover Reniedo was starting to apply blue painters tape to the sedan’s frontal area for the drive back home to Torrance, California (near Los Angeles). His efforts have been worth it during the 15 years he’s owned the car, as the exterior is flawless. “If you maintain your car daily, it never gets ahead of you,” Nover told us, “and it doesn’t take that much work to keep it perfect.” The interior of the big Benz is just as pristine. Nover told us he keeps the leather butter-soft by applying a layer of neatsfoot oil covered in plastic garbage bags for three days. “It smells at first,” he admits, “but it goes away!”
Evan Klein
We came across this immaculate 1995 Mercedes-Benz S600 V-12 just as owner Nover Reniedo was starting to apply blue painters tape to the sedan’s frontal area for the drive back home to Torrance, California (near Los Angeles). His efforts have been worth it during the 15 years he’s owned the car, as the exterior is flawless. “If you maintain your car daily, it never gets ahead of you,” Nover told us, “and it doesn’t take that much work to keep it perfect.” The interior of the big Benz is just as pristine. Nover told us he keeps the leather butter-soft by applying a layer of neatsfoot oil covered in plastic garbage bags for three days. “It smells at first,” he admits, “but it goes away!”
The 2018 Legends of the Autobahn “Best in Show” award went to Jeff Wong and his Mercedes 190E 2.3-16, which is surely one of the finest examples in North America. A search of Wong’s Instagram account reveals that he, too, is a fan of blue painters tape.
Evan Klein
The 2018 Legends of the Autobahn “Best in Show” award went to Jeff Wong and his Mercedes 190E 2.3-16, which is surely one of the finest examples in North America. A search of Wong’s Instagram account reveals that he, too, is a fan of blue painters tape.