Founder and executive director of the Montecito Motor Classic Dolores Morelli Johnson pulled off the car show of her dreams Sunday.
The ninth annual Montecito Motor Classic amassed 217 cars, two museums, four artists and 12 vendors at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club in Carpinteria.
Ms. Morelli Johnson started the show after her husband’s death. (He loved cars.) Her friend at the Elks Lodge asked her to build a car show, and she agreed.
Some of her friends took some convincing before joining. After all, she isn’t exactly a car collector; she currently drives a pre-owned 2008 Lexus.
“I said I want to do a car show, and nobody believed me. So here it is; this is what they didn’t believe I could do. And here we are. I’m really pleased,” she told the News-Press.
The show outgrew its Coast Village Road location and moved to the Polo and Racquet Club in 2019. This year is the biggest yet.
She thanks other women in the community for helping her.
“More and more women are getting involved. And this year, more than any other year, I had a tremendous amount of women supporting me,” Ms. Morelli Johnson said.
Many of the entrants are men, but she is glad to see more women join shows each year.
And with a variety of categories in the Montecito Motor Classic, there’s many opportunities to find a favorite car.
The collectors, though, believe all their cars are special. Their favorite is the one they are driving that day, Ms. Morelli Johnson said.
David Neel, director of the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, describes collectible cars as a “lending library.” Collectors buy the cars, maintain them and show them and then sell them to someone else to do the same.
“All these cars have been owned by people,” he said. “Over the years, they maintain them, and future generations will buy them and do the same thing. So it’s a great hobby. It’s a great culture with just fantastic people.”
Murphy Auto Museum has never joined the show before. (It has its own car show every third Sunday of the month.) Ms. Morelli Johnson decided to offer prime spots at the show for free to the museum, aware that it was closed for 13 months during the pandemic.
The museum brought three cars and a 1948 Airstream Wee Wind. The most notable vehicle is a 1931 Rolls Royce Phantom, owned by the Shelby family (the legacy of Cobra, Shelby Mustang and Shelby GT). Cleo Shelby, widow of car-building domineer Carroll Shelby, attended the show and spoke to the crowd.
The grounds of the Polo and Racquet Club were busy, but the many hundreds of guests spread out among a plethora of jaw-dropping vehicles.
The centerpiece of the show were two concept cars. The 1963 Lola Mk6 GT was the concept for the Ford GT40, a top-tier roadster.
Allen Grant, a former racecar driver and mechanic for Carroll Shelby, has owned Lola for 54 years.
In 1965, he purchased the car for $3,000, equal to around $26,000 today. He spent his last dollar for a shell of a car, but he thought Lola was the “prettiest car ever.”
An appraiser recently valued the car, which is now equipped with a V-8 engine, at $25 million.
Lola made an appearance on “Jay Leno’s Garage,” and she was on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. She scoops up awards in the shows Mr. Grant selectively enters.
Mark Mitchell, a vintage car collector in Carpinteria, took two of his vehicles to the show Sunday. In the “original, unrestored” category, he entered a 1970 Fiat 850 Familiare.
The vehicle may look slightly familiar to Californians akin to the Classic Volkswagen bus, but the Fiat 850 Familiare is a European van of a similar look.
Mr. Mitchell guesses only a couple vans like his are in the U.S. His bus traveled from Vienna, Austria, when the original owner immigrated.
The original owner was meticulous, writing down each time the car was filled up with gas.
Mr. Mitchell purchased the teal blue van about nine months ago, and it only has 40,000 miles on the odometer. The camel-colored leather interior looks as though it has rarely, if ever, seen the sun.
Mr. Mitchell saw this type of vehicle when he was traveling in Europe as a child and imagined buying one in the future.
He has had an interest in cars since he was five years old, and he still owns the Porsche he bought when he was 16 years old.
Just like a “lending library,” he buys a car, enjoys it and makes space for another vintage vehicle. He owns around a dozen automobiles.
“A lot of times I get one, and I want to get it out of my system. And after I’ve had it for a while. then I can move on. I don’t feel that need to buy it again, so I can go on to something else,” he said.
He doesn’t have plans for the Fiat. It doesn’t need any work, so he just gets to appreciate it.
Gary Wales enjoys building one-of-a-kind vehicles. He presented his latest work, “La Bestioni No. 8” or “Beast of Turin.”
He calls the vehicle a “salute to the great racing cars of the heroic age.”
La Bestioni No. 8 began as an old fire truck in the woods. He cut down 21 trees to tow the truck out.
He says it’s too often that these heroic vehicles are left to rust, so he gives them a magnificent new life — with a 14 liter, six cylinder engine.
“We do two things to save the historically important fire trucks that saved people’s lives and property. They deserve a better ending to be broken up and thrown away. Then I build these great monster cars,” he said.
Never has the phrase “all the bells and whistles” been more appropriate. The beast has copper plating with studs, fins across the hood and three unique hood ornaments.
People crowded around the creation, and Mr. Wales beamed.
“People smile when they see it. That’s exactly what it was designed to do,” he said.
Nearby a fire truck of smaller stature also provoked guests to take lots of photos: a 1913 Ford Roadster.
Dana Newquist, who owns the roadster with his wife Andrea, restored the vehicle to look like a fire chief’s car — complete with a dalmatian hood ornament . But he’s not sure if it was ever used to fight fires.
He was the director of the Montecito Fire Protection District and combined his passion for firefighting with antique automobiles.
Fire trucks and law enforcement agencies are given ample space at Montecito Motor Classic because Ms. Morelli Johnson reveres military and first responders.
The proceeds from Sunday’s show benefits the Police Activities League, which aims to foster community between youth and law enforcement.