PACIFIC GROVE – Quirky, attractive and diminutive – but with almost no road presence – the 1961 Nash Metropolitan was once advertised as “the smartest little car in the world.” Years after its heyday, the budget vehicle is still defending its diminutive stature, only these days as part of a Classic Car Week display to match.
Featuring 125 micro, mini, electric and mystery cars, Pacific Grove’s Little Car Show returned to Lighthouse Avenue Wednesday afternoon for its 12th annual miniatures celebration. Brands from all countries were eligible for the show, as long as the cars carried a 1997 model year or earlier and their internal combustion engines were no larger than 1,601 cubic centimeters.
Despite early morning showers and moody skies, hundreds turned out to take a look at the little modes of transportation, including the famous Metropolitan, which the owners aptly named “Lois Lane.”
“In the 1961 Superman movie, Lois Lane drove a Nash,” explained Jason Johnson, adding that his car sports the name in red letters on the back.
Johnson, who was born and raised in Carmel, owns the popular ride with his wife Marijane. Together, the couple have operated Le Bijou Fine Jewelry in Carmel for the past 39 years. They take their pale yellow Metropolitan to the store every day.
“I park it out front and it’s like a mini car show out there all the time,” Johnson said.
Although it has a subcompact body, the decades-old car can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 30 seconds. The car’s ideal cruising speed, however, is about 52, Johnson noted — perfect for cruising around the Peninsula and picking up the occasional wave from onlookers.
Also second-hand are Kirk and Amy Prentiss, who brought their gray 1958 MG ZB Magnette Varitone to this year’s Little Car Show. On the larger side of the vehicles on display Wednesday, the 1500cc four-cylinder is what the pair used to drive down from Oakland to Monterey for Classic Car Week, as well as other routes along the California coast.
“People wave at us along the way, you know, it’s kind of fun,” Amy Prentiss said.
“You have to get used to other cars beeping at you, not because you’re doing something wrong or because they’re worried about you, but because they’re beeping — usually,” added Kirk Prentiss.
A few parking spaces away, Tony Blevins and his partner spoke fondly of their Little Car Show entry, a 1958 Turner 950-S. In fact, Blevins said it was because of his wife that he bought the race car with sea foam.
“I’m a car collector and I made a deal with my wife that these cars are driving me crazy,” he said, explaining that he has 24 cars. “It’s a lot of work and maintenance, so we agreed that I wouldn’t buy any more cars. … (But) I showed her a picture of this car … and she had to say you don’t need another car, but say, ‘Oh my god, I have a dress that matches this perfectly, you have to have it.’ And she has a dress to match… she didn’t lie.”
Meanwhile, down the road, Paula McNair and her husband Greg chose to bring a more humble addition to Lighthouse Avenue on Wednesday – a black 1968 VW Type 14 Karmann Ghia. Rather, the mini-car’s character emerges through its association with the couple.
McNair said her husband has owned the 1968 VW for the past 47 years. While it was only recently restored, she explained that the vehicle still has its original bumper, complete with a UC Santa Cruz bumper sticker that her husband put on in 1977.
“It’s our favorite toy,” she laughed.