Travel the Targa California
Gerard Kassabian (or Jiro as he goes by when behind the wheel of his 240Z) hails from a family of dedicated Mercedes Benz enthusiasts, but like any true Petrolista is able to appreciate a wide range of cars for the unique set of quirks, thrills, and driving experiences on offer from each. A three-year Targa California veteran, Gerard first drove in this amazing event in 2011 in his Datsun detailed in the above link, then again last year in his 560 SL. This year he piloted a friend’s Alfa Berlina 2.0, of which he isn’t quite sure the year—suffice it to say, it’s a lovely old thing as all classic Alfas are simply by default. For those unfamiliar, the Targa is a yearly event in which entrants drive pre-1975 machines along some of the most beautiful and entertaining roads Central California, if not the world, has to offer. Strictly non-competitive and informal, it’s among the coolest enthusiast events out there.
Below, we ask Gerard about what makes the Targa so special.
Q: How was the drive this year?
A: I was in one of Manuel’s Alfas, and it was really fast. It’s not a race, and we all try very hard not to make any trouble, but we’re all hauling ass, too! I took many of these pictures doing 80–90 MPH, but most of the time it’s serious “both-hands-on-the-wheel” type driving—you’ve got to pay attention and know what you’re doing. I was going to bring a Duetto Spider, but my friend Manuel was concerned about stone chips on its low nose—he convinced me to take his Berlina and “beat the hell out of it”.
Q: It certainly sounds like you did just that. What’s the atmosphere of the event like?
A: Fun, friendly, non-competitive. Everyone’s there to have a good, relaxing time, and no one’s snooty or rude—everyone’s approachable. That said, the driving’s quite “spirited”…you have to be quick to keep up.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about the Targa?
A: The beautiful scenery. It changes every five miles—you pass through desert roads, mountain roads, valleys, woods, plains, fields, the cliffs of PCH [Pacific Coast Highway], and even through snow all in the same day.
Q: What’s the coolest car you’ve seen among the entrants?
A: That’s a good question. There are so many cool cars it’s hard to say, but my favorites are the little Mini Coopers, E-types, and old Beemers, especially the 3.0 CS’s and 2000’s. There was an amazing 911 RSR replica this year as well.
Q: What’s your favorite memory this year?
A: Our stop at Canepa was incredible. The collection is amazing, so many great cars on display it’s almost overwhelming. I didn’t know where to look first. In past years we’ve visited a Warbird museum where the guy has a few cars on display too, that was very cool but not in the same league as Canepa.
Q: Any advice for potential Targa first-timers?
A: No, not really. It’s a relaxed, fun kind of event. There are no secret rules—just don’t be an asshole, don’t be an idiot, we don’t want any wrecks or negative attention. I recommend anyone drive their car for about a week prior to the event, and drive it hard. Change the oil, check the tires, get it all shaken down and ready to be driven at a steady 4,000 RPM almost non-stop. Don’t just take it out of storage and change the oil, that’s not enough. But to sum it up, have fun, be cool.