Michael Armand Hammer

Michael Armand Hammer and Dolores Morelli Johnson are ready for this weekend’s benefit, the Montecito Motor Classic.

When the Montecito Motor Classic rolls into the Santa Barbara Polo Field on Sunday, Sept. 22, locals will find an intriguing Carpinteria connection.

The popular annual car show was first launched by Dolores Morelli Johnson, whose family has deep roots in Carpinteria. Johnson’s great grandfather was Peter Jimenez, an iconic character of the late 19th and early 20th century in Carpinteria Valley. Photographs of Jimenez sharpening an axe and sawing wood can be seen at the Carpinteria Historical Museum. Johnson’s father, Martin Morelli, was the catcher for the local baseball team whose proud photo in letterman’s sweater was hung in the hallway at Carpinteria High (now Middle School).

“There are a whole lot of Carpinterians related to me,” said Johnson, founder and director of the Montecito Motor Classic. “It’s a pretty big extended family we have in the valley.”

Johnson started the auto show eight years ago as a fundraiser for Special Olympics, and since then the Motor Classic has developed into a car show that specializes in helping different local nonprofits. This year’s event will benefit the Police Foundation, Police Activity League and Drag Racing Against Gangs and Graffiti.

“Many participants describe the Motor Classic as a ‘Concourse,’ but without any of the attitude or price tag,” said Johnson. “It is all open to the public, so people have the opportunity to see these absolutely incredible cars with no charge to get in.” Unlike car shows where entry fees can by high, entry to the Montecito Motor Classic is free (parking at the Polo Club costs $10).

Among the event’s biggest sponsors is Michael Armand Hammer, chairman of the Armand Hammer Foundation. Hammer has been the event’s annual presenting sponsor since its first year.

“At the Polo field we will have a wonderfully roomy layout to showcase the supercars and other classic cars we are bringing in,” added Johnson. “These are concourse-quality cars from private collections around the state that people have not had the chance to see before. People can find those in our ‘Luxury Lane.’” The Petersen Automotive Museum will showcase specialty cars from their museum on the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles.

A new feature in place for this year is Kids Alley, which will have fun cars for the younger set to admire and explore, such as the Batmobile, and other specialty cars. McConnell’s ice cream will have a booth where kids can present their model cars for judging.

“Another reason our Motor Classic is unique is that we have ‘quail judging,’” Johnson noted. “The cars are actually being judged by the owners of the other cars competing in the same class. So, you are truly being judged by a jury of your peers! The Event Judges we do have will select Best in Show, or can vote to break a potential tie in the individual classes.”

The Montecito Motor Classic will take place at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racket Club on Sunday, Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Following the car show, the public is invited to attend a polo match at 3 p.m.

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