Penniless in Pebble Beach (the poor man's guide to Monterey Car Week)

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Despite its rarefied reputation, it's still possible to have a good time on a budget at Monterey Car Week(Credit: Somer Hooker)

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The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Monterey Motor Week often conjure visions of the rich and famous sipping champagne as they cruise about in chauffeured Bugatti Royales. Tickets for some events run to $450 and sell out in a heartbeat, but that's not the end of the story. Here's how to have a good time on a budget at Monterey Car Week.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the Goodwood Festival of Speed and its wonderful picnic-like ambience mixed with a racetrack snaking through its heart which the world's best cars and drivers negotiate at full noise. Goodwood attracts 150,000 spectators.

Monterey Car Week is bigger. Much bigger! The following map from the official event site highlights just how many different events are taking place in a few square miles during the week of August 10-16 this year.

Due to the hyper-monied nation-wide audience which Monterey Car Week attracts, many of whom drive in, just standing on the street in downtown Monterey and Carmel can be a show in itself. The traffic in this vicinity becomes saturated with the world's most exclusive automobiles during this week and that's part of the charm of the entire event. It's also free to rubberneck, though it might be best done from the curb because if you rear end one of these beauties, you may need to sell the children.

A ticket to the fabled Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance runs to $300 in advance or $350 on the day of the main event, but if that's too steep for you, there are many other things you can do in and around Monterey that are free or at very least, far more affordable.

Tuesday August 11, 2015

The kick off freebie show on Tuesday afternoon is the Carmel by the Sea Concours on Ocean Avenue, which has clawed its way back from near death since 2009 when it was canceled after the economic tsunami.

Bigger every year, the event has a great awards ceremony with the cars driven over the stand so you can get a good look at them, and entertaining and knowledgable commentary. Vehicles seen here usually don’t show up at other shows, so don’t worry about redundancy. What's more, the side streets are often packed with interesting cars, too. Laid back is the attitude here, and you can keep your wallet in your pants.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The next day, Wednesday, August 12, you can go over to Pacific Grove for The Little Car Show on Lighthouse Avenue which kicks off at noon.

This year the show is featuring Japanese cars over 40 years old, the most valuable of which I snapped in the street a few years back: the Toyota 2000GT. The most expensive Japanese road car amongst collectible cars, the 2000GT is now regularly fetching prices in excess of the magical million dollar mark with the most expensive yet sold fetching $1,155,000 at Gooding & Company's official Pebble Beach auction last year, and another which brought the hammer down at exactly the same price at RM's sale of the Don Davis Collection in Fort Worth in 2013.

There is always a smorgasbord of small and unusual cars around here. I’ve also seen some stunning "small" Porsche 356s and Alfas. This year a block down there will be an "orphan" car show featuring lesser known marques. Two for one for free! I rest my case.

For those with a meagre rather than a non-existent budget, one of the organised shows which doesn't cost much and offers excellent bang-per-buck is the Carmel Mission Classic at the Carmel Mission Basilica. Some of this year's featured cars are pictured above.

Attendance at the event is restricted, which means it's worth purchasing your tickets online (cost $35) to ensure you don't fight the traffic to get there only to find you can't get in. If you're a gambler, if the event isn't sold out, tickets are available on the day, but they'll cost you $45. The money goes to a portfolio of worthy charities and children under 12 are free. The entrance fee gets you into the car show plus access to the complimentary wine tasting, the Carmel Mission and Museums.

This year the pick of the feature cars at the Carmel Mission Classic is Rita Hayworth's 1953 Cadillac Series 62 Ghia Coupe (above), given to her by her husband Prince Ali Khan as a present during their divorce proceedings. Then the world's richest person, the Prince saw the car (one of just two produced by Ghia) at the 1953 Paris Motor Show and bought it on the spot for his estranged wife, the pin-up girl of WW2 GIs and the leading femme fatale of the forties. Hayworth's picture was painted on the atomic bomb tested on Bikini Atoll, giving the swimsuit its name and Hayworth "bombshell" status for eternity. The car is on loan from the Petersen Museum.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On Thursday things really get going with the Pebble Beach Rolex Tour d’Elegance which departs very early near the Equestrian Center. The above map can be downloaded from the official site if you want to take a picnic and watch the parade somewhere on the course.

The departure is spectacular, but you have to pay the 17 Mile Drive gate fee for admission. Entrants in Sunday’s prestigious Concours d'Elegance can win a tie-break on points if the vehicle is driven in the Tour, and over 80 percent enter, so you'll see the majority of the elite concours vehicles on the road for free if you don't have a pair of salmon trousers and a spare $350.

After leaving Pebble Beach, the entrants complete a 75 mile tour, including a lap around Laguna Seca raceway. The finishers then line up on Ocean Avenue and are on display for free until early afternoon.

Just in case you happen to find a $20 dollar bill, Thursday is the first day of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at nearby Laguna Seca racetrack. The Historics offer excellent value. Parking is free that day, and admission to the pits is $25. You can see, hear, and smell some very exotic racing machinery being hammered just as comprehensively as they were in their heyday. Indeed, the way these cars are driven on track belies their value, though there have been some rules implemented of recent times with severe penalties for avoidable contact. Like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, this is like a motorsport museum coming to life.

As long as you are willing to pay the 17 Mile Drive gate fee, there are some excellent classic car forums at The Inn at Spanish Bay. Thursday, August 13 features Mercury Customs and the men who created them. Friday, August 14 has a discussion about the challenges on the Road to Preservation @ 1:30. Stick around until 3 pm for a presentation about Briggs Cunningham and his cars. Saturday there is a presentation on restoration techniques of fabric bodies. At 3 pm the Callum brothers discuss design, and at 4:30 pm Gordon Murray has a presentation.

Friday August 14, 2015

This is the day of the Legends of the Autobahn show at the Nicklaus Club in Monterey (pictured), another golf course venue not far from Laguna Seca. All German marques are celebrated here.

Several years ago the Porsche faction split off, so you can migrate over to Werks Reunion at Rancho Canada Club. Expect to see close to 500 Porsches. This year the focus is on 40 years of 911 Turbos. Traffic can get heavy in the Carmel Valley on Friday as the Quail Motorsports Gathering is happening just down the road.

The Quail is one of the most expensive events of the weekend, with tickets selling out in a few minutes, though you can still gain admission to Bonhams' Quail Lodge auction without one of those rare-as-quail's-teeth tickets. The reason the Quail sells out so fast, despite the cost, is fairly obvious – it's a truly awesome event.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Starting to think that some of these folks are just too serious about this Concours stuff? Wondering if you are in a Champagne crowd with a Craigslist budget? You need to head over to the Concours d’LeMons on Saturday, August 15. This is a no nonsense nonsense show for Pintos, Yugos, numerous forgotten marques, and some that we are still trying to forget.

Bribing of judges is encouraged. It's kinda ironic that this event is a freebie because it is one of the best spots for celebrity sightings. Some of them even have entries in the show and everyone has a whale of a time. It is a really fun event organized by a couple of guys who implore you to please support them so they don’t have to get a day job!

Auctions are a show too

Auction previews are a show within themselves. Some are free and some are "pay per view" as they say on the cable networks. JR Auctions on Cannery Row has a free viewing as does Ric Cole's sale. The Cole auction is more of an online auction than ring men and auctioneers screaming, and we'll cover more on this hybrid internet auction in another article. Russo and Steele is free on Wednesday but $20.00 admission on other days. Mecum charges $25.00 for day admission (once only) and has more than 600 vehicles to be viewed with a major Corvette Collection amongst the offerings this year.

Bonhams has a $20.00 admission charge too while Gooding & Co. charges $40 for the preview as does RM/Sotheby's. Think of the entry fee as admission to an automotive museum where the average display is valued at a million dollars and you may not ever get the chance to see those exhibits again. A few tips for people who decide to spectate at the auctions: don't lean on the cars, and definitely don't wave at a friend!

The big event - the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

This is the one that is worth attending if you have the wherewithal to front the entry fee. You see cars here that you don't see anywhere else. We'll have a full pictorial coverage of the event and plenty of the gossip to share in the days after. Every enthusiast should put Pebble Beach on their bucket list.

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