The sixty fifth anniversary of the first Pebble Beach auto racing weekend is now much greater than anyone could have envisaged when California's Monterey Peninsula community began this journey. Originally a race and low-key concours boasting European style racing cars, it has now evolved into what is known as Monterey Car Week.
For well-heeled gearheads, this is a Motoring Mecca. Ten days before the automotive celebration culminated with the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, time trials began at Laguna Seca for the Monterey Historics racing. This is one of the few places where grease under your nails is accepted attire.
As the week progresses, the polish thickens. There are more shows, more elite invitation-only get-togethers, more and more auctions. The official numbers place the influx of visitors at less than 100,000 – roughly the same number of people who attend a major stadium sporting event. Not all audiences are equal however, and for the last few years, that stadium sized audience has brought with it half a billion dollars, counting the auctions and associated transportation, accommodation, entry fees, charity donations and other factors boosting the local economy.
Different auction houses target different audiences, with the lesser ones aiming at high net worth individuals (defined as those with investable finance in excess of US$1 million), the middle tier at ultra high net worth individuals (those with investable finance in excess of US$20 million) and the elite houses have a regular clientele that reads like a who's who of international high achievers. Monterey is where the world's big money motor enthusiasts come out to play.
High profile car launches
When the most monied petrol heads in the world congregate, it's also logical place to show new cars and the week is also developing into an auto show for the elite. Each concours or show also has become an area to introduce new concept cars and boutique cars.
Eye candy is still the main staple of the week. If you really know your cars, you'll see cars on the road here that you never see elsewhere. The traffic is thick with exotica from every era.
Carmel by the Sea Concours
On Tuesday the Carmel by the Sea Concours kicked off with hundreds of cars lining Ocean Avenue. The side streets are now saved for more entrants, so a stroll through the village is akin to something between a vintage car show and a living museum.
The event has climbed back from near extinction in 2009 to rival with Thursday's Tour d’Elegance for creating parking shortages around Carmel. The word is out. This is a great show! Nonstop commentary by experts and Donald Osborne’s rendition of The Star Spangled Banner were not to be missed. With no admission fees, how can you lose?
The Little Car Show
At noon Wednesday "the Little Car Show” starts. Several blocks are opened up for the "little people." Here the Austin Mini, the Honda 600 and the Citroen 2CV among others are held in high esteem.
The Hangar Party (McCall’s Motorworks Revival)
Wednesday saw the Hangar Party (formally known as McCall’s Motorworks Revival) kicking off the round of significant credit card receipts which rolled on until Sunday night. A basic ticket to the Hangar party will set you back $300+.
You get non stop food and drink. Even without the alcohol, the presentation of vintage aircraft, cars and motorcycles is intoxicating. There were eight Vincents this year in one spot!
The Rolex Tour d’Elegance
On Thursday, the Pebble Beach Concours hosted the Tour d’Elegance. If you arrived by about 7am, you will have seen them lined up in preparation. The tour travelled 75 miles, culminating back on Ocean Avenue where the cars were on display for free. Once again, the only taxing aspect was the parking situation.
If you participate in the Tour d'Elegance and you end up with the same points as another car which did not participate in the tour at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on Sunday, you win the tie-break. A best in class at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is a lifetime achievement, so more than 80 percent of Concours participants also enter the tour.
Quail Motorsports Gathering
On Friday it's time for The Quail’s Motorsports Gathering at the Quail Lodge. This year the management went all in and doubled the size of the show grounds. There were seven food courts representing the seven Peninsula Hotels. Hong Kong, Chicago, Bangkok and others were there for your palate. "Peer judging" sees each participant in the class vote for another vehicle and what they think is the best in show.
Tickets for this event sold out in three minutes and they cost more than $400. The Bonhams Quail Auction took place in a field nearby ... sometimes, it is expensive to get out of there.
About a mile away was the Werks Reunion. Close to 500 Porsches of all flavors showed up. This year the 911 Turbo was celebrated. Parking disappears early here, too – by 8am, vehicles were parking along the highway.
Saturday found the Concours d’LeMons kicking-off. This could be described as a good show for bad cars. You get to see all of the cars that some manufacturers tried forget and here participants are honest about rust instead of covering it up with Bondo. As usual, bribing of judges was out and in the open. We used to leave a cookie for Santa, why not a beer for the judges?
Down the street was the Concorso Italiano. There were close to 1000 cars this year and some motorcycles too. With the Ferrari Rally in town the following week there was a bumper crop of Ferrari entries, and given all of the red cars on show it could just as easily be called the "Sea of Red by the Sea."
This year was fog free too, an unusual treat for attendees.
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Sunday is the day. While the entry fee is steep, you see cars here that you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else. Words don't do the Concours d'Elegance justice – which is why we took the camera along. Make sure you browse through our Monterey Car Week photo gallery, where you'll find many images that will delight you from the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and the week's other major events.
And if you love motorized transport, make sure you make it to Monterey Car Week at least once if you can. It's a treat quite unlike anything you'll experience anywhere else. This year was my ninth in a row. The chances of me not being there next year are infinitesimal.