The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Like the faithful swallows that return to Mission San Capistrano every year on March 19, auto connoisseurs from around the world flock to California’s Monterey Peninsula in August for one of the greatest automotive spectacles on Earth: Monterey Classic Car Week.
Some just say “Pebble” for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (Sunday , Aug. 21), the centerpiece of what has become a cornucopia of classic car events and auctions. Begun in 1950, the Pebble Beach Concours is undoubtedly the premier concours in the world. The admission price of $325 is rewarded with a presentation of automobiles unlike any other.
This year, the Concours celebrates the 50th anniversary of Ford’s 1-2-3 victory at Le Mans, along with BMW’s 100th anniversary. Expect to see plenty of great classic BMWs and to sample the latest BMW models. In addition to a few of the marque’s famous Art Cars, you can also see the 507 originally owned by Elvis Presley. Special classes this year include Bizzarrini and the Lamborghini Miura, also marking its 50th birthday.
The Big Business of Automotive Heritage
Though centered on classic automobiles, Pebble has also become a key event on the calendar of the world’s great automobile marques. Most are sponsors of the Pebble Beach Concours, and many have also used Pebble as a stage to introduce new models and offer road tests.
In fact, it must now be considered a marketing error of grand proportions for any luxury or premium automaker to skip Pebble. In some cases, it’s become the only opportunity for customers of some exclusive marques to get an early glimpse of a new model, or to order a limited-production offering. And so there’s an argument to be made that Monterey Car Week isn’t just about displaying history’s great classics, but also about minting tomorrow’s.
Business involvement is not limited to car companies. Rolex is a major presence at Monterey Car Week, including sponsorship of the Tour d’Elegance and the Rolex Motorsports Reunion at nearby Mazda Laguna Seca raceway. You will also find displays for yachts and private jets.
A Long “Week”
The label “Monterey Car Week” doesn’t capture the full spectrum of events. For 30 pre-1968 cars, the activities will begin this year on August 8 1,500 miles to the north in Kirkland, Wash. There, the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic gathers participants who, on August 9, begin the long drive in their classics along the coasts of Oregon and California to reach the Pebble Beach Concours, and some participate in that event.
A highlight for those entered in the Concours and for spectators is the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. It is presented by Rolex this year, held on Thursday, Aug.18. If you’ve experienced the beauty of the famous 17-Mile Drive, imagine seeing it from your classic automobile. Or, watching as the parade of classics goes through this scenic area. The Tour is open to all entrants in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and it can impact Concours results. If two vehicles tie in class competition at the Concours, the vehicle that has successfully completed the Tour gets the nod.
Spectators can view the Tour at key points along the route, particularly along Ocean Avenue in Carmel. Other key events include:
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, August 18-21
If you prefer your classic cars in action, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, August 18-21, is the place to be. The largest event held during Monterey Classic Car Week, it’s the history of racing in motion. About 550 authenticated racecars of all types are invited to compete in the world’s premier vintage motoring event. BMW is this year’s feature marque.
The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, August 19
For 14 years, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering showcases some of the world’s greatest and rarest automotive and motorcycle treasures on the greens of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel. Spectators who pay the $600 admission fee will enjoy one of the most exclusive automotive gatherings in the world with the Santa Lucia mountain range as the backdrop. Here, too, one can sample the sponsors’ latest models on local roads. A Bonhams auction is held in conjunction with the event.
Concorso Italiano, August 20
On the grounds of the Black Horse Golf Club, Concorso Italiano will feature 800-1,000 vehicles of Italian origin. Everything from Fiat 500s to ultra-rare Ferraris. The event is like a festival that also celebrates Italian fashion, food, music and art. Admission is $170.
A Show Everywhere You Go
Despite the exclusive nature of some events, Monterey Classic Car Week truly offers something for everyone. For many car enthusiasts, just being in the Carmel area becomes the greatest automobile show on Earth. The roads become clogged with all manner of classic and exotic machines.
Several auto gatherings are open to the public for free. The Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on August 16 presents an eclectic collection of 170 cars from 1940-1973, and Ferraris and Porsches through 1989. All are showcased in front of Ocean Avenue’s shops, restaurants and galleries.
Written by Jim Koscs, Audamotive Communications
For Premier Financial Services