Car people often have a bucket list of events that they want to attend. Events like Hot August Nights, Bonneville Speed Week, or the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. My brother, Tom, and I have such a list. We have been to Hot August Nights in Reno and to the Salt Flats for Bonneville Speed Week several times. This year we decided to forgo a trip to the Salt Flats and go instead to Pebble Beach for the Concours d’ Elegance.
The Concours d’ Elegance is held on the famed Pebble Beach Golf Course on the final day Monterrey Motor Week. Motor Week consists of a number of events occurring throughout the week. We chose to attend a few select events and not try to do it all (I’m not sure you could do it all, even if you wanted).
We chose to go to the Tour d’ Elegance, the Concours d’ Lemons, Exotics on Cannery Row and of course the Councours d’ Elegance. We did not attend any of the new car displays, vintage car races at Laguna Seca nor any of the five or six car auctions with the likes of Mecum’s, Bonham’s and Russo and Steele. In fact I had received instructions from the home front not to attend any auctions, apparently fearing that I might make a purchase.
The Tour d’ Elegance consists of the majority of the vehicles that are going to be on display at the Concours being driven around a 34 mile course around the famous 17 mile loop, into Carmel by the Sea and then a short run down the coast and back to Pebble Beach. The route is published in advance, but being unfamiliar with the area, we had no idea where to find a good viewing spot. So we headed for the loop and began looking for a wide spot to set up some lawn chairs and watch the parade of vehicles. We happened upon a fairly large area with a number of cars parked and tables and chairs being set up along the road, looking very much like tailgating at a football game. We asked a woman if this was a good place to view the cars. She responded that she was a local and this is where she watched every year. Turned out to be an excellent spot. Over 160 of the 210 show cars came driving by. It is always fun to hear and see the cars in motion. Several of the vehicles were moving slowly enough that brief conversation could be held. We did have to decline one driver’s request for a beer. Seemed like a bad idea. The cars do stop about half way through the tour and park on Ocean Avenue in Carmel by the Sea. This is a chance for spectators to get an up close look at the cars for free.
The Concours d’ Lemons is a satirical take on the Concours d’ Elegance. All of the vehicles entered in this event are of questionable quality at best. As opposed to some of finest vehicles in the world, these are some of the worst. The winners were the ugliest and the rustiest of the bunch in categories such as American Rust Belt, Soul Sucking Japanese, Swedish Meatball, etc. You get the idea. This year’s winner was a modified, extremely ugly 1977 AMC Gremlin. Great fun and good way to spend a sunny morning.
That afternoon, we headed down to Cannery Row to view the exotics. About 12 blocks for Cannery Row was closed off and filled with dozens upon dozens of late model exotic vehicles like Maeserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mclaren and many others. Cannery Row certainly did not look the way John Steinbeck described it in his novel of the same name. Music was blaring, people were crowding the street to see millions of dollars worth of cars. A far cry from the poverty and desperation described by Steinbeck. After a couple of hours of looking, we decided it was time to go hit the In-N-Out Burger. While we were eating a group of 25 Mclarens arrived at the restaurant, quickly drawing a crowd. Rarely do you see one Mclaren in the circles I travel, let alone 25. It was a rare treat.
Finally it was time to attend the Concours d’ Elegance. We arrived early and followed the signs to the general admission spectator parking about five miles away from the golf course. We parked right along the shore line with seals and otters playing directly off shore and got a shuttle to the course. The shuttle were extremely well run and organized by the way.
Once we arrived it was a bit of a walk down to where the show is held on the 17th and 18 fairways of Pebble Beach Golf Course. You walk through new car display areas, most offering complimentary drinks and finger foods. When you arrive there is a sense of “Am I really here?” The scenery is beautiful, overlooking the bay, with yachts anchored just off shore. The weather was perfect, as were the cars. These are truly some of the finest cars in the world. New categories and eras are non display each year and a featured marque is selected annually. This year the featured car was the Tucker, the futuristic brainchild of Preston Tucker built in the late forties. Of the 51 Tuckers known to have been built, 12 were on display. Other show categories included Coach-built Citroens after 1945, American Sporting Cars of the 1920s, Motor Cars of India, Rear-engined Indianapolis Racers, Eisenhower Era Convertible, Oscas, Scarab Sports Cars, as well as a few others.
Being traditional hot rod/muscle car guys, this was a learning experience for us. We were unfamiliar with many of the cars. We found it to be quite interesting and spent some time studying our programs in order to understand what we were seeing. Needless to say, all of the cars were in spectacular condition. Also, many of the cars have a historic provenance. The Indy cars for example belonging to drivers like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones and others. Two if the Eisenhower Era Convertibles have ties to United States Presidents. One was Eisenhower’s inauguration car. Another was the car carrying the secret service agents when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. This years best of show was a 1937 Fiat Touring Berlinetta.
Along with viewing the cars, the people watching is superb. When you buy your tickets to get in, you are provided with some helpful hints for what to wear at the show: resort casual, a nice finished look topped off a with perfect hat. We saw every kind of outfit you could imagine. Everything from bib overalls and a T-shirt to Armani suits. Women’s hats would rival anything you might see at the Kentucky Derby while many men were wearing pastel sport coats (pink, sky blue, lavender, etc.) and trousers of all colors including bright red, green and yellow. Some of the more interesting sport coats looked as though they had been tailored from old living room drapes. Very interesting. It is also a place to see car celebrities. We saw Donald Osgood from Jay Leno’s Garage, noted hot rod/rat rod builder Jimmy Shine and Wayne Carini from Chasing Classic Cars.
If you decide to go, get hotel reservations well in advance and expect to pay premium prices. Get your tickets early. They will go up in price as the event gets close. Be prepared to pay a healthy price for your tickets. We payed $325 for general admission. Some high end tickets that allow access to restricted areas of include parties hosted by various groups may cost over $2,500. Also, be prepared for crowds. Every event we attended, except the Tour, had crowds that numbered in the thousands. Tom and I have checked this one off our list. I think we will head back to the Salt Flats next year.