When the car world reaches for the top shelf

Start with a rich green affluent spirit, add three parts vehicular excellence, one part celebrity, and serve chilled in a fairway glass – that’s the recipe to mix up the perfect Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. As the headline event of the annual Monterey Car Week extravaganza, the Concours attracts a huge number of rare, historically significant, and perfectly preserved automobiles, all of which are rolled out and lined up on the Pebble Beach Golf Links for the perusal of enthusiasts and judgment of experts. For onlookers, it’s like stepping back in time. For the car owners, a win in Pebble Beach is a collector’s dream come true.

Per tradition, we were on the scene to check out all the machinery on display. As in years past, several of the major automakers also made an appearance to show their latest wares, hinting towards the future with new prototypes and concepts – the perfect complement to the huge number of entries spread across the links.

Read on for what it was like to be there.

Continue reading for the full story.

Arrival

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Unless you’re an A-list actor or former Tonight Show host, odds are you’ll be hitching a ride on a bus to get to the Concours. Parking in the wooded Pebble Beach community is at a premium, so attendees are spread out amongst a collection of parking lots separate from the actual event.

Upon arrival, you begin to get a sense of the size of this thing. Automakers like Lexus, Infiniti, Tesla, and Lamborghini erect enormous show rooms in the lead up to the Concours entrance, and you can check out the latest models if you’re interested.

First Impressions

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Once you get through the front gates, you’ll first run across the concept lawn. Ringing this close-cropped turf is about a dozen or so of the latest creations from industry giants, with this year’s offerings including the Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6, the updated BMW 2002 Hommage, the Acura Precision Concept, the Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato, the Bugatti Chiron Vision GT, the Lamborghini Centenario Roadster, and the Cadillac Escala.

Fawning over the gorgeous metal were wide-eyed attendees inching as close they could to get a peak from behind the velvet ropes, as burly security guards and well-dressed company reps watched from the center of the lawn.

The crowd ebbed and flowed, making it difficult to get a clear shot of the cars, but the tide lessened as the day wore on and folks moved downhill towards the fairway. The sound of fans pointing out details was non-stop, though, such as two youngsters I overheard near the Chiron

“Wow! Looks like a race car!” one of them exclaimed. “It is a race car,” the other responded.

“What’s the 16?” the first asked, pointing towards the Bugatti’s grille.

“That’s its racing number,” his friend answered.

There were also plenty of opinions getting tossed around, like one particularly vocal teenager who offered his assessment while I photographed the Escala. “Cadillac needs to make this, they can’t afford not to.”

Maybe he’s right.

Walking The Fairway

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The real meat of the event was down on the fairway, where hundreds of cars from 27 individual categories and sub-classes were lined up against a stunning Pacific coast backdrop. Packard, Dusenberg, Rolls-Royce, Delahaye, Ferrari, BMW… the list of marques went on and on.

The weather was cool this year, with marine layer clouds above keeping temperatures nice and comfortable for all the walking involved. You could easily spend all day checking out all the cars, but if lounging on the grass was more your speed, the award ramp in front of the lodge was where you needed to be.

The Award Ramp

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After lunch, the award ceremony kicked off with host Derek Hill (son of Phil Hill, the famous Formula 1 champion), who was joined by Jay Leno and Sir Jackie Stewart. Champagne corks started to fly as folks settled down to watch the show unfold.

After raffling off a few very nice prizes, including a brand new Mercedes-Benz GLA, the celebs vacated the ramp for the Parade of Elegance.

The Parade highlighted vehicles that were worth a second look, but didn’t clinch a first-, second-, or third-in-class win. Each car rolled up individually onto the ramp as an expert with a British accent read a short blurb about the car’s history and significance, after which the car rolled away, only to be replaced by the next vehicle.

Following this was the award ceremony, with the third-in-class, second-in-class, and best-in-class winners from each of the 27 categories receiving the same treatment as the cars from the Parade of Elegance – plus a ribbon.

Finally, after several hours, the Best In Show winner was announced amid a flurry of confetti and fireworks. The top prize went to a 1936 Lancia Astura Pininfarina Cabriolet, owned by Richard Mattei from Paradise Valley, Arizona. Mr. Mattei graciously accepted the award, and was clearly elated with the honor.

And with that, the cars drove away in a multi-million dollar traffic jam along the coastal cliff edge, the smell of rich air/fuel mixtures, burning oil, and heavily used clutches filling the air.

“Back to normal life,” I heard someone say.

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