When confronted with a buffed-out classic luxury or sports cars priced at six or seven figures, it’s easy to forget that, at its core, a car is a machine. It’s made for a purpose – to move people around in the world, no matter how lovingly well crafted its sheet metal. But in the realm of high-end collectible automobiles, some cars seem to take on a different role, living out their days sheltered from the elements in vault-like garages, never actually rolling across pavement under their own power. It’s certainly the best way to protect an investment, but if a car could think, I’d venture it would want to row through the gears, lean into the corners and gulp in the rushing air. It would want to be driven. Mercifully, the Tour d’Elegance provides just such an opportunity for some of these cars.

In advance of Concours Sunday, the 2015 Tour saw roughly 200 vintage vehicles take to the Monterey coast, plying the local back roads and highways in a rare opportunity to stretch the old legs. Over 80 miles were covered, proving the pampered automobiles’ worth as both functional modes of transportation and tasty eye candy.

While not a competition, successful completion of the Tour does yield consideration should two vehicles find themselves tied in the same class come Sunday’s main event. What’s more, it’s a chance for the general public to see these cars up close and personal against the stunning backdrop of the continental U.S.’s western edge. And I was there to capture it all. For the full preview of Monterey Car Week you can check my article here.

Continue reading to learn what happened on Day 2.

Tour d’Elegance

I rose early Thursday morning, a bit slow from the copious appetizers and drinks offered up at the McCall event the night before. Rest could wait – I needed to be in Pebble Beach for the 8 AM sendoff of the Tour d’Elegance.

The sun was beginning to break through the coastal fog by the time I arrived at the tent city erected for the week’s events. Lined three abreast behind the start/finish were Mercers, Popes, Packards, duPonts and Dusenbergs, not to mention the obligatory Jaguars, Bentleys and Ferraris. Each was buffed to mirror-like perfection, its owner close at hand, eager to begin. Complementing the historic metal were a few examples of the 2016 model year, including a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S and a smattering of Rolls-Royce Wraiths, no doubt there to support the aged autos.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 2 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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The chatter grew as a woman’s voice rang out over the PA: “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

Rather than the cacophony of powerplants instantly bursting into life that normally follows such a declaration, the field of participants that morning was eerily quiet for a bit. Which is understandable when considering the average model year for participant vehicles was around 1940.

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But like old men getting out of bed, the cars eventually awoke, and the air was filled with the oily smell of internal combustion from half a century ago, drifting with the lazy sea breeze. One by one, the cars rolled out, some briefly stepping on the throttle in front of the local CHP waiting to accompany the caravan on its journey.

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The Tour was broken into three groups, so after the first had passed, I sprinted to the parking lot and jumped into my Subaru. The plan was to get ahead of the Tour to capture it as it passed, and the first stop was the winding forest two-lane of Monhollan Road, approximately 15 minutes away. The cars were taking the long way around, passing along scenic 17 Mile Drive and down Aguajito Road, but I had mapped out an alternative route through Pebble Beach and down the highway. I knew that if I hurried, I could beat them there. Some speed laws may or may not have been bent.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 2 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Regardless, I popped out at the Pebble Beach gate at the head of the first group. While the Tour turned left onto Aguajito, I took the onramp to the highway. By the time I reached Monhollan, I was once again with the tour, with by a 1930 Stutz Monte Carlo Weymann sedan in front of me and a motorcycle peace officer behind. Obviously annoyed, the cop blasted ahead of me to stay with the Stutz.

Monterey Car Week 2015 – Day 2 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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After capturing a few shots of the second group, it was back to the highway and down to Big Sur. Traffic on the freeway impeded my progress, but I knew the Tour would be spread out at that point, so my haste slackened. After a few crafty maneuvers through side streets, I was en route.

The stretch of Highway 1 that hugs the coast just south of Monterey is one of the most beautiful roads on the planet. It’s here that countless car commercials are shot, with the white-tipped waves and sheer cliffs providing astounding backdrops all the way down to Los Angeles.

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One of the most iconic spots is Bixby Bridge. Constructed in the early ‘30s, this massive concrete arch spans well over an eighth of a mile, rising some 300 feet above the crashing waves. Its arch stands over the Pacific with the grace of a bird in flight, moving almost effortlessly with the coast.

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Perched overlooking this beauty, I captured the Tour going to and from a rendezvous at the Ripplewood Resort. The cars would make one final stop in Carmel before heading back to Pebble Beach, so I once again climbed into the Subaru and followed. On my way back, I saw a Pagani Huayra take off from a stoplight with reckless speed, cutting up a line of traffic from a turn lane. The police squad car in a perpendicular street didn’t seem to notice.

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After threading through unbelievably tight residential lanes, I finally found a place to leave the Subie and hiked towards the main drag – Ocean Avenue. Both sides of the road were filled beyond capacity with parked Tour participants and gawking car lovers. The sea of gearheads seemed to stretch all the way to the beach. Millions of dollars worth of cars were packed like sardines under the hot afternoon sun, and the giddiness of those in attendance was palpable. Hoods were lifted, gullwing doors were raised, and excited conversation over specs and technical figures could be heard at every turn.

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On my way out, I saw a Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR from the McCall party parked on a side street. Behind it were two Mercedes SLRs, each with a ticket pinned under the wiper blade for parking in a red zone.

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Don’t worry – I’m sure they can afford it.

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