To some people, Monterey Car Week is the definitive expression of the automotive lifestyle, bringing together the absolute cream of the car world for revelry and the chance to share a common passion. The events are abundant, occupying California’s entire central coast, but when it comes to the ultimate in show and shine, you can’t beat Sunday’s Concours d’Elegance.

Held on the greens of the Pebble Beach golf course, this event sees approximately 200 of the finest collectible vintage vehicles in the world made available for inspection by the public. Each is slotted into one of several categories, and an esteemed panel of judges is tasked with choosing winners based on historical accuracy, technical merit, and the all-important, yet indefinable, style.

The Concours d’Elegance is recognized worldwide as one of the premiere automotive events of the year, filled to capacity with prestige, glamour, and high-class sophistication. But for some reason, they let me in the front door.

Continue reading to learn what happened on Day 5.

Concours d’Elegance

Attend the Concours d’Elegance, and the first thing you’ll notice is the quality and attention to detail, even down to something as simple as the parking. Attendees are directed straight to the waterline, where, while searching for a space, they get to enjoy the salty air of the Pacific as it laps against stunning scenery. Here, small hatchbacks and economical commuter-mobiles are as common as premium European luxury sedans and high-end supercars, and shuttles arrive periodically to whisk attendees to-and-fro.

The sun was hot when I arrived on Sunday, a break from the traditional cool fog. On the way in, a variety of makes, including Lexus, Mercedes, Infiniti andKia, had set up temporary showrooms to allow attendees access to their latest premium models. It was as if a car park had existed on the grass all along.

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After walking through the front entrance, I explored the Concept Lawn, a small, close-cropped green with a slew of fresh concept vehicles rounding the edges. On hand was the BAC Mono, Henrik Fisker’s Rocket Speedster Mustang, the Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4, and the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage R, among others. Most impressive, however, was the Icona Vulcano, the world’s first titanium car. The design looked like an Italian reimagining of the Lexus LFA, complementing complex technical lines with even more sexiness and a gorgeous exotic-metal sheen.

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Perusing the Lawn was well-known car buff Jay Leno, who chatted with industry reps about rooflines and the reintroduction of chrome-plated mirrors. As I maneuvered for a shot of the one-time Tonight Show host, the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, arrived in an old green coach from the early 1900’s, making a beeline for the lawn. Instantly, the crowd began to whisper phrases like “I’ll be back” in fake accents.

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With that, I walked to the main event. Stretching long down the 18th-hole fairway was roughly 20,000 car lovers, a vast multitude that was practically overflowing into the Monterey Bay in waves of polo shirts and sun hats. Gentle classical music underlined conversations of technical changes between model years and racing history factoids.

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Row upon row of well-aged machinery was on display, each carefully divided into 29 individual categories. The oldest was a Panhard et Levassaor Type B1 Saloon from 1902 in the Antique category, ranging all the way up to the 1970 Mercedes-Benz C-111 in the Mercedes Category. Other notables included an assortment of duPonts, Dusenbergs, Rolls-Royces, Designs by Carrozzeria Touring, and several mid-‘60s Shelby GT350s like the 1967 Shelby GT350. Of course, the Ferraris were out in force as well, with four full categories of prancing horses to enjoy.

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While strolling through the grass, I ran into racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart, who charmed fans eager to get a photo with enough charisma to steal away wives and girlfriends a third his age. A bit further up, Richard Rawlings was chilling out with a can of beer.

As the afternoon wore on, I made my way to the awards ramp in front of the Pebble Beach Lodge, just in time for a commencement speech from Derek Hill, son of the famous racing champion Phil Hill. The judges were then introduced, and included a collection of captains of industry, world-class designers and race drivers.

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What followed was an award ceremony that spanned several hours, including first, second and third in classes, four elegance awards and 24 special awards. While lengthy, this provided attendees with an opportunity to admire the best-of-the-best without leaving their lawn chairs and blankets, as well as learn a bit of the history behind each make and model, thanks to an announcer who detailed each as it rolled across the ramp.

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Finally, the highly coveted Best Of Show award was announced. This year the trophy went to a 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A F Ramseier & Cie Worblaufern Cabriolet. Originally finished with a torpedo body, the Tipo 8A received coachwork by Worblaufern in 1932. Owned by a single family for nearly five decades, the car was sold to the Patterson collection last year, after which RM Restorations was called upon to work its magic.

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“The car is just fantastic,” said a jubilant Jim Patterson upon accepting the award. “It has an 8.0-liter engine in it. It’s got everything you could ever imagine could exist in 1932.”

“If you win at Pebble Beach, you’ve done it. Nothing else compares,” he added.

Look for a full review of the winning car soon.

Conclusion

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With that, I headed back toward the shuttles, catching a few shots of the cars in the fading golden light on my way out. Monterey Car Week was done for 2015, and with it, the summer would soon give way to autumn. Driving back to TopSpeed HQ along the coast, the sun winding down over the water, I had a bittersweet moment. The cars, the scenery, the events… it was all a bit overwhelming, to be honest.

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Image fragments of the past five days drifted through my head – jets and Lykans at McCalls, classic roadsters crossing Bixby Bridge, the sound of a ‘50s-era Ferrari race car in the Del Monte forest, the shrill cries of the Russo and Steele auction, the gleam of a Shelby Daytona Coupe at Laguna Seca, the tension of a $15-million sale at the Gooding & Co. auction… all memories I knew would stick with me.

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Monterey Car Week is an event often painted as reserved for the rich, but truly, it doesn’t matter how many zeros you see on your paycheck. It’s something anyone can enjoy, just so long as they have gears under their skin and gasoline in their blood. So if you didn’t make it out this year, rest assured 2016 will be here before you know it, and with it another opportunity to share in the creations that drive your passion.

Looking for more Monterey Car Week coverage? We’ve got you – check out this video montage with clips from several of the events, including historic Ferraris in Pebble Beach, the Vulcano Titanium concept rolling around, the excitement of the Russo and Steele auction in Monterey, premium classics on the Concours green, and the Tour d’Elegance out on public roads. Enjoy!


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