2017 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance: Somehow, More Than We Expected
Both of us have been around the block a time or two. This applies to life in general, and it certainly applies to things in the automotive realm. We own cars, we follow lots of different media outlets that deal exclusively with automobilia and we've been to enough meet ups, car shows, and races to last a lifetime. Our collective annual experiences at Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula alone, have often blown our minds, and at the same time, set a standard for what is truly exceptional. Yeah yeah, a Veyron over there, two Koenigseggs ducking into an underground garage just down the street, that Aston just sold for $22 million! Big stuff, awesome stuff, stuff that can't be topped...repeated next time, but not really topped. Awesome=Awesome.
Our Car Week this year included a bit of a departure for us. We've walked the streets, taken in the races and attended Concorso and Quail. All great stuff, and completely top of the line entertainment. The only headline event that we hadn't been to in the 20+ years of going down to the peninsula is the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, also known simply as Pebble Beach (or just plain "Pebble") in Car Week terms. To us and many others, it is considered probably the most prestigious concours event in the world. It's not inexpensive. The cost has always been prohibitive to us, and we've always conjectured that we'd like to attend some day, but considering that we do this blog and finance all of our endeavors on our own dime(s), we'd never gone to Pebble Beach.
That all changed this year.
We're not going to lie to you. Our personal automotive bias leans toward cars that compete in anger...on the track. A concours is about as far from that as possible. Concours cars don't race, though they do compete for honors. They also don't rub or do burnouts, or employ pit strategies. Heck, they don't even free-rev to impress the crowd. They're not particularly loud, nor were many of the cars used for their most practical purpose much over their histories. We suppose, pretty much the antithesis of our "cup of tea." We were so ready for for "The Show" that we swapped out our regular Car Week attire so as not to bring the overall event style ratio down too much. Goodbye t-shits, and hello sport coats! Sure, there were better dressed people in the crowd, but we held our own. We knew it was going to be good...but it was more....so much more.
All this being said, this event impressed us for all of the reasons it is famous for. It is one of the greatest automotive events in the world. The cars there are without equal in quality and provenance. The atmosphere is without equal, and the setting is without rival. The crowd was the biggest (and best dressed) we've seen at any car related event we've ever been to. We can't even use our regular adjectives, superlatives and pufferizing agents to describe our experience. Honestly, the best we'd be able to do is add the suffix "er" to all the terms we regularly employ. Amazing-er, Spectacular-er, Awesome-er and Baller-er all sound kind of superfluous and stupid.
We've learned over the years that arriving early at an automotive event often rewards those who persevere to fight off the luxury of sleep. We had made up our minds to hit Pebble Beach for the infamous "Dawn Patrol" which is the start of cars arriving at the famous links at 6AM. We are no strangers to the darkness before sunrise, but this was earlier than early. We were fortunate to have a caffeine dealer near our accommodations, so we got prepared the only way we knew how. Due to the size of the expected crowd and the lack of parking near the actual concours most people are diverted to one of several parking areas and then they/we take a shuttle into the main event. We were among those faithful that parked in general parking, thankfully only 5 minutes or so from the shuttle stop to the Concours. While waiting for our shuttle, in the cool darkness of morning, we witnessed a reminder that we were now behind the velvet rope. A Range Rover backed into makeshift parking spot near the entrance of our parking area and the road. Two dapper gentlemen exited the Range Rover, and emerged from behind it with two tiny electric scooters with massive wheels. They hopped aboard and jetted down the darkened highway in silence other than the distinct whir of their electric scooter motors. Just like everything at Pebble, it started with something unexpected and out of the ordinary. Pros.
The cars of the Concours truly have amazing pedigrees and histories. However, it can be the concept lawn, located on the practice putting green, that is the ultimate crowd pleaser. This is where automakers unveil new concepts or future production models. Aside from the newest cars and peeks at what automakers have planned for the future, we were also treated to the presence of the 2016 le Mans class winning Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT (Bourdais/Hand/Muller), complete with all the original road grime and filth from the 2016 running! Talk about a survivor!
FERRARI AT 70:
Ferrari celebrates it's 70th anniversary this year, and Pebble Beach served as the backdrop for this celebration. The Ferrari 70th Anniversary Concours occupied lawn of the First Fairway of the Pebble Beach course. It would be the first time in history that another concours would share the spotlight with the Concours d'Elegance. The Ferrari Concours displayed 70 pristine and historical examples of Ferraris from the last seven decades. The approximate value of the Ferrari Concours was nearly a half a billion dollars.
We had already taken several laps of the Concours d'Elegance so we felt that we had achieved some immunity from acting like starstruck teenagers when we arrived at the First Fairway. Wrong! It was ridiculous in its magnitude. There seemed to be at least one of everything from the stable, including a 2006 FXX Evo, which was a first for us to witness in person.
Ferrari 70th Anniversary Concours Gallery
"You're in the great game now.":
As we entered the 18th Fairway the morning chill was still in the air and cars were still making their way to designated positions depending on their specific class. It's one part car show, one part fashion show and one part celebrity spotting that all come together to display an automotive event that is several notches above and beyond exclusive.
As stated before, we brought "our game" as far as attire is concerned. As fancy as we looked though, we couldn't hold a candle to others in attendance. There were amazing hats galore, bow ties aplenty and avant-garde sartorial choices that made us stop in our tracks on more than one occasion. This is an automotive website, but we'd be remiss if we didn't share some of what we saw.
The judging for the Concours is as serious a business as there is. From the moment the first car rolls on to the 18th fairway, they and their owners/minders are aware that a small army of blue blazer clad WONKs and sticklers is about to start asking difficult and probing questions about their car's history, restoration, correctness and anything else they want to ask about. As much as we wanted to chat with them or get a selfie with one of the celebrity (honorary) judges, the looks on their faces were pretty serious. This is the big show...there's a lot at stake for the judges, as well as the owners. Success or failure at this event can have a huge effect on an owner's pride as well as the value of their vehicular investment. And if you think these cars have impressive histories, you should take a look at the judge's bios! They are a who's who of the automotive world from journalists, former participants/winners, and corporate CEOs, to racing drivers and designers. Honestly, the cast of judges is at least as impressive as the cars.
Best of Show Winner: Bruce R. McCaw's stunning 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer
Before we wrap this piece up, we'd like to extend a special thank you to Ms. Kandace Hawkinson, the Director of Marketing & Media Relations for the Concours, for making our day at Pebble Beach possible. She took a chance on this little publication, and granted us media access to Pebble Beach, so that we could share our reflections and images with you.
We mentioned before that this event is not inexpensive and that we'd not attended before primarily because of that consideration #crowdfunding. Now that we've experienced it for ourselves, we'd like to offer some insight. First, this event is absolutely worth the price of admission in terms of both time and money. We had trepidation about missing a day at the racetrack, but trepidation melted away as the magnitude of the event sank in. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, this event provides the equivalent of several other events hosted on the peninsula during car week. It really is "The Show," if there is such a thing.
In short, we note this because we were wrong to put off attendance all these years. We should have done it long ago. As we looked around at our fellow attendees, we realized that this event isn't just for those who can afford the price of admission. This mass of people, from every walk of life and income level, were getting their socks knocked off by something multifaceted and very special. Many folks attend regularly and have systems down for getting the best parking spot, for donning proper attire, reserving the best place on the lawn to judge the proceedings, and for getting the best autographs and selfies with the celebs. For many, Pebble Beach is their fixture for Car Week, but also a fixture for their social calendar and their conduit to all things automotive (and all at once). As you plan your automotive calendars for next August, take our advice and make it a priority to attend the Pebble Beach Concours. We offer these musings as proof positive that being stuck in your ways can really close you off from some things that are really worth your investment.
-The Loud Pedal