It’s half past five in the morning as I begin shuffling down the grassy slope into the thick gray mist that rolls into Northern California’s Monterey Bay. My oxfords squeak loudly crossing the manicured lawn onto the 18th hole of the renowned Pebble Beach Golf Course as the low purr of a prewar roadster cuts through the early darkness.
I’m on what’s referred to by the regulars as “dawn patrol”: the pilgrimage of those eager few who seek to gawk at the world’s most famous and expensive vehicles as they stretch their ancient pistons and parade in single file to their designated places.
In a few short hours, these celebrated cars from throughout the last century will become the stars of the most competitive and important auto show on earth, the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
As the auto community gathers, the capstone event of Monterey Classic Car Week draws not only the fabulously wealthy mavens of New England coffers and dot-com entrepreneurs but also the Indian Maharajas as they show off their kingly Rolls and Bugattis, as well as the fast-wheeling and car-hoarding Hollywood elites such as Schwarzenegger, Leno and hot-rod obsessed comic-turned-racer Carolla.
While much of this week revolves around mostly European manufacturers jockeying over titles and awards, proudly displaying their new releases and (sometimes) revolutionary concept designs, the heart of this affair is first and foremost the love of the automobile; that is, if you can afford to be on the guest list.
From last Friday to the eponymous soiree on Sunday, I’ve had the great pleasure of taking part in a number of noteworthy activities such as the Rolex Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca raceway; the exclusive Quail, a gathering of auto sponsors; the Concours itself and, most exciting, our invitation-only Pebble Beach Playboy Party in conjunction with the sexy and seductive cars of Jaguar. While Playmates and fast cars was certainly my favorite memory, here’s a recap of the best that Pebble had to offer. Make sure to check out resident auto Playmate Pilar Lastra’s favorite picks, as well as the cars that really got our gears in motion.
THE QUAIL, a Motorsports Gathering
Held annually at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club, this hot ticket gathering of luxury sponsors, manufacturers and associated deep-pocketed auto owners may be second to Pebble in prestige and legacy but is certainly harder to get into. When I wasn’t being mobbed by Cristal-bearing hostesses, I spent my time at the Quail marveling at the displays of pre- and postwar racing vehicles and the newest chopper and Gulfstream aircraft on display as well as taking part in the reveal events being offered by Lamborghini, who unveiled the $2.2M Sesto Elemento and Concept SUV Urus, and McLaren, who showed off the one-of-a-kind X1 Concept, with rear vertical wings inspired by none other than the Batmobile, as its designer explained. Other notables included the Bugatti Vitesse, the new Porsche Boxter S and the police-escorted Shelby Cobras that paid a visit from Laguna Seca. Then came the test drives; while I couldn’t pass up a joyride in Playboy’s 2012 Car of the Year, the enticing Jaguar XKR-S, I also got a bit dirty off-roading in the mountains with Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport and new Evoque. Finally I took a spin in the latest roadster from Mercedes’ AMG division, the seemingly rocket powered SL 63 — what a ride!
On Saturday, I headed over to the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca for a casual day of multimillion-dollar 427 and Daytona Coupe Shelby Cobras duking it out in remembrance of founder Carroll Shelby who passed on earlier this year. While I don’t envy the coupe who ended up on the flatbed truck at the end of the race, I do find solace that these cars aren’t rotting away their racing lives in some museum but are continuing the spirit of racing set by their predecessors. Among the additional races I checked out was comedian Adam Carolla’s, who traded in his usual BMW 3.0 CSL for Jim Fitzgerald’s 1979 Nissan 280Z race car.
As much fun as the rest of the week’s events were, however, the sheer thrill of seeing some of the vehicles in motion and on the lawn at the Concours d’Elegance was truly the highlight of this lavish weekend. Following the predawn patrol, I scoured the row upon row of classic wonders, from the Ferraris and Alphas, to the Best in Class winning 1949 Jaguar XK120 belonging to Clark Gable, to the now-defunct marques of wheeled glory. It’s truly amazing to see the designs of yesteryear, such as Pilar’s pick, the burgundy 1948 Norman Timbs Emil Diedt Roadster, just a few hundred yards away from the concept lawn of 2014 and beyond, and realize that our designers today are not that different in imagination than those of 60-something years ago. This is exemplified by the fact that while we regularly shell out a couple million dollars for a hot new sports car, the intense auctions held here at Pebble can fetch almost into the double-digits as seen by the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster which went for $10.7M in a bidding war Sunday night.
Concours is not only a chance to admire our past but also to annually re-inspire generations with how we came to drive revolutionary new vehicles such as the premiering McLaren 12C Spyder or the highly awaited F-Type from Jaguar. Pebble Beach is well deserving of its many nicknames, especially “Car Heaven”; it really is a place where history and lifestyle blur into reality and for one day you walk among the vehicular gods.
On our venture to photograph the most beautiful cars on the planet, we turned to one of the most renowned camera makers Leica to see if it was up to the challenge. We tested out their brand new X2 compact digital, which we found to be an extremely versatile camera. Be it up close portraits or stunning vistas of Pebble, this camera rose to the challenge of capturing the spirit of the automobile both on, and off, the Concours lawn. While we wish it contained a built-in zoom, the quality of photo was unmatched due to the large sensor it carries around. At the perfect handling weight and enhanced autofocus system, we were more than impressed.
Check it out at www.leica-camera.com From $1995 USD