The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance celebrated its 62nd year, and has evolved to Olympic proportions. Attracting cars from across the globe to compete for Best in Show it stands among the top concours, counting only Lake Como, Amelia Island and Goodwood as rivals for its crown.
Pebble is more than a car show. It’s a weeklong festival where you can see the sun rise and set among priceless exotic machinery. Before attending, you should come to terms with the fact you’re not going to see everything. It’s impossible; you’ll be fighting an uphill battle all week trying to squeeze everything in.
We managed to gather our highlights from Pebble Beach into these few pages, but if you didn’t follow our live experience from the show through Instagram (@europeancarmag), you can find wider coverage on our website (europeancarweb.com) with a larger photo gallery.
1949 Delahaye 135M Saoutchik Cabriolet
1930 Opel Motoclub Model T
2013 Aston Martin Vanquish
Dawn patrol starts at 4am if you’re hardy enough
If you are a diehard, there’s one event you mustn’t miss: Dawn Patrol. Rising before the sun, you’ll witness every show car arriving to fill the show field since everything must enter the golf course fairway under its own power.
The thought of waking (or staying up) at an ungodly hour to see cars park on grass might seem anathema, but rest assured the sound of 100 year-old cars idling, wrapped in the morning fog off the ocean, is an extraordinary sight. Every glorious engine burble and suspension creak somehow makes the sleep deprivation worthwhile.
Ferris Bueller would have to cough up $8.5m today.
As the sun rises, visitors are first greeted by the circular Concept lawn – an area reserved for the latest imaginings from leading carmakers. Among them were the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento and Urus concepts, Aston Martin Vanquish and its carbon fiber chassis, McLaren 12C Spider and Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. The Bentley EXP 9F SUV concept was getting more attention than it merited, although the craftsmanship was extraordinary. Also of note was the Fisker Surf alongside a glorious aviation-themed Rolls-Royce Phantom. It was an impressive display of what’s to come, while the timeless past awaited us on the 18th fairway.
Walking past the awards stage, the fairway was awash with people surrounding coachbuilt antiques and exotic sports cars patiently awaiting judgement. Each is put under the microscope by experts in every category for the coveted prize of Best in Show. Hoods are propped and engines turned over to prove these cars are more than show pieces.
Throughout the day, the staging area fills with people anxious to see the winners take their parade lap around the grounds. This year’s top prize went to a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680s Saoutchik Cabriolet, owned by Paul and Judy Andrews from Fort Worth, TX.
On the Green
The Concept Lawn was very popular
Featured marques at this year’s concours included a moving Carroll Shelby tribute, Delahaye and Mercer collections, plus cars from the Maharajas. The latter was an extraordinary collection of elegant touring cars from the early 20th century, formerly owned by India’s ruling elite. Two cars that caught everybody’s attention were the two Brooke Swan Cars. They were commissioned by a Scottish engineer living in India and were later owned by the Maharaja of Nabha. They sported a giant swan on the front, crafted by a fairground ride manufacturer.
Less frivolous was a 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom 1 Baker-Sports Torpedo Tourer. It had been personalized for tiger hunting expeditions in the jungles of India. Powered by a near-silent 20hp engine, the wood-decked boat tail coachwork allowed the single rear passenger 180˚ field of vision. His servants up front could pass him one of the two shotguns mounted on the running board when a trophy was in sight.
The sea of people enjoying the concours
The Delahaye collection demonstrated the avant-garde designs perfected by famed French coachbuilders such as Figoni et Falaschi, Letourneur et Marchand and Chapron.
We encountered one Delahaye collector who bought his 1949 Delahayae 135M Saoutchik Cabriolet in Sweden aged 17 for the equivalent price of a bicycle. Fifty years later, the car was considerably more valuable but in the same condition as the day he bought it.
Another of our favorites was a rare 1930 Opel Motoclub Model T motorcycle. It was displayed alongside the winning 1934 BMW R7 that took Best in Class, but the Opel looked odd with its bright red wheels, seat, grips, pedals and wiring. Yet this was how it would have appeared in 1930. The tires were reproductions – another collector had paid $20k to have 20 sets made. These were the last tires available, meaning it could never run on the road in this form because they would quickly turn black.
Entrance to RM Auctions displayed $11m Ford GT40
While millions of dollars were on display in the concours, there was millions being spent elsewhere. The auctions at Pebble Beach have grown in popularity since arriving in 1990, setting record sales each year.
To get the crowd warmed up, McLaren unveiled its new 12C Spider at a VIP reception before bidding began. Gooding & Company then went on to sell cars to the value of $113 million, with 24 reaching $1 million or more.
Featured lot #123 was a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster, which sold for a record-breaking $11.7 million (after consignment and fees).
RM Auctions wouldn’t be outdone, selling a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder for $8.5 million, plus a (pre-Auto Union) 1938 Horch 853A Special Roadster for $5.1 million.
Setting the all-time record for most expensive American car sold at auction, RM saw spirited bidding for a 1968 Gulf/Mirage Ford GT40 Lightweight that sold for an incredible $11 million.
With millions of dollars flying around, we were tempted to wave a paddle ourselves. Take the 1961 Alfa Romeo Giuletta Spider that crossed the Gooding & Co block for a scant $41800. These typically sell for $70-90,000. RM also had a 1965 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 3.8 Roadster that went for $82500; well under its typical price of $100,000
Ferrari F12 Berlinetta
1908 Brooke Swan Car
coachbuilt Pininfarina Bentley Mark VI
BMWNA CEO Ludwig Willisch drove this 1975 430hp IMSA BMW 3.0 CSL in the historic races
Seeing iconic racecars wide-open on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is an event unto itself. The Monterey Motorsports Reunion takes place at the same time as the concours. It pits cars from all racing eras against each other on the track to relive competitive glory.
The cars were broken into classes such as historic Le Mans prototypes, Trans-Am, GT, Grand Prix and a host of other categories.
In celebration of 40 years, BMW M Power brought a tasty selection of historic racing cars to the event. This included a rare 490hp M1 GT Group 4 racecar among the Bavarian metal.
Trading his business suit for racing overalls, BMW North America’s CEO Ludwig Willisch piloted a 430hp BMW 3.0 CSL. The car had competed in the American IMSA series during 1975 and 1976, winning six races on tracks like Laguna Seca, Lime Rock and Talledega.
We spoke to Ludwig after the race and he was thrilled by the experience. He couldn’t hope to compete with the 800hp Porsche 935s but told us he tried to keep out of their way!
1925 Rolls Royce Phantom 1 Baker-Sports Torpedo Tourer
von Krieger Mercedes found in barn after 30 years
'81 Porsche 935 sold for $1.125, raced the next day!
Party populated by Cats and Bunnies
Pebble draws some the world’s most affluent automobile collectors, decision-makers and VIPs, so there are plenty of large-scale parties to enjoy. Among them was the Jaguar Playboy Party, which turned out to be the primo event of the week, and one Jaguar graciously invited us to.
Taking the opportunity to showcase its new XJL Ultimate in the backyard of a stunning private house, they provided the best catering to attract celebrities like Christine Hendricks from Mad Men, Academy Award-winner Adrian Brody, and musician Wyclef Jean.
Playboy wasn’t going to be overshadowed, providing Bunnies to ensure everybody had the night of their life. The only thing missing was Heff…
Baja Cantina unofficial/official hang out of Monterey Week
At some point during the week you should drive out to Baja Cantina in nearby Carmel. It’s a popular hang out for the duration because the watering hole hosts live music, has a large outdoor seating area and serves both beer and Mexican food until the wee hours of the morning.
Inside, you find mid-century gas pumps as well as walls covered in automobile memorabilia, much of it donated by visitors dating back to the very first show.
The parking lot and side streets are predictably crammed with incredible cars. You’ll see everything from rare Shelby Cobras to rows of Ferraris new and old, even track-ready racecars turn up. It’s a great place to kick back, enjoy beautiful cars and share stories.
During our stay, Aston Martin threw us the keys to its refreshed ’13 V8 Vantage with a proper six-speed manual transmission. With distinct instructions to leave the traction control on and return in “about” an hour, we set off.
Sporting a revised 4.7L V8 with 420hp and 346 lb-ft, the Vantage demanded your attention at all times but there’s something magical about an Aston with a manual ’box. Gear ratios were close and the throw short, much like a racecar.
Carving through the canyons the car moves like a featherweight boxer. It seemed to be looking ten steps ahead to make a move on its weaker opponents.
Priced at $118,370 (Coupe) and $132,870 (Roadster), the V8 Vantage is a direct competitor with a well-equipped Porsche 911. And while Porsche might be the benchmark, the Aston brings drama and exclusivity to the mix. Aston’s unique buying experience and bespoke options also offer a tempting alternative. And after our brief drive, we found the attractive-women-glance ratio gave the Vantage an instant advantage.