Considered by many to be the most famous car show in the world, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the climax of the Monterey Car Week festivities. It’s a show held for charity where both pre and post-war cars are gathered at one of the best golf course in the world. As shows go, the Pebble Beach Concours is about as prestigious as it gets. I just wasn’t all that amazed by it.
More than 200 cars attend to compete in a “Competition of Elegance,” similar in style to the Villa d’Este in Italy and Salon Prive in the United Kingdom. The cause is applaudable, the cars are beautiful and rare, and it’s been held for more than six decades.
Don’t get me wrong, the gorgeous backdrop of the sea behind the 18th hole of the Pebble Beach Links golf course, the somewhat enthusiastic crowd of several thousand people, and colorful outfits made for an exciting atmosphere. The cars were indeed in concours conditions but overall the show itself was quite dull. I was able to see all the cars on display within an hour.
Maybe my expectations were too high; it was billed as the best of this type of show. Perhaps I just expected it to be bigger and with more things to do. Or maybe I assumed there’d be a wider variety of cars.
There certainly wasn’t a lack of variety from where the cars were from, with cars representing 15 countries and 31 states.
One of the standouts was the New Zealand-registered 1931 Hispano-Suiza J12 Saoutchik Transformable Grande Luxe. (Beat that, Audi.) It’s quite random for a car from the South Island of New Zealand to just be displayed here at Pebble Beach.
The cars were judged in the afternoon but by this time I was already bored and had left the Concours lawn. The overall winner of the Concours this year was the 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer, if anyone is interested.
One of the most entertaining part of the whole Concours was the “American Dream Cars” section which basically consisted of the most outlandish and appropriately optimistic American concept cars from the ’60s and ’70s. Some of the cars on display included a Bugatti Type 101C Virgil Exner Ghia Roadster, which looked like a hilarious mix of French and American design influences.
There was also Pontiac Vivant Herb Adams Roadster, the Mantaray Dean Jeffries Concept and, a car which looked like the designer was too fond of the Ferrari 25o TR. It was like a collection of real life Hot Wheels cars.
Alongside the sea was a display of Ferrari’s One-Off Speciale cars and Major Race Winners. Of course the 250 GTO was there but there also a few obscure Ferraris I didn’t know existed or completely forgot about, like the 250 GT Zagato.
After getting bored of walking around the Concours I went in search of other things to do around Pebble Beach. It was great to see the crowd enjoying and appreciating the cars, but the people-to-car ratio was too high. The event was super packed.
Luckily Ferrari was doing more 70th Anniversary Celebrations here as well. They had a special display on the First Fairway at The Pebble Beach Golf Links. Some of the greatest and rarest models from the Prancing Horse’s history were gathered including special edition cars such as the F60 America, SP275RW, Sergio, and an incredibly rare alloy-bodied 400 Superamerica Aerodinamico.
The owner bought this car at an auction and only discovered it was an alloy body until it was being restored.
The Ferraris were displayed all day during Sunday but because one can only look at static cars for so long I came a little bit earlier to see them set up, and waited later at the end to see them driving out. It was a somewhat satisfying feeling to see a few dozen odd Ferraris driving down a path that was clearly designed for golf carts and not exotic Italian cars.
Alongside the main concours lawn and the Ferrari celebratory lawn, there was also the “Concept Lawn” held at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. Around 10 of the newest production and concept cars were displayed here for crowds to see up close.
Pagani’s newest Zonda (yes, another one) dubbed the HP Barchetta is Horacio Pagani’s personal project. It’s got a 7.3-liter naturally aspirated V12 mated with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The bodywork is a barchetta style and features a polarizing rear wheel cover design only previously used on the Zonda Zozo.
Mercedes’ Maybach Vision 6 Concept is the convertible version of the previous Vision 6 Coupe concept and looked even more impressive and imposing than before. It’s the definition of a land yacht. Bentley and Aston Martin also showed off some new convertibles in the shape of the EXP Speed 6 Concept and the new Vanquish Volante Zagato.
BMW had the next-generation Concept Z4 on show. It was a great looking thing and shows a promising sports car future for BMW. If BMW offers it with some sweet engines and a manual gearbox, and they’ll be set. While they’re at it, do the same with the Supra, too.
Listen: the Pebble Beach Concours is an event you should attend at least once in your life. Unless you’re a die hard fan of historically accurate cars, once you’ve seen one of these shows you’ve sort of seen them all.
In all honesty I had a more enjoyable time at The Quail, but that came down to personal preference.
To be fair, the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance which was held in the early hours of the Thursday before the Concours on Sunday was a more enjoyable way to see these classics. For me this was one of the highlights from the whole week. I think it was because of this tour, and having already seen most of the cars displayed at the Concours in motion, spoiled seeing them again as static displays on a golf course.
Not all the cars displayed at the Concours went on the tour but a decent number did. They all lined up at the starting point at Pebble Beach and would make their way around the town of Carmel then up Pacific Coast Highway 1 and loop back to Pebble.
Following the tour through forests, towns, and beautiful coastal roads with lines of people waiting along the route for a chance to see and hear these cars in action—that was what it’s all about.
So yes, go to the Concours at least once to see what it’s all about. But Monterey Car Week was far more than posh shows on golf courses. It was about the cars, the people, and the beautiful backdrop that was Monterey. Get out there and see it all.