The first thing I saw at Pebble Beach was a ‘90s Ford minivan brake check a McLaren 720S so close the McLaren’s rear air brake deployed. Pebble Beach masquerades as a car show, but what you’re really there to see is the most expensive traffic jam of your life.
Nominally, Pebble Beach focuses on a few small car events. There’s the main event, the judged Concours d’Elegance. There’s the wonderful vintage car races at Laguna Seca. There are also various car auctions and tertiary shows to fill up everyone’s weekly schedule. We detailed most of this in our guide of how to heist the place.
But beyond these events themselves, Pebble Beach has grown stuffed. Stuffed with manufacturer booths and media trips. Stuffed with branded lifestyle events. Stuffed with the rich and those who wish to be adjacent to them.
And the little Monterey peninsula doesn’t have enough space for all of the money that rolls in every year for Monterey Car Week, as it’s getting hashtagged these days.
Crossing a few miles from one big event to another can take hours, just because the area’s tiny farm roads are totally jammed with vehicles.
What’s funny about Monterey Car Week is that your ordinary traffic jam isn’t just CR-Vs and Corollas. It’s highlighter Lamborghinis and vintage Ferraris.
A few minutes after that Windstar nearly blew out that 720S, our shuttle zipped past a Tucker 48 rolling up to an intersection, one of the rarest and most valuable American cars ever made, casually driving on the street. Two days later we slowly rolled through the gate at Laguna Seca for the historics, having had a Datsun 280Z tailing us the whole way, a Lamborghini Centenario in infinity pool blue screaming past us going the other way on what must have been the only clear stretch of road in a 30 mile radius.
And in Monterey itself, RM Sotheby’s sold off a $48 million Ferrari 250 GTO right in the middle of town.
The cars that filed in to the nearby parking garage to check things out were unreal.
I watched someone re-tie their shoe while resting agains the fender of a Ferrari Superfast. The old one, not the new one. The one that sells for millions, not hundreds of thousands.
One of the new ones I saw jammed in traffic ahead of a gold Aventador trying to get into the Concours. They were both late.
The problem with all of this is it makes the presentations by Pebble seem so plain and dull. It’s one thing to see a Ferrari Enzo parked on the lawn at The Quail, surrounded by F50s and F40s and 288 GTOs. It’s another thing to see it out on the street, filing past Hyundais and Hondas with Lyft beacons displayed.
The custom Rolls-Royce Phantom, white over purple, revealed at The Quail to throngs of assembled YouTubers, looked tame there. I watched it get valeted at a hotel the next night. It looked so much more exotic.
I saw a Pontiac GTO Judge convertible waiting at a light. “I used to love Ponchos,” I gushed to the owner. “If I ever saw a Ram Air IV. [the ultra-rare high-power package from the peak of the muscle car era], I’d die” The owner laughed, and pointed to the hood. “Well. Bang.”
It was strange. All of my fantasies were laid out before me. A Mazda MPV was parked next to a Citroën DS Safari wagon. Like an alternate universe was trying to break through to ours, where all cars were transmuted into their most desirable equivalent.
The whole area was a constant parade of the nicest cars you can possibly imagine, waiting in line like everyone else. It was like a tribute to the punishments of wealth; you will have the car of your dreams, and you will jam together with so many of your fellow rich car nerds that you won’t get over 15 mph.
It’s a blessing modern Italian supercars don’t overheat in traffic like they used to. The whole peninsula could have burned down.