Pebble Beach 2008: Too much of a good thing?
Film has its Cannes, art has its Venice Biennale. For the car-obsessed world, the calendar pivots around "Pebble," the cluster of events on the Monterey Peninsula in August anchored by the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races. If you haven't made plans to attend yet, my advice is, don't.
The Winner of the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Best in Show: The Duesenberg "Mormon Meteor"
Over the years the events on the peninsula have grown more crowded and more expensive, the traffic more grinding and unpleasant. The whole affair has become painfully oversubscribed, succumbing to its own hype as the ultimate celebration of the automobile -- a notion rendered entirely too ironic by sitting in traffic on Highway 68. There has been in recent years some effort to reel back this grand faloon -- tickets sales to Sunday's Concours have been limited, for example -- but every year there seems to be more auctions, more events and more people trying to squeeze onto this tiny spit of land.
Couldn't convince you, eh? You must have the car jones bad. Welcome to the club.
The key to enjoying Pebble Beach is, first, have a good hotel room in a prime location. You do not want to have to drive to and from the peninsula. Second, plan your schedule carefully. If you try to take in too many of the weekend's offerings, you'll spend most of your time sitting in your car, which is not the automotive epiphany you're hoping for. For your planning purposes, here's a rundown of the schedule.
Today: McCall’s Motorworks Revival, “A Luxury Lifestyle Event.” 6 p.m. Monterey Airport. Gordon McCall, ex-Christie's rep now with Bonhams and Butterfields, throws a very cool party at the Monterey Jet Center, with classic cars and airplanes scattered over the acreage like a rich giant's toybox (the 2007 event is pictured at right). It's by invitation only, though it is possible to crash the event if you know someone. Like McCall. www.mccallevents.com
Today-Aug. 17, The Blackhawk Exposition Sale, Peter Hay Golf Course, near the Lodge at Pebble Beach, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. The only five-day auction event, the Blackhawk is a refuge and respite during weekend. You can drop by, mill around the cars, get out of the sun. More than 85 cars will be up for auction. There is no bidding, per se. It's handled like a blind auction. My cost-is-no-object pick: a 1939 Maybach SW38 Spohn Sport Roadster (pictured at right). My real-world purchase: a 1973 Porsche 911E Coupe. Free admission. www.blackhawkcollection.com
Aug. 14: Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. An ambitious and fairly risky event for cars participating in Sunday's Concours d'Elegance, the Tour invites those cars on a 60-mile jaunt through the countryside -- 17-mile drive, downtown Carmel, and along the coast -- to wind up back at the polo fields for an exhibition at 3 p.m. This year, a special tour route for antique cars (those built prior to 1916) will trace Scenic Road to the historic Carmel Mission. Bear in mind that it has taken years to restore these (very old) cars to Concours condition. They can and do break down. While the cars get extra judging points for participating in the tour, the rules say that a car must be able to cross the platform under its own power to receive an award. I think some of the best drama of the weekend is to be found on the tour. Also, if you don't want to fight the crowds Sunday, you can simply grab a great spot along the route and see nearly every car as it drives by. Admission is free. For a route map, go to www.pebblebeachconcours.net.
Aug. 14-15: The Concorso Italiano, Marina Airport, in nearby Marina, north of Monterey Bay on Highway 1. The annual Roman orgy of Italian sports cars -- Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Bizzarini, just about anything ending in a vowel -- the Concorso Italiano has moved to a new venue at Marina Airport. Of all the events of the weekend, this is the one to take an 8-year-old to. The Concorso Gala is Aug. 14, 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m., with cocktails, live music and a fashion show around the cars. Aug. 15, 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., is the Concorso proper, with more than 2,000 cars, trucks, planes and other bella machina. Tickets available on site. $85 for the gala, $100 to $150 for the Concorso; (831) 883-8594, www.concorso.com.
Aug. 15-17: The Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway. Ever see a six-wheeled Tyrrell P34, a Reventlow Scarab Mk3, a Maserati T-61 "Birdcage" in full fight? The Historics are a place to correct this oversight in your horsepower education. Friday's schedule is mostly practice, though it's a great chance to walk the paddock and look at the cars. On Saturday, at 12:15 p.m., the Toyota Race of Legends pits former F1 and road-racing stars -- Derek Bell, Eddie Cheever, Alan Jones, Johnny Herbert, among others -- against one another in matched Scion tC coupes. This year the organizers have thrown in a current F1 ace -- Timo Glock -- to see if youth and enthusiasm can beat experience and guile. Glock will also be demonstrating a Dn Gurney-built Toyota Eagle MarkIII GTP. The next two days will be a accelerated flip-book of racing history, as cars, including Indy Roadsters (1925-1950) and IMSA GT cars (1972-1983), take to the track. Mario Andretti will be this year's guest of honor and the featured marque will be Alfa Romeo. Daily ticket prices range from $45-$65, a two-day pass is $95 and a three-day pass is $125. For more info, call (800) 327-7322 or go to www.montereyhistoric.com.
Aug. 15: The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. A light and breezy version of the Concours d'Elegance, the Quail event, on the fairway of the golf course, is one of the more enjoyable events of the weekend -- if you can get in. The thing that makes Quail special is the limited numbers of tickets, so visitors can mill around, eat the free catered food and look at the spectacular vintage cars at their leisure (2007 event pictured at right). This year the Quail will turn its spotlight on cars of the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race, including the legendary Porsche 959. Also, if you ever wondered who turned up the wick on all those wonderful Lamborghinis, the company's famous test driver, Valentino Balboni, will be on hand to sign Countachs and Diablos, if you have them. Also, manufacturing sponsors will have their cars available for test drives; Land Rover has a fun off-road course set up through the woods. Call (831) 20-8887 or go to www.quaillodgeevents.com/pages/thequail.cgi.
Aug. 15: Bonhams & Butterfield Collectors Motorcars auction at Quail Lodge, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Featuring automobilia, jewelry, watches and, of course, lots of great cars. The star of the auction is undoubtedly a Talbot-Lago T-150 CSS with Georges Pauli-designed, Marcel Pourtout-built Aerocoupe coachwork. The car could fetch in excess of $5 million. Admission by catalog only ($75 for two). Call (415) 391-4000 or go to Bonhams website.
Aug. 14-16: The Russo and Steele Sports and Muscle Car Auction at the downtown Monterey Marriott. Another chance to get a long, up-close look at the cars for free, the Russo and Steele event keeps the cars in a nearby paddock for visitors to peruse. Thursday is a preview day. The auctions begin Friday and Saturday at 5 p.m. with automobilia and then the cars go on the block around 6 p.m. Admission is with bidders paddle ($100) and admits two. Call (602) 252-2697 or go to www.russoandsteele.com.
Aug. 16-17: The Gooding & Co. sale at Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, 6 p.m. The highlight of this show will be Dr. Peter Williamson's collection of splendid Bugattis, including a rare and desirable 57SC Atalante. This is a multimillion-dollar car and is one of the vehicles that will serve as a bellweather for the collector market in the months ahead. But the Gooding auction has many splendid cars. Last year's auction topped $60 million in sales. Admission by bidders catalog ($100) admits two to the preview and auction. Call (310) 899-1960 or go to www.goodingco.com.
Sunday, Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. This year the featured marques are Lancia and Lamborghini. The event will also recognize General Motors' centennial year. $150 in advance, $175 on Sunday, includes parking and shuttle service. Call 877-693-0009 or go to www.pebblebeachconcours.net.
-- Dan Neil
Photos: Concourse d'Elegance photo by Concourse d'Elegance; Monterey Jet Center photo by MacCall Events; 1939 Maybach SW38 Spohn Sport Roadster by Blackhawk Collection; Monterey Historics photo by Kyle Burt; The Quail, a Motorsports Event by Dan Neil.