For as long as I can possibly remember I’ve had an innate love for beauty. Beauty comes to us in many forms, both physical and the more esoteric. I’ve often thought of how lucky I am to have this appreciation in my life. I have an experiential physical reaction to beauty. I don’t just see it, I feel it. It’s inside of me and I experience it at many levels and with varying degrees of feelings. Maybe this is odd to the reader, but I don’t know any other way to be, and I’m glad for it!
These strong feelings come from experiencing moments in time in what I am physically doing, to seeing, to touching. It could be something in nature; a sunset, a fish at 60 feet under the ocean, a flower, a sunrise. It could be something that is going to become something else with design like the cloth for a garment yet to be made, a buckle that will be part of a new belt design, the design of the sole of a shoe. Lastly it could be something that has been already made, a beautiful house, a fantastic vintage watch, or a magnificent car.
I’ve had a love of cars for a very long time. I even proclaimed as a child, “If I can’t have a Ferrari by the time I’m 30 I’m going to kill myself.” Well, 30 has come and gone some time ago and yet, I don’t have a Ferrari. However, my love has never diminished nor has my need for that car now that I can afford to have one.
A lot of people whom I’ve met over the years could care less about cars. But for me, especially when it comes to vintage cars, that would be like saying, who cares about paintings, or photography, or sculptures, or anything else manmade that takes on a shape of beauty. For me cars are no different, except for one very, very important difference… they are what I call “functional art.”
Like a beautiful house, a fantastic vintage watch, a magnificent car not only is wonderful to look at, but serves a function and purpose in one’s life. It was made to enhance one’s life. In addition, it is something worthwhile to preserve and respect as it tells a story, and from the dawn of man stories have been how we communicate as a culture. To this end, cars speak to me.
Thus, for my love of all that is beautiful I have just completed my annual pilgrimage to the dare I say, the holy mecca of car collecting and appreciation that is known as the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance week. This was my 6th consecutive yearly trip, my 7th trip in total which by many, many standards still makes me a bit of a newbie as event is in it’s 66th year. Yet, I would also dare say I’m in the smaller percentage of people who long for next year, the day it ends. I suffer from what I’ve coined as PCD or Post Concours Depression. Haha
It simply never fails to disappoint. Carmel is gorgeous, the events are better, the car makers engage their audience closer, and the people, ok the people are still not all quite as chic as I think they should be, but I’ll leave my criticism and judgement regarding that for another article. However, note to all other attendees past, present and future, the clothes you wear to the beach, to clean your garage, to do gardening etc you should not wear to Concours week. Haha I’ll leave that at that, this is all about the joys of Pebble Beach Concours week and I will go back to my happy place now……
This year I spent most of my time with an architect/developer friend who is an avid collector of both vintage and new super cars. The only thing better than being in Carmel and going from event to event, private party to private party, is being with someone that is even more knowledgeable and connected than yourself who you truly respect and enjoy being with. That is not to discourage those of you that don’t, it’s just to remind myself that my life doesn’t suck!
My typical routine is to drive up Wednesday and drive back on the following Monday. This gives me 4 full days without the 5 hour drive up and back to Los Angeles where I’m born and raised.
- Wednesday evening every year is the McCall’s Motorworks Rivival at the Monterey Jet Center. This year was it’s 25th anniversary. Many consider this the kick off event for the entire week. It’s not the very first event of the week, however as a rule it’s the first event I’m always going to attend and this year was no different. At the Jet Center event there is a display of both new and collectible cars. In addition, both vintage and new aircraft are on display so the event is definitely unique in that respect to all others during the week.
- Thursday this year I walked Ocean Avenue to look at the cars that finished their drive as part of the competition for the big Sunday Concours event. It’s normally considered an advantage for a car that is competing on Sunday to participate in the Tour d’Elegance and show that the car is not just a Garage Queen, but rather a car that is in good working order and can endure a drive longer than from show trailer to display and back into the garage .
Afterwards I went to the “Bentley House” and test drove the new Flying Spur V-8 S. Many of the leading car companies will rent entire houses and host current and prospective clients. This is includes test drives, the opportunity to do a custom build, and very often excellent food and drinks.
- Friday I went to the “Quail” aka The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. Many consider The Quail, in it’s 15th year, to be the best event of the week as tickets are sold in limited numbers and everything is all inclusive. I can’t say that I can argue that point as the lack of crowds is a pleasant respite to what are otherwise overly crowded events.
In the evening I attended a very nice party hosted by Rolls Royce at their House which was right on the water. It was a fantastic setting and very suited to such a marque brand.
- Saturday morning I headed off to the Concorso Italiano. The Concorso Italiano is all about the love of Italian cars. As with fashion, the Italians clearly have a way with cars! If you love Italian cars, you will love Concorso Italiano.
Afterwards, as is my usual program, I walked the paddock at Laguna Seca to see all the vintage racing cars at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. The paddock, along with the vintage races held at the track for 3 days, is a great opportunity to see cars that otherwise you will never see competing as they did many years ago. I’ve met quite a few people that only go to the races. For them it’s all about the cars that race, they don’t want anything to do with show cars. They want the hear the deafening roar of the engines, while having the hot sun pounding down on them along with the smell of exhaust and gasoline in the air. It’s definitely raw and visceral at the track and if you’ve never experienced it I do suggest you do it, at least once to see if it’s for you.
Saturday night I attended an event hosted by Bugatti to celebrate and entice perspective clients for the new Bugatti Chiron. I was not crazy for the previous Bugatti, but the new one is quite appealing. That’s the thing about the week at Pebble, it gets you to contemplate a 3 million dollar car! haha
The last event of the night, at least for me, was the annual Bentley Signature Party held at The Beach & Tennis Club.
There is an annual party hosted by Pagani on the Saturday night that I keep missing, however it never fails to keep those who attend out very late so I may have to make a point of seeing what that is about next year! Insert your own assumptions now. 🙂
- Sunday, thankfully at the encouragement of my friend, I went on my first “dawn patrol”. I left the hotel at 6 am to watch the cars as they rolled onto the seaside lawn and set up for the day. We walked the field several times during the day taking everything in along with my dividing time at the Porsche and Ferrari hospitality suites. Being in the suites is a great respite during an otherwise very long day and a very welcomed opportunity to spend time with friends and to meet new enthusiasts you would otherwise never have the opportunity to meet.
There were quite a few highlights of this year’s show, but for me the stand out was seeing the collection of the Ford GT 40s. This is the 50th anniversary of the car and I’ve really never been exposed to them as I was this year. They were originally purpose built race cars and this gathering was the largest since they originally raced 50 years ago. Very impressive to say the least.
In the evening I watched the auctions live at Gooding and Company. There is something thrilling about watching collectible cars being auctioned at prices that range anywhere from $27,500 to literally 10s of millions of dollars. Yes, I saw a 1963 Ferrari 250 SWB not meet it’s reserve when it fell just short of the pre auction estimate of 10 to 12 million. That car was amazing! But, before you feel too bad, there was 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione, think Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, that sold for $18,150,000.
If you’ve never been to all that is the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance week and my article is making you want to go here are 4 caveats that you will want to consider.
- All parties are by invitation only and closed list.
- Network, network, network to be invited or go with others who are invited.
- All ticketed events, cost, cost, cost. The most expensive being The Quail which is purchased only by lottery selection many months in advance and this year’s price was $600 per person.
- If you plan to go to everything I went to this year budget $1,700 +/- per person.
- Motel 6 rents rooms for $500 a night. That is not a joke, they actually get as much as $500 or more a night for awful rooms in adjacent Monterey and Carmel.
- Book as early as possible, 1 year in advance ideally. All hotels and motels give preference to returning clients.
- There are hordes and hordes of people that make getting around very difficult and/or claustrophobic at times.
- It is what it is. Patience is a must during Concours week.
However, if and only if, beauty in it’s many forms is like oxygen for your soul I recommend you persevere and go. Otherwise, please live vicariously through me and my love for this annual trip that I’m so crazy passionate about making year after year after year now and in the future!
Ian Stewart Daniels