A Pebble Beach preview

A Pebble Beach preview

Monterey car week starts on 16 August. Here's a taste of what to expect, including an exclusive gallery

Words: Jason Barlow Photography: George Saitas

The car world’s centre of gravity tilts firmly to the US west coast in mid-August. The highlight, as ever, is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, host to 200 of the world’s finest historic cars on the 18th fairway of area’s celebrated golf course, and pored over by a jury of experts to determine the very best of the best.


Last year’s overall winner and best-in-show was the unimpeachably cool Ferrari 375 MM, originally commissioned by the film director Roberto Rossellini for his then wife, film star Ingrid Bergman, now restored and enjoyed by car collecting royalty and leading Ferrarista, Jon Shirley.


More recently, however, the peninsula from the picturesque fishing town of Monterey south to Carmel and the stunning vistas of Big Sur has become a car-lover’s paradise for the entire week. Highlights include the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance on 18 August, during which the stars of Sunday’s concours travel – sedately – along the prestigious 17-mile Drive and onto Highway One.


The intention is to demonstrate that these cars, for all their enormous historical significance, are more than just gilded show ponies.

On the Friday, everyone’s attention turns to The Quail Lodge in Carmel, venue for the now traditional Motorsports Gathering (it’s into its 14th year). Featured themes this year include Rivalries of the Ages, Supercars, and The Great Ferraris. It’s also a great place to spot some of the great names in design and motorsport; The Quail is something of an industry who’s who.


Saturday offers the contrasting pleasures of the Concorso Italiano, which needs no further introduction (it’s held at the Black Horse Golf Course), and the Concours d’Lemons, which definitely does require further explanation… Suffice to say, this is an extremely enjoyable antidote to the automotive pulchritude seen elsewhere.


There’s also a dedicated Ferrari gathering planned at The Barnyard in downtown Carmel on the Saturday afternoon. Motor racing fans should head to the nearby Laguna Seca circuit for a variety of historic motor racing. Even a wander through the paddock here is a pretty compelling experience.


Diehard car fans are advised to rise early for Pebble Beach’s famous “dawn patrol”, when visitors can get unfettered access to the cars on the fairway, before the crowds descend.


Finally, parallel to this list of shows are the many auctions held during the week. Six major auctions are planned, with big players like Mecum, Gooding & Company and RM Sotheby’s all in town. The latter has no fewer than 21 Ferraris among its lots, including a magnificent Fantuzzi-bodied 268 SP, the third of only six ever made, and a Ferrari with a wonderful racing provenance.


Or perhaps the prospect of bidding on a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider in the US state it was originally designed to conquer is more your thing. On the other hand, you might just enjoy the theatre and atmosphere of one of the year’s unmissable automotive events…

Finally, some quick survivor’s tips:


  • Get there good and early to grab the best parking slot, best seating and, crucially, the best view
  • Protect yourself against the sun, which takes no prisoners this time of year. Sunscreen is a must, a parasol a wise accessory
  • Dress the part and, if you have some 1920s-style attire in your wardrobe, all the better
  • Which includes hats. Of course
  • Do take advantage of the local vintners’ celebrated produce
  • And, finally, remember a back-up charger for your phone. All those photos quickly drain batteries