Featured: Pebble Beach Isn't Just For Old Men And Big Hats

Pebble Beach Isn’t Just For Old Men And Big Hats

By Alex Sobran
August 28, 2018

Photography by Alex Sobran

You wake up to a shrill alarm, there’s not a peep from the sun. You dress in the dark, make a delirious hobble to your car, and set off without much in the way of a plan. The 4AM drive to Pebble Beach starts with caffeine and willpower and ends with some yawning parking attendants who barely grasp their immediate surroundings let alone the location of the media lot. Wondering what kind of ticket will be wedged under my wiper blade later in the day, I park near some horse stables and make my way toward the dewy greens to attend the world’s most prominent concours for the first time.

I have an idea of what to expect—a few Ferraris, a selection of art deco behemoths, some opulent outfits, maybe a race car or two if I’m lucky—and once the cars began to arrive with their golf cart chaperones (this was a very well organized affair, as you can imagine it would be with 67 years of practice), it seemed that my assumptions were correct.

Well-dressed ladies and gentlemen arranged their investments in neat rows on the neat fairway, their cars’ custodians already busy in their battle against the tiniest particles of dust that dare fall on a Testa Rossa’s pontoon fender. Folding chairs and bottles of champagne are exhumed from the trunks of cars that ran the Mille Miglia in another life, friends wander and bump into each other in this small, small world, and as usual at events like this, I feel a bit out of place but nevertheless happy to play the fly on the wall.

It was all in line with expectations, until I came to the selection of ’60s Indy cars. This was more like it, for however inarguably beautiful or historically significant “the usuals” may be, these known entities are a little less interesting to get up close to compared to a one-off Mickey Thompson-built single-seater with orange headers and 16 trumpets. Both types are incredible examples of the aesthetic and engineering possibilities inherent in the basic idea of the Car, and to have them share this space was a treat that I wasn’t expecting to brighten the otherwise grey dawn on the coast of Monterey.

Here’s how I’d sum up the event in four scenes: look one way and you’ll see some fashionable folk posing with coach-built street cars, then pivot on your heel and you might see somebody spraying carb choke into some fat stacks as his friend in the back with the starter gets doused in pure output. Both have their places, and it seems on Sunday they converged at Pebble Beach.

Besides the selection of cars (which, really, presented an amazing variety that ranged from featured marques like O.S.C.A. and Citroën to massive Cadillacs and revitalized concepts), the people are also cut from every cloth and unanimously excited to be here. Jackie Stewart, Magnus Walker, collectors who’d rather remain unnamed, Instagram kids who snuck in, dragged-along-but-smiling spouses—they’re all smiling, and how could you not? It’s a day of indulgence in every sense, a celebration of automobiles and style that’s at once hard to take seriously but impossible not to lose yourself in for a few hours.

The judges chose a David Sydorick’s 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B as Best in Show, and I’ll admit to not having a photograph of that car. If you’re concerned with who won though, you already saw the car a few minutes after the confetti cannons went off. I’m not trying to slight it, at all, but I had some other favorites on Sunday. One of those cars—surely the most popular of the day if the constant crowd around it was any indicator—was the Pininfarina-designed Ferrari Modulo concept from 1970. We’ve written about the car and its history in greater detail already, but the gist is this: SCG founder and prominent Ferrari collector Jim Glickenhaus acquired the car from the design studio, and for the first time in its life, got it moving under its own, street-legal power. And it has a bundle of it, seeing as underneath the avant garde steel bodywork there’s a 512S powertrain.

Images do it justice, but not completely. The presence the car has in person is just immense, and I struggle to think of another one besides the Stratos Zero that can maintain such a strong “in-the-wild” look to it, no matter what’s parked next to it; the Modulo is so different to everything else on the lawn that its priceless neighbors look a bit pedestrian in comparison. The cantilevered edge that defines the rectilinear shape of the car pairs with the sharp taper on the bottom half to create a dramatic shadow that gives the whole thing an air of levitation.

Another that caught my and pretty much everyone else’s attention on Sunday was this GT40. I’d seen it bombing around the peninsula all week prior to the event, and as such I’d assumed it probably wasn’t a real one. I love being wrong when it comes to stuff like this though, and it was more than just a genuine GT40. Built in 1966, it is one of only two remaining cars originally built in MkIIB spec. The final iteration of the legendary Mark II, this car also had some impressive motorsport history at the hands of Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant.

The duo and their Ford qualified fastest and were favorites to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 (remember this was the year of Ford’s Ferrari-trouncing 1-2-3 finish, so that’s saying something considering how many cars Ford entered that year), but a failed head gasket saw the GT40 retire with under seven hours left in the race. It returned the following year after a stint at Daytona, and again retired. Holman Moody, who had prepared the car for the ’67 event, put it in storage for a few years until a Japanese collector purchased the car and held onto it for a few decades. It came to the US in ’09, and its restoration was completed three years later.

The Ferrari GT and competition car section wasn’t as full as it was last year, but that was the manufacturer’s 70th anniversary so you’d expect the following year to dip a bit. This is all relative to an event that has little place in the real world though, and the group this year would easily make for a world-class standalone show if you isolated their section of the venue. I apologize if you’d rather not see some of them in black and white, but you know what color they are right?

On the lesser known Italian front was a large assembly of O.S.C.A. road and race cars, one of which, a two-time Sebring winner, we will follow up with in greater detail at a later date. The opportunity to learn more about a relatively obscure piece of history from the country that’s dominated by the history and future of Ferrari was a welcome break from the array of 250 variants, and this was representative of the event as a whole: yes, there are plenty of tableaus here ripped straight from the stereotypes, but it isn’t all Duesenbergs and droopy straw hats. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that scene, but the fact that it was augmented with so many other niches—Tuckers, O.S.C.A.s, Chapron-Citroëns, etc.—made the concours feel much more relevant, adaptable, worth coming back to. It’s no easy feat to make it feel fresh after 68 editions, but I suppose that’s why the last fairway at Pebble Beach is the last word.

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Zac Conner
Zac Conner
5 years ago

Thanks Alex, I found this to be quite a refreshing read. I feel like I’ve read the same cliche accounts of Pebble Beach over and over again, so thanks for looking at it through a different lens.

Also, I’m still gawking over your photos of that Mickey Thompson Indy Car.

5 years ago

Hey kid, get off my lawn! ;^)

Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
5 years ago

Yeah actually it does belong solely to older men and huge ostentatious hats on their trophy and/or overtly surgically enhanced wives / girlfriends / mistresses . Though I’d amend the ‘old men ‘ to Extremely Rich Old White Men : all others need not apply .

Thus has it always been . And thus ( unfortunately ) shall it forever be until the event finally becomes volitionally extinct by its own hand

5 years ago

Very nicely written article and great photos! Wish they’d do more to bring in younger generation of enthusiasts, In the end those are cars. Cars should be driven and enjoyed, not only exchange hands every few years in a way of speculative investment.

Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
5 years ago
Reply to  Shredder

Yeah well every once and awhile they do make at best a pretentious attempt at making others feel welcome such as the inclusion of hot rods etc . Problem is within a year or two the Rich Old White Men ( and their arm candy ) once again take over making all others ( even those of us of reasonable wealth and fame with stunning ex gold medal figure skater wives ) feel about as welcome as the plague in a crowded hospital ward

PS; I’ll 2nd your comment on the photos and the article even if I do find Mr Sobran’s thoughts on the subject to be somewhat pie in the sky wishful thinking