This Is Why The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance Is Better Than Any Concours
Photography by Alex Sobran
As you make your way through the sun-bleached highways and quaint towns of Monterey and Carmel on the way to your $900-a-night motel for Car Week, it’s a surety that you’ll at some point be bound up among the flow of people crawling along the routes between the various auctions and gatherings and cruises in the only traffic jam you don’t mind participating in—Ferrari 250s and McLaren P1s make for far better scenery than the plodding econoboxes of a typical rush hour—and part of the unreality of this extravagant week means that even being late to an event can turn into a the best game of in-the-wild car spotting you’ve ever played. Despite all the machinery competing for your attention at every intersection though, you may still believe in the inaccessibility of the really special stuff. Thankfully that’d be a mistake.
Vintage cars of the sort you’ll find in Monterey during Car Week operate in their old age much the same way we do: strenuous exercise is rare, the climate of preference is temperate and consistent, accidents and injuries are more dire than they once were, and most conversation inevitably steers toward some version of “the good years.” But in the same way some retirees prefer rocking chairs and recliners while others try to summit Mt. Everest, some odometers stay constant while others keep tacking on the miles.
Both types can be found at the world’s notable classic events, but there is only one place where you can see hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of concours-contesting cars in procession on a cliffside casting shadows on the surf of the Pacific Ocean. Fittingly named the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, the route begins nearby the concours venue, retraces part of the original 17-Mile Drive, heads inland for a wide loop, and then hits State Highway 1 for a drive tracing the coast before turning around and heading back up for a stop in downtown Carmel, wherein the procession is met with crowds befitting a concert more so than a car show. Getting a clear photo here required the same sort of luck that gets people pulled onstage for rock shows, but the bundles of people surrounding each car at least help to illustrate the level of fanfare, which is duly earned given the presence of Le Mans-winning cars like Phil Hill’s 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa parked on the same street as blower Bentleys, sculpted works from Italian styling dynamos Bertone and Zagato and Ghia and Touring, and one-offs rarely seen in the metal like the sexy lemon that is Jim Glickenhouse’s 1967 Dino Competizione.
I didn’t have a chance to capture all 180+ of the purported participants in this year’s Tour—too many cars isn’t a bad problem to have—but we’ll hopefully include any of your absent favorites in our upcoming coverage of the Pebble Beach Concours. And if you want to experience these cars in person next year, save yourself the ticket price and instead find a nice vantage point to see and hear and smell some of the most captivating machinery man’s ever built during this rare moment of motion, because there’s nothing quite like listening to the echoes of a retreating 330 P4 mixed with the break of waves hundreds of feet below.