If you have never experienced the spectacle that is Pebble Beach, where some of the rarest and most valuable cars on earth come together to be judged on beauty and orginality, there’s still time to hop on a plane, says Chris Bucknall
The motoring event calendar is becoming increasingly overcrowded. Which is splendid if you have the time to flit from Retromobile to Villa d’Este to the Mille Miglia to the Festival of Speed to Salon Privé to the Concours of Elegance. But for the rest of us who must toil for our daily bread, some choices clearly need to be made. The Goodwood Revival is a firm date in many diaries, but if you’ve never experienced the Monterey Car Week, then catch a flight to California and immerse yourself in the world’s greatest week-long celebration of all things automotive.
Every year around 400,000 car fans descend on the otherwise sleepy Monterey Peninsular, a couple of hours south of San Francisco. Each day there are plenty of events to take in, from muscle car rallies to celebrity-stuffed car launches, high-end car auctions to street shows. And because this is California, the weather is (almost) always perfect.
The week kicks off with Gordon McCall’s charity fund-raising party at the Monterey Jet Centre, where those who wish to see and be seen float about between vintage aircraft and priceless classic cars to the pops and cracks of champagne corks and lobster claws. Auctions abound during the week, and the previews are an opportunity to gossip about the market and to see some top-drawer machinery up close and personal. This year’s auction highlights will include a Ferrari 250 Tour de France at Bonhams and a works Jaguar C-Type (with an estimate of $9m – $12m, pictured below) at RM Sotheby’s.
The Quail Lodge Motorsports Gathering in the stunning Carmel Valley is a visual feast, with a huge array of historic race cars and classics set out on the pristine Quail Lodge Golf Club. There is something uniquely American about Quail and the other top-drawer events during the week. They do it with great style and flair but in a refreshingly unstuffy manner. (It’s worth bearing in mind though that if you find some of your fellow guests somewhat expressionless, it isn’t necessarily because they’re not enjoying your company, or can’t understand your cute accent. It is more likely because their plastic surgery is a little tight.)
The climax of the week is the Pebble Beach Concours, where some of the rarest and most valuable cars from around the world (which, like many of their owners, are so excessively preened and polished they look almost unreal) come to be judged on beauty and originality. Pebble is the pinnacle of concours events, and here the great and the good of the international classic car world come to show off their work, meet new clients and (God forbid), flog a used car or two.
The Monterey Car Week wraps up with the fabulous Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca, best described as America’s answer to the Goodwood Revival. You won’t find any period costumes here, just good ole American race fans with coolers full of Bud, and a paddock stuffed with spectacular classic race cars from the US and Europe. While the racing is somewhat less frenetic than at Goodwood, like the rest of the Monterey Car Week, it’s a uniquely American experience that should be on every self-respecting car-lovers’ bucket list.