We all love ourselves some classic car meets. Or at least I expect you do if you're spending time on this site. But with so many car shows happening across the country each year, featuring all types of cars, it is a bit surprising that one event can be such a mainstay of the culture. When it comes to classic cars, I think most would agree there is one event that stands out in particular - the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, held each year in Pebble Beach, California.
In August of each year, the small coastal town of Pebble Beach becomes, in their own words, “the center of the motoring universe.” What’s happening is the town’s Pebble Beach Automotive Week, the centerpiece of which is the Concours d’Elegance.
The 2021 Concours d’Elegance show will be the 70th show, given problems in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It runs for much of the day, from 10:30am to 5:00pm and in 2021 will be held on Sunday, August 15. While many also come to see the debuts of concept cars and other upcoming models, the vast majority know that the highlight of the event is the gathering of the extraordinary classic collector models.
The classic car show involves a key gathering on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. The cars meeting here are frequently valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sometimes even more. The goal of the participants? To be named “Best of Show.” This is ultimate award in Pebble Beach, and is awarded based on the following criteria as assessed by experts:
- Elegance --- the clue is in the name!
- Technical Merit
Judges also get the chance to award other cars with ribbons based on their own subjective judgement rather than any standard criteria. The event is very well attended by around 15,000 spectators each year, including a number of celebrities and the glitzy well-to-do of Tinsel Town who travel north to see the show.
What Draws People In?
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is focused heavily on the classic cars, and that is always pushed as the biggest attraction. The question is, what is the pull of this kind of classic car event? Or even of classic cars in general? In the next part of today’s piece, we will endeavor to find out and explain.
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1. The Prestige
If you really just want to go to a show packed with all kinds of cars, you’d like go to a much bigger auto show like the one in Chicago. Possibly the biggest factor is the sheer prestige of the cars in question. These are unique examples of craftsmanship and style; a far cry from the mass-produced motors that are manufactured for widespread consumption today.
It’s not to say there aren’t fantastic modern cars, because there are. In fact, modern cars are superior to these classic cars in virtually every way --- technology, drive quality, handling, braking, torque, horsepower and more --- except for one: collectability. There’s an air of mystique about classic cars, perhaps because they’re more unattainable. The ones that exist are the only ones that will ever exist, save for the odd restoration project by a very enthusiastic amateur.
2. The Locale
Though still quite far from the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles or the urban heights of San Francisco, Pebble Beach is in a highly desirable and popular spot nestled by the coast near Monterey. The stunning coastline and pristine Links of the Pebble Beach golf course provide the perfect backdrop to enjoy. What’s more, the California weather never fails to impress.
As the cypress trees blow in the ocean breeze while the parade of some of the world’s most stunning, prestigious and valuable classic cars ride the concourse in front of you, you’ll feel transported to another reality.
3. The Other Events
The Concours d’Elegance is in fact only the culmination of what is a week-long string of activities to make Pebble Beach Automotive Week. The entire thing starts with the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, an epic 1,500-mile road trip winding down the Pacific coast undertaken by the top applicants for the Concours d’Elegance.
Participants in the Motoring Classic are selected, and start their journey in early August. In 2021, they’ll set off from Kirkland, Washington on August 3, arriving in Pebble Beach on August 11. They’ll be just in time for a string of events happening on August 12.
The day after the Motoring Classic, three key events also start: The Pebble Beach Classic Car Forum, which runs until August 14, bringing together respected automotive figures to share their many insights with listening crowds. Alongside the Forum is the Pebble Beach Retroauto, a show featuring an incredible collection of rare memorabilia and other historic automotive collectibles.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s also the third event on the morning on August 12 --- The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. It’s not to be confused with the Concours on the final day, of course. The tour is a 70-mile run that serves as a preview for attendees of the cars that will attend the Concours on the final day. After the morning tour, the cars are put on display in downtown Carmel at lunchtime for all to see. It’s a nice way to see and appreciate the class of cars that makes the grade at Pebble Beach.
It’s All About the Classic Cars
At the end of the day, Pebble Beach is just a location. The Pacific coast has no shortage of locations that could serve as a base for such a classic car. It’s the event itself and the presence and stature given to the classic cars that makes this meet truly unique among America’s many car shows. For the organizers of the Concours d’Elegance, the goal is never to achieve volume. Whereas big city car shows want to bring in as many exhibits as possible, and talk about the success of the event in terms of how many cars were on show and how many people attend, it’s different at Pebble Beach.
For the Concours d’Elegance, it’s all about the quality and style of the cars. Entrants are selected ahead of time to take part, and that adds an air of exclusivity that makes the event just that little bit more special. Rather than spotting one or two gems among the sprawl of automotive construction, you instead see a perfect parade of winners.
Could such an event happen somewhere a bit less glamorous, like Boise, Idaho? Logistically, there’s no reason why not, but the pristine environment and delightful climate of California just adds that final appeal that makes this event a true great.
You can get tickets to the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance from their website, where you can also read more details on events of Pebble Beach Automotive Week.
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