Come mid-August, more than 50,000 passionate automobile lovers from around the globe will be in northern California for the world’s largest gathering of rate, beautiful, and premier cars: the 66th Annual Concours d’Elegance and Pebble Beach Automotive Week. These are among those rarified auto events that attract the crème de la crème of the auto world—from race car connoisseurs to vintage car collectors—for a mesmerizing week of fast races, parading tours, collector talks, designer forums, exclusive dinners, and extravagant parties.
For six days each year, the upscale golf community of Pebble Beach Resorts, is transformed into the center of the motoring universe with festivities that begin this year on Tuesday, August 16, and end on Sunday, August 21, with the Concours d’Elegance, a swoon of a show car competition that is the culmination of the week. To ensure that you don’t miss a moment of the events, we’ve put together a guide to the must-see rare automobiles, the hautest soirées, and the most thrilling auctions. Get ready to shift into high gear because here is everything you need to know about the coveted affair.
The Concours d’Elegance, an experience the Wall Street Journal calls “the world’s best annual display of historic and beautiful cars,” has a long history, beginning in 1950 as a partner event to the Pebble Beach Road Races. The first competition consisted of 31 entries exhibited in three classes: prewar cars, postwar cars, and MG cars. Today, the concours has 220 entries in over 25 classes, including antique, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari competition, and postwar sports racing. In 1956, when one of the race drivers hit a tree and was fatally wounded, the road races came to a sudden halt. To make the event safer, the race’s executives wrote to the U.S. military petitioning for land to build a track on Fort Ord, then a U.S. Army base. Thus, Laguna Seca, one of the West Coast’s premiere racetracks was born.
For several years, the Concours and the Laguna Seca races continued to take place during the same week, but over time the focus of the Concours shifted to collector cars rather than new cars. Meanwhile, the track went on to offer a full calendar of new car races. In 1974, to coincide with the Concours, Laguna Seca decided to offer historic races in addition to its new car races. Other events didn’t join the party until the 1990s. Those have greatly increased in number and gravity over the past dozen years, so much that the Laguna Seca raceway now hosts the annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion in collaboration with the Concours.
At the reunion, 550 race cars—accepted into the race based on period correctness and authenticity—are invited to compete over four days of racing. This August, like the Concours, the reunion’s featured automobile marque is BMW, which this year celebrates its centenary.
During Pebble Beach Car Week, the world’s top automakers debut their latest concept cars. Among the cars on display this year are new offerings from Cadillac, Ford, Infiniti, Lamborghini, and Mercedes. Buick Avenir Flagship Sedan, the Hyundai HCD 16 Coupe, the Infiniti Q60, the McLaren 570s, and the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider are a few that have debuted elsewhere but are equally compelling. The annual car extravaganza is a charity event that has raised more than $21 million for local nonprofits. Money raised at this year’s show will go to the Pebble Beach Company Foundation, a blanket fund that supports 100-plus local organizations, including United Way Monterey County, Boys & Girls Clubs, Kinship Center, and Animal Friends Rescue Project. The foundation also provides grants and scholarships to students of the automotive arts.
Each year, different cars are featured. This year, not only will 100 years of BMW cars and motorcycles be on display, but the festival is also showing history-making mid-century Ford GT40s, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the cars’ remarkable victory at Le Mans. In the late 1960s, Henry Ford II set out to beat the Ferrari family with an American car that could win the famed 24-hour endurance race. It took several prototypes and many years, but finally in 1966, the GT40 took first, second, and third place at the race. It then won the following three years in a row. All four actual winning cars in those races will be at the Concours, with several of the drivers taking part in the Classic Car Forum. This public forum, to be held in the Fairway Patio Pavilion at The Inn at Spanish Bay, is a series of discussions that engage industry luminaries, car historians, and legendary drivers. Topics will range from the evolution of racing at Indy with Bobby Rahal to life in the pits with Stirling Moss and secrets of car valuation with Jay Leno and Donald Osborne. Other car classes in the spotlight include Delahaye, Chapron Coachwork, Bizzarrini, Lamborghini Miura, and the makers of 1930s two-man Indy race cars. For each class, expert judges in that type of vehicle will be in attendance to rate the submissions. For example, a team of Delahaye authorities will grade the Delahaye entries.
WHAT NOT TO MISS
The annual Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, a classic car caravan that kicks off the Concours festivities in Seattle on Monday, August 8, will give the public a rare glimpse of distinguished automobiles in superb driving condition. Only 30 elegant, road-worthy cars are selected to participate in the 1,500-mile motorcade that crosses the Cascades before cruising along the Pacific coastline on its way to the Concours in Monterey. There, a crowd of cheering fans will meet the cars at The Lodge at Pebble Beach on Wednesday, August 17. Also not to be missed: Thursday’s Tour d’Elegance. Many of the cars competing on Sunday will also take part in the tour and for good reason. A car’s performance in the tour is often the tiebreaker when judges decide between two vehicles at the Concours. The tour starts on 17-Mile Drive, winds its way through the Del Monte Forest in Pebble Beach, then meanders along the Southern Coast Range, and dips down to Big Sur before turning around. The tour starts at 8 a.m. and from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., when the drivers go to lunch, the majority of participating cars park on Ocean Avenue in Carmel. This pause in the tour is a wonderful opportunity for automobile aficionados to check out the parked cars without being surrounded by Sunday’s crowds. The tour concludes at 3 p.m. with the vehicles returning to The Lodge at Pebble Beach.
Also on the must-see list is RetroAuto, a marketplace of carefully curated, hard-to-find auto-related goods that is a car lover’s dream. From Thursday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., shoppers will be able to sift through rare collectibles, luxury goods, vintage memorabilia, and the latest tech tools to enhance the driving experience. RetroAuto goods will be displayed in the ballrooms of The Inn at Spanish Bay.
WHAT TO BID ON
Car collectors in the market for new toys will want to participate in the Pebble Beach Auctions presented by Gooding & Company. Among the cars up for bid: a gorgeous 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, a silver 1935 Auburn 851 Speedster, a red 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV, and a white 1914 Marmon 41 Speedster. The cars will be on display at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center from Wednesday, August 17, to Sunday, August 21, with auctions on Saturday, August 20, at 5 p.m. and on Sunday, August 21, at 6 p.m.
At The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering on Friday, August 19, enthusiasts will wander the rolling greens of the Quail Lodge and Golf Club, which will be covered with rare collections of fine automobiles and motorcycles. The 19th-annual Bonhams Auction takes place at The Quail; vehicles to be sold there include a 1949 Alfa Romeo Platé Special with a white 58 painted on the driver’s door, a 1964 Bill Thomas Race Car Cheetah GT Coupe—one of only 11 known examples produced—and a 1934 Alvis Speed 20 SB four-seat Sports Tourer Coachwork by Cross & Ellis.
RM Sotheby’s, Mecum Auctions, and Rick Cole Auctions will also be holding auctions throughout the long weekend, offering everything from exotic European cars to “best-of-category” sports cars to Corvettes and Resto Mods.
WHERE TO STAY
The Lodge at Pebble Beach is the official host and accommodation partner of the Concours, which makes perfect sense given that the main event takes place on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. The Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero are also affiliated with the car week and will stage related parties and events. When staying at any of these three resorts, visitors will have exclusive access to the private Beach & Tennis Club, so lounging poolside along the breathtaking Stillwater Cove can also be on the agenda. To ensure you don’t miss any of the festivities, we recommend staying at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, where stylish rooms have fireplaces and patios with views of the ocean-side course or flowering gardens. If you want to mix a little R&R with the go-go of your weekend, consider Casa Palmero, a Mediterranean-style estate with romantic, quiet, and intimate rooms in a cozy, homelike setting. The Inn at Spanish Bay offers sumptuous suites, boutiques for shopping, and even a wine cellar where tastings are encouraged and enjoyed on a daily basis.