An Insider's Look at How Best to Enjoy the Big Show
Pebble Beach. If you like cars, those words should send tingly signals down your spine. If you love cars, then you’ve already booked your plane ticket and hotel. I’ve been to a good chunk of the major car events around the globe, and I can tell you that with the exception of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, nothing holds a candle to Pebble Beach Car Week.
As with any weeklong event, it’s hard to know exactly where to be and when to be there. In order to maximize your fun and enjoyment—should you choose to go—I’ve put together what I consider to be the 11 essential PBCW activities. Or at least 11 activities I plan on attending this year. How do I know they’re any good? After nine years in a row, you tend to learn a thing or two. Final caveat: should you only make it to a single one of these events, you’ll still be bathed in pure car guy/gal goodness. Ready? Read on.
Most people consider this the official Pebble Beach Car Week kickoff event. Truth be told, it takes place Wednesday evening, a day before everything else begins. McCall’s is stuffed with cars, and because it takes place at the Monterey Jet Center, there are airplanes, too. My fondest memory is from a few years back when the oldest Bentley in existence drove onto the tarmac. A great start to great week.
It’s a bit of a “pinch me, I’m dreaming” event, even if you’re only watching from the sidelines. Long story short, the amazing cars that will be on the Concours lawn on Sunday, spend Thursday morning driving down a 17-mile (27-km) drive and then down California’s glorious Pacific Coast Highway before stopping for lunch in downtown Carmel. Best of all, this event is totally free. The only tricky part is deciding where exactly to stand and watch. My advice? Get as close to Bixby Creek Bridge as possible. You want to see these beauties in motion.
The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering
A fantastic event, the Quail is focused on sports cars. Really terrific ones, at that. You’re just as likely to see a perfectly patina’d barn find Porsche 356 as you are to see 25 Lamborghini Miuras. Yes, 25. Usually something like seven Bugati Veyrons. as well. Amazing race cars, too. Oh yeah, the carmakers themselves have discovered how great the Quail is and have started having new cars make their at the party. Last year Lamborghini showed off the $2 million+ USD Centenario Roadster. Now, I need to warn you that tickets to the Quail cost $600 USD a pop. But hey, in addition to the groovy cars, you get all the oysters and caviar you can eat, plus all the champagne you can drink. One of my top three events, for sure.
The Quail Parking Lot
OK, so you don’t have $600 USD to spend on a ticket. No worries. Because the people who do have the scratch to drop $600 USD on a ticket to a car show tend to drive amazing cars. And, there ain’t nothing stopping you from checking ‘em out. It really ought to be an official event. Last year I saw a Ferrari LaFerrari parked next to Citroën SM parked next to a Shelby Cobra 289. Think I’m kidding? The Quail parking lot has gained such a reputation for WOW automobiles that this year marks the Inaugural Car Park d’Quailegance award. Yes, they will be handing out an award for the best car in the parking lot! Be warned: just like the actual Quail, getting in and out is a traffic-clogged nightmare. Also, the parking lot has moved down the hill a bit to save wear and tear on the links. Regardless, plan your escape!
Shown above is an image from our 2015 feature, The Incredible Cars of Pebble Beach Parking Lots. Check out the full story here.
Have you ever wanted to see a $50 million USD Ferrari 250 GTO go door to door with a $25 million USD Aston Martin DBR1? Better get yourself to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for two days of the most eye-popping, jaw-dropping classic car racing there is. I’ll never forget the first time I went and heard the Trans-Am cars roar past me into turn four. I can still feel the noise! Then, just a few laps later I witnessed a Bugatti Type 35 show its nose to a Delahaye 145 GP. It was crazy and wonderful at the same time. The only tricky part is figuring out what corner to watch from. Pro tip: everyone’s already at the Corkscrew. A must-attend event.
True, there are several German-themed car events happening during Car Week—such as Legends of the Autobahn—but I just think the Italian event is more fun. I also think Italians are more fun than Germans in general, but that’s a different story. Yes, viewing the 30th red Ferrari 308 GTS in a row can get tiresome, but Panteras, vintage Maseratis, and oddball Lamborginis (Jalpa, anyone?) never do. Like the Quail, this is another event with a parking lot that’s worth looking into.
This is the antidote to all the inherent pretension that goes along with thousands of million dollar cars. Will the Yugo beat out the Valiant? Will the Peugeot start? All I no is that several years ago I entered a $300,000 USD Bentley Mulsanne in the Rueful Britannia category and wound up taking Second Worst in Show to a Pontiac Aztek complete with the pop-out tent. I’ve missed the last couple of years due to scheduling conflicts, but this year I’m a judge, so I simply have to attend. You should, too.
The Fire Pits at Spanish Bay
This is as close as you can come to respite during Car Week. It’s not the center of the action the way The Lodge at Pebble Beach is. Instead, Spanish Bay is where you come to just chill out. Not only is it just a quick car ride from the Lodge, but I’ve also bumped into both Michael Strahan and Jerry Seinfeld at the rather legendary valet lot. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy listening to distant bagpipes as the sun sets into the Pacific while you enjoy a great cigar and some fine drinks? Plus, you never know whom you will run into. Last year my two buddies and I ran into Jochen Mass, who immediately began telling us the kind of James Hunt stories I can’t print here. Sometimes, remembering to breathe is key.
Gooding & Company: The Pebble Beach Auctions
True, there are several other auctions that take place during Pebble Beach Car Week. However, I’ve long only attended the Gooding & Company auctions for a variety of reasons. They just seem more fun, especially with Charlie Ross as auctioneer. As fate would have it, I just got to ride around in a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB with none other than David Gooding, so now I really like Gooding & Company. Honestly, all the auctions are great because what’s more fun than watching a bunch of rich folks tossing crazy sums of money at fabulous cars? Very little.
Starting at around 5:45 Sunday morning, all the cars that will be featured in the Concours d’Elegance begin rolling onto the lawn. Seeing some of the greatest cars the world has ever seen in motion is enticement enough, but if you get there early enough you might get a free hat. Or even part of a donut. Truth be told, I’ve done Dawn Patrol once. That’s plenty for me.
The reason why. For my money, nothing even comes close to Car Week’s big event, the Concours d’Elegance. Two hundred and fifty or so of the most important, historic, lovely, and best-curated cars on Earth are just sitting there, waiting for you to check them out. The scope of the Lawn is too much to adequately explain in this piece, but I implore you to make the pilgrimage. Put it like this: one year they had 12 of the 16 Jaguar XKSSs on display. No, really. If you’re a car guy or girl, this is on your bucket list. See you there!