For about a week every year, Monterey, California is the Mecca of rare collectible cars. The string of events will start this year, 2008, in two days, August 14th. This Thursday and Friday, they have the Concorso Italiano, which is a “celebration of Italian style”, mostly Italian cars. Saturday, they have the Monterey Historic Races, which is a loosely competitive race with all manner of historic vehicles from different years and different engine displacements all driven by their wealthy owners. And on Sunday, the big one, they have the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Kentucky Derby of car shows. That’s an expensive weekend.
This event is so saturated with money that a series of auto auctions have sprung up to take part in the feeding frenzy. Bonhams & Butterfields will be putting up three cars for auction, a 1960 Jaguar racer, thought to possibly fetch more than $7 million; a 1939 Talbot-Lago that may bring $4 million; and a 1967 Ferrari estimated to sell for between $3 million and $4 million. That’s fifteen million dollars for 3 cars, plus all the other auctions, plus the big three events. Very heavy weekend.
The Concours d’Elegance is sort of a competition, since there is a #1 spot, Best in Show, and that’s what everyone shoots for. But with all the side awards, almost half of the participants win.
There will be 175 different cars, more than $100 million dollars worth of the world’s finest, rarest and most collectible cars all sitting on the links at Pebble Beach. They have 24 different classes, each with not just one winner, but 3 top places. So out of 175 entries, you have 72 coming away from the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance with some sort of award or medal that, no doubt, costs more than my car. Add the best in show, that makes 73. It really is a hell of an event they have out there. Ain’t no party like a west coast party.
It is more about admiring the cars than it is about the competition. But the Pebble Beach Concours isn’t your local car show. They say it’s a celebration of cars, and it does have some of the finest vehicles in existence today, but more than that, this event is a celebration of wealth. Just like the Kentucky Derby, it’s an outing for the ultra-wealthy. Women will wear flowered hats and the men will wear pastel colored vests and jackets and sharp fedoras. There will be a few celebrities, but for the most part, celebrities aren’t rich enough to mingle with these people. They are the very top, the old money of the world. Castle owners, network owners, people with vaguely familiar last names that have an air of importance. Bettencourt, Chambers, Redstone, Goodfellow.
I could easily say this is just a bunch of fancy old money freaks setting up an expensive event to fawn over each others collections, to gauge the worth of their peers by seeing how much they can spend on the restoration of a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Speedster. It’s easy to dismiss things like that, but that dismissal would be fueled by envy; it looks like serious fun. And I don’t know the event, I’ve never been there. Their world is so far from anything that I know and understand as to be almost like Disneyland to me, and all the rich people dressed in their hats are like the Disney characters, prancing around and getting their pictures taken and signing autographs. So I need to go there, I need to understand those people.
So I’m vowing right now that by this time next year, I will be in Monterey, California, attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
August 2009, the countdown begins.