There’s a gap in the global continuum this year. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, there are many of us anxiously awaiting 2021 and the return of our beloved car shows. The King of them all, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, is such an event. While it has been delayed until 2021, we still have an opportunity to enjoy the history and majesty of the event in retrospective.
For those readers unfamiliar with the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, it was founded in 1950 as an adjunct to the Pebble Beach Road Race, sponsored by the Sports Club of America. The 1950 and 1951 Concours were held on a practice tee and driving range adjacent to the Beach Club, a private club near the Del Monte Lodge (now known as "The Lodge at Pebble Beach"). Thirty cars were exhibited on November 4, 1950, and a smaller field of 23 on May 27, 1951. In 1952, the event was moved to the 18th green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links, between the Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Pacific Ocean, overlooking Carmel Bay. In those early days, relatively “brand new” cars were winners. In 1951, 1952 and 1954, Jaguars (XK 120’s and a Mark VII Saloon) all brought home best in show trophies.
Until this year, the Concours has continued since 1950 with only one missed year: in 1960, the show was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. In addition, heavy rain at the event in 1963 and 1965 made the lawn area unusable, and so the cars were shown at the old start/finish line of the road race, near the horse stables now known as the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center.
In 2001, the event saw an introduction of a new category for preservation cars. This category was designed to "bear witness to the passage of time”, including the now, very popular “barn car” find. In 2009, the Pebble Beach Concours included classic motorcycles for the first time under the theme of pre-1959 British Motorcycles.
2010 celebrated Jaguar’s 75th Anniversary with a phenomenal XKSS reunion. The Jaguar XKSS, one of the most iconic and coveted models was a feature marque. It was the first time (and to my knowledge the last time), that surviving Jaguar XKSS cars were all together in the same location since they departed the factory. Twelve of the 16 remaining cars were in attendance, including Steve McQueen’s, which he had affectionately dubbed, “The Green Rat.” Back in the 1950’s, McQueen paid $5,000 for the Jag and later sold it in the 60’s. Regretting the sale, he bought it back. At the time of the 2010 show, it was residing in the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Pebble’s venue itself is unmatched and surreal. Situated on the 18th hole of the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Course, early morning fog typically gives way to a warm August day with throngs of visitors making their way through the display, many of them in period costumes. Jay Leno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wayne Carini and other notable car devotees appear as celebrity judges or participants themselves. Two hundred and fifty cars from around the globe now line the field, a far cry from the original thirty!
The entire Monterey Car Week is very special for the car enthusiast. The location itself is fantastic. You can deviate from the car frenzy and head out to Big Sur along the spectacular California coastline. The Carmel Valley roads are a lot of fun (especially for those us in flat Florida). The vibe of the auctions, Laguna Seca races and Carmel shows make it a tremendous week. Even if you didn’t want to part with the cash for the Concours itself, there’s an abundance of free (or nearly free events) around. Just beware of hotels prices. Let’s look forward to putting the pandemic behind us. Here’s to a return to glory in 2021 – back to a new world of car enthusiasm!