Friday, November 09, 2012

SHINY PEBBLES IN THE CALI SUN...


[Somehow, my articles about Pebble Beach Week last August were all in print magazines...here's one from The Automobile, which has more of a four-wheel focus, but you get the gist...]
Leading off the week's parties; the McCall Motorworks Revival at the Monterey Jet Center has a compelling mix of aircraft, cars, and motorcycles
There’s no other word for it; surpassing all other superlatives you’re likely to hear about August’s Pebble Beach Week in Carmel, the most accurate is exhausting.  That’s no pun on the motoring focus, but is your likely feeling on Monday morning; tired, hung over, and with a mighty dent in your wallet.  What was once, many years ago, an exemplary Concours d’Elegance on a golf course overlooking Monterey Bay, has expanded to an automotive edifice, growing crenellations and turrets every year.  In the space of 6 days, one might attend 10 different shows, daily vintage races at Laguna Seca Raceway, three vintage tours, six major auctions – each taking more than one day – and countless parties large and small, from the buy-your-ticket Motorworks Revival at the Monterey Jet Center, to a dozen you’re-not-invited events at the big tents of Jaguar, Mercedes, etc.   I challenge anyone to do it all; I tried this year, and failed.
Jet Center; a Vincent Black Shadow keeps company with a Yamaha TZ750 and Ford GT40
The ‘institution’ events are well-known; the Pebble BeachConcours, the Quail Motorsports Gathering, the Monterey Historic vintage races; you, holder of this magazine, already know them.  These are the pillars of the week.  The ‘other’ events leverage the presence of thousands of vehicle-mad tourists eager to see More; more shows (German, Italian, Small Car, Novel Junque, etc), more swank parties, more Tours, more vehicles for sale.  That all these events are thriving in a ‘down’ economy indicates Carmel has not yet reached saturation, and undoubtedly, a Motorcycle-only show will soon appear, as will further ‘niche’ automotive events. 
Pebble Beach Concours; the moto-theme this year was Germany, and BMW obliged by shipping the unique R7 ....which won the motorcycle concours
A testament to the power of the big shows is their popular draw; while the Sunday Pebble Beach Concours is limited by fire dep’t order to 25,000 spectators, it’s an open secret they regularly sell twice that many tickets.  Other telling indicators are the myriad ‘what about mine?’ events during the week.   As an example, your Italian stallion – say, one of 2800 Ferrari 308s produced, and shiny as a waxed apple – will never be accepted on Pebble’s lawn, but the Concorso Italiano will be happy, for a small fee, to display it on a different golf course (right next to Laguna Seca!), in a lineup of 30 or 40 identical models.  The Concorso is the same Friday as the Quail, but you’re as likely to gain Quail entry as you are a Radiohead ticket for a small-venue concert; even at $400 a pop, the Quail sells out instantly.  The Concorso feels as uncrowded as the limited-access Quail (3000 tickets only), not due to limited attendance but by sheer acreage…the Italian show is Huge, and overwhelming numbers of Alfas, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Fiats, Ferraris, and Isos are lined up like Mussolini’s troops on parade:  colorful, noisy, celebratory, and not nearly so battle-ready as they think.
Quail Motorsports Gathering; can a guy just eat his sushi without a Cobra chuntering off to Laguna Seca?
A similar story applies to the Legends of the Autobahn show, or the Little Car show, or the fantastic Tour of LeMons, the anti-concours People’s Pebble, a meandering parade of cringe-worthy Pintos, Pacers, and Gremlins, triple-victims of questionable design, the ravages of age, and poor maintenance.  No one could fail to smile at this cheeky send-up of the richy-rich pomp and circumstance of the ‘Real’ shows, where millionaire show organizers award prizes to mill-or-billionaire car owners.  Long may the LeMons wave…it nearly disappeared this year, but sponsor Hagerty Insurance, sensing a marketing opportunity amidst all the fun, stepped in with a check and saved the day.
Pebble Beach; the 3-2-1 winners of the Moto-Concours, with a Münch Mammut, BMW R68, and the BMW R7
And for the butts of this joke?  The Quail Motorsports Gathering is doing very well, thank you, and is widely considered the best event of the week… exactly why it sells out so quickly.  With limited ticket sales, the lawn of the Quail Lodge (and where would car shows be without golf?) never feels crowded; once you’re past security (one way or another – ‘gaming the system’ is a popular sport for the brave this week), the excellent catered lunch, oysters and champagne, desserts and cocktails, are yours to indulge while listening to live Japanese jazz or a Mariachi band.  It’s a wonder more attendees aren’t falling-down drunk and bloated like bowling pins, but the Quail atmosphere is so damnably pleasant, the urge for mayhem evaporates.  The cars are, of course, spectacular; themes this year included masterpiece pre-war Alfas and the 50th anniversary of Iso Automobili, complete with a wry interview with Piero Rivolta, son of Iso founder Renzo.  Favorite quote; “The marketing department said, ‘we need something more sexy, and faster’, so we designed the Grifo.”  And so it was.
Hail Brittania!
The 800 pound gorilla of the week arrives last, and if you’re not on the actual 17-Mile Drive of Pebble Beach by 7:30am, you’ll feel the week will never end, and you’ll never see the show.  Spectators are herded into parking lots hither and yon, along the side of the road and seemingly anywhere there’s shoulder room; from there (and you’d better remember ‘where’), you’ll stand in a line to board a shuttle to another parking lot, which, as per the Banksy film, you ‘enter through the gift shop’  (the Automobilia tent), trek across a hill, through the Lodge forecourt, past the port-a-potties and, eventually, to the beachfront grass.  Where, being summer, it’s foggy and cold…although the sun emerged this year for a maddeningly brief time, and everyone sweated before the fog again ‘crept in on little cat feet’, to quote Carl Sandburg.  Automotive categories you’ll see nowhere else are the norm at Pebble, this year including a long line of pre-1948 Rolls Royces, ex-Maharajah all, equipped with shotguns, mechanical spitting swans, exhaust-pipe organs, and even Actual Maharajahs themselves, who sat serenely in their family cars, smiling for the army of iphones stealing their souls. 
The Maharajah and his daughter, the Vintagent and his sweetie
Finally, the Preservation classes at Pebble are growing in numbers and popularity, along with a creeping awareness of the historical destruction wrought by restoration-mad concorsi, whose eagerness to see their reflections in paintwork has erased any trace of the original manufacturer’s intention.  FIVA’s efforts to de-legitimize modified vehicles are problematic, but their heart is in the right place to sponsor trophies for the original-paint brigade.  Drab these birds might be, perched amidst hyperglossy supercars, but there’s no denying their charm, and spectators seemed fascinated with the myriad ways Time, destroyer of all material and corporeal things, has altered the appearance of once-shiny exotica. In their alligatored paint, surface rust, and worn leather, we must surely see our own inevitable decline; let’s tip our hats to these rare survivors. 
Shiny enough?  Nary a ripple on the bodywork of this Alfa, reflecting yet another Alfa - an 8C 2500
Quail; wandering mariachis serenading hungry revelers
Quail; taking full advantage of free cigars and wine...
Quail; super rare Crocker speedway racer
Quail; goddess style...
At the MidAmerica tent; the Triumph X-1 streamliner, with twin T110 engines, in original patina
At the Motobilia tent; a slot car track installed in the body of a 70s Camaro 
The R7; despite photographic appearance of perfection, the restoration was true to its nature as a one-off design study.  The pinstriping and metalwork have crude athenticity
Pebble; in the Preservation class, this fab old straight-8 'golf cart', complete with clubs!
Mecum auctions tried to sell in a single lot the Gary Kohs 72-MV Agusta collection, but failed
Pebble; the business office of a Miller racer
Pebble; this early Mercedes racer has and under-dash flip-down manual lap counter...

Polish your car or bike?  Here's your guy; Mr Maguiar
Pebble; Lalique hood ornament makes the Rolls Royce 'spirit of ecstasy' look positively sexless...
Jet Center; Porsche 906 sports racer with infinite stripe
Jet Center; Yamaha TZ750 looking muscular, albeit overlooked by the car-mad crowd
Susan tries out a unique 1950 VW tradesmen's Trasporter
A pair of reapers; some classic insurance companies won't cover Corvettes, as they're #1 for single vehicle fatal accidents.  Whoa, hoss.
Lotus in America
Jet Center; private jet companies show their wares 
Bizarrini and turboprop 
Bonhams; Jared Zaugg and a 1921 Mars
Bonhams; original paint 1911 Pierce 4, which sold for $120k
Bonhams; Cosworth V8 with megaphones stolen from 8 Norton Manxes...imagine the noise!
Bonhams; 1930 Windhoff
Concorso Italiano; a sea of Ferrari Daytonas 
Concorso; pocket-size super adorable Fiat ragtop
Concorso; original paint early-series Iso Grifo
B25 'Mitchell' bomber and Porsche 356C convertible
Jet Center; a trio of red and white
Jet Center; Brittany recognizes the photographer! 
Jet Center; unique VW 1950 commercial van 
The Jet Center party iphone opt-out
Pebble; Ferraris as they should be; competition
Pebble; matching outfits for lady, half-blind poodle, and Mercedes cabriolet
Pebble Beach Tour; Franklin straight-8 racer in faux-patina condition; still fantastic
Pebble; gimme an Imme!
Pebble; esteemed judges pore over a 1925 BMW R32
Supercar, supergirls
Yours truly, marring the Mars

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fotos espetaculares..
Jose DB

Anonymous said...

Lots of eye candy.
- Jim H

Anonymous said...

Seem to recognize a few notables...taking notes.
Johnathan W.

Anonymous said...

Great writeup Paul!
- Gus

Anonymous said...

heh heh... "chuntering...."
- Ted S.

Anonymous said...

Great job!
- Somer