August, 2011 - I have attended the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance for several years and it is an outstanding venue and event that I would recommend to anyone. However, it is generally recognized that the world's premier Concours d'Elegance is held at Pebble Beach, California every August since 1950. The original concours has grown into a week-long celebration of the automobile called Pebble Beach Automotive Week, with numerous events held across the Monterey Peninsula.
For the past five years me, my two brothers (Greg and Dave), Greg's son Brent and my son Jayson have attended and immersed ourselves for a weekend of cars and fun. Our gathering originally started with my younger brother Dave, who suggested that it would be a great gift for his birthday. Given that the rest of us love cars and would have a great time while getting credit for a providing a birthday present, it was a no-brainer. We had such a good time that first year that we vowed to make it an annual event.
Having done this numerous times, we now have a standard approach that gives us maximum exposure to the events we want to attend while keeping costs to a reasonable level. It should be noted that the Pebble Beach/Monterey area is rather expensive anyway and the increased demand for rooms, food and drinks over the subject week means that "reasonable" is relative.
Add in the price of airfare, entry to each (and every) event and the overall cost can still get pretty steep. Monterey Peninsula Airport does have service by major airlines but we have found that it is extremely busy during this week and we have better/cheaper options using San Jose Airport, renting a van and driving the 75 miles. We meet at the San Jose Airport at around noon on Friday and we fly out of San Jose at around noon on Monday. We used to stay in Monterey (rooms at the Marriott start at around $500 per night) but have found that staying in Salinas, which is about 20 miles west, allows us to pay about half that amount with minimal impact to convenience.
There are over 20 individual events during the week (including auctions, driving/road rallies, art shows, and the concours. I will only talk about the ones we attend but you might find others more to your liking (to see a complete list go to: http://www.pebblebeachconcours.net/tools/local/secureupload/content/FileName/7c6b45fb502b0616642b785347a6b076.pdf)
Friday evening we enjoy viewing the cars for sale at any one of the six multi-day auctions held by: Gooding & Co., R&M, Bonhams & Butterfields, MidAmerica MarketPlace, Russo & Steele, and Mecum. This year, we paid $80 to get up close and personal with some amazing and rare cars at the Russo and Steele Auction in the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa on the Del Monte Golf Course. In previous years we attended other viewings and they are all spectacular. Later Friday night we relaxed with Pizza and (too much) cold beer before the long day caught up with us (my son and I had been up for almost 23 hours).
Saturday is our day at the track. Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca is the site of historic automobile races called the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion that allows fans young and old to see motor racing as it once was. For $85 (prepaid) we got to see race cars from 1911 through the 1960s, including unimpeded access to the pit and drivers. Cars are divided into 17 groups according to age and engine size and compete in 10 lap races. For me, the highlight of this year was that Jaguar was the featured marque, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar E-Type and 60th anniversary of the Jaguar C-Type's storied first win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1951.
There was an incredible display of these types plus other Jaguars that I hovered around for hours. Also, members of JCNA affiliate clubs had over 150 cars on the infield and they were allowed a display lap between races. It was totally fitting to honor Jaguar this year since its American racing roots trace back to the Monterey Peninsula. Jaguar achieved its first win on American soil in 1950 at the inaugural Pebble Beach Road Races. A 23-year-old American named Phil Hill, who months earlier accompanied his Jaguar XK120 aboard the Queen Mary, took the checkered flag, thereby capturing international accolades for both himself and Jaguar.
What a great day we had: beautiful weather, Jaguars everywhere I looked, and the sight and sound of racing. That night we had an incredible dinner at Gino's Italian Restaurant accompanied by (too much) wine, and laughter till we cried.
Sunday morning we piled into the van for the 30-mile drive to one of the many park and ride sites for the concours. Parking and pickup was at one of the four golf courses located on the famous "17 Mile Drive." Entry to the concours is $175 (prepaid) and includes parking. It is about a 15 minute ride on the bus to the Pebble Beach Golf Club and another 10 minute walk to the 18th fairway where the cars are located. The setting is incredible with 200 absolutely breathtaking cars (and motorcycles), the Pacific Ocean lining the fairway edge and the town of Carmel in the distance. Words can\rquote t describe this spectacular event that Car and Driver has named "one of the 10 automotive events to see before you die."
Pebble Beach fairly drips wealth, with an estimated $1 billion worth of automobiles gracing the lawn. Attendees like Jay Leno and Clint Eastwood are common place and they fade to the background against the spectacular cars on display. As I stood on the fairway with my brothers and our sons, a glass of wine in hand, looking over the field, I knew that life has been much better to me than I deserve. That night we had another fantastic dinner at Chef Lee\rquote s Chinese Restaurant, going through 11 different dishes and (too much) Tsing Tsao beer. I should note that Jaguar USA was all over both the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance with very nice displays at both.
Monday morning we got up early for the hour and a half drive to San Jose Airport and our individual flights home. I can't wait till next year!