The 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and accompanying festivities of the Monterey Car Week and the Quail motor sports gathering concluded Sunday after drawing the finest classic cars, ultra-luxury models and most distinctive vehicles in the world to the beautiful Monterey Peninsula of California. According to some, the events of the Monterey Car Week have been called "tailgating for America's billionaires" by none other than the nation's preeminent gearhead, Jay Leno, but it has taken years of hard work and a heady mix of automotive iron and stunning Pacific Ocean vistas to keep the world's wealthy car collectors coming back each year.
Peterson Automotive Musuem
The Peterson Automotive Museum showed this 1967 Ford GT40 Mark III at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
At this year's Concours d'Elegance, RM Auctions put 120 cars on the block, 13 of which sold for more than $1 million, fetching a total of $35 million, including a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder that sold for $8,580,000. At another Monterey area car auction over the weekend, Gooding & Company sold more than $60 million worth of cars, including another Ferrari, a 1960 250 GT LWB California Spider for $11,275,000. Gooding & Company also sold a first-edition Fiat 500 (initially valued at around $35,000) owned by Leno for $385,000 and the legendary von Krieger Special Roadster for $11.77 million.
The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is the centerpiece of a series of classic car races and auctions, cocktail parties and gatherings for enthusiasts, car shows, and debuts by the world's most rarified luxury brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin and Mercedes-Benz. Rolls-Royce, for its part, debuted two different vehicles, the 2013 Ghost and the Phantom Coupe Aviator, Cadillac teased a new concept car, and Bentley held the North American debut of the 2013 Continental GT Speed. The Concours d'Elegance and other events of the Monterey Car Week draw such high-value classic cars and luxury debuts every year by means of a very simple formula of strong personalities, an impressive environment and the momentum that years of tradition brings.
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"Pebble Beach is the most beautiful meeting of land and sea in the world," Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry Karges said Thursday. The car show and race, likewise, bring out "the most beautifully designed and built cars in the automotive world." While Pebble Beach usually plays host to golfers, once a year every August it is taken over by classic cars that are perched precariously on the perfectly manicured green lawns far above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean far below.
The Concours d'Elegance is the crown jewel of more than a week of auctions, races and parties all over the Monterey Peninsula. The Councours and Monterey Car Week have become their own annual ecosystem in the classic car world as high-value and rare vehicles cycle through private collections and auctions. "A lot of people that get to come out as a spectator, and you get to see some of this at our auction, you get to see them [classic cars] more from collection to collection," Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson said Monday.
For many, the Concours d'Elegance and Auto Week are their only opportunity to see some ultra-rare vehicles. Several years ago, Pebble Beach succeeded in gathering all six Bugatti Royales, the only time in history they have all been in one place. "It's a real feat. I don't think you'll ever see that again."
Collectors bring their cars to the Concours each year to win several coveted class and overall awards that boost the prestige, and value, of their cars. "You can count on your hands the number of collectors who have these [Concours d'Elegance winners] in their collections," Jackson said. However, many of the cars passed through restoration houses like Barrett-Jackson and the auction houses before winding up in private collections and on show at Pebble Beach. "I get to see these cars at Pebble Beach, ... I'll remember the car from the '60s," Jackson said.
The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance has been occurring annually since 1950, and the combination of ultra-rare and classic cars, racing and an incomparable automotive social scene have drawn attendees back year after year. An annual party, Gordon McCall's Motorworks Revival, at the Monterey Jet Center brings out many of the leading collectors for what Jay Leno has called "tailgating for billionaires," according to Karges.
"If you didn't have any other reason to go to Monterey, wouldn't you want one?" Karges said. The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, races and parties prove to be too much for many wealthy collectors to avoid given the plethora of hotels, lodges and gourmet restaurants that dot the peninsula. "It's a pilgrimage, literally," Karges said. Both Karges and Jackson have been attending the Concours d'Elegance for decades.