By Kristina Cilia and Rex McAfee
Imagine a 1960s Ferrari 250 GTO carefully lit in a museum, or maybe a Duesenberg parked in front of a historic estate. For some, a beautiful combination of machine and setting, yet for others, a failed attempt at capturing the true essence of an automobile. “Cars are meant to be driven” is a mantra touted by many, including classic car enthusiast Craig Davis.
In 1998, he urged the Pebble Beach Concours to add a driving event for participants in the Concours, and with the nod of co-chairmen Jules Heumann and Lorin Tryon, the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance was born. That first 50-mile route included 17-Mile Drive, Pacific Grove, Laureles Grade, Carmel Valley, and Pebble Beach. Drivers and spectators both loved it, and a new tradition was born.
Over two decades later, we arrive early on a foggy Thursday morning. Three days before the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, crowds begin lining up along the historic 17 Mile Drive near the Pebble Beach Lodge to catch a glimpse of the 150-plus Concours cars that will take a quick spin down scenic Hwy 1 to Big Sur and back.
These early morning automotive worshippers are witnessing the 24th Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. The free event showcases the elegance of these automobiles in motion and is a test of their roadworthy prowess.
This being my first “Tour,” I arrived several hours before the start. It’s cold and drizzly, and as I maneuver myself through the hundreds of spectators, my camera clicks away, capturing the Art of these historic Automobiles, all the interesting details, and the spectators that share my passion. I reach the arch at the starting line, cross the street, and sit on the edge of the roadway, being considerate not to block the view of those behind me.
With the precision of Rolex timing, the Tour kicks off at precisely 9:00 am. Drivers and passengers wave to the throngs of people who have come to watch. As I capture the excitement, I’m listening to the elderly gentleman behind me narrate the Tour calling out every single masterpiece that rounds the corner: Porsche 356; Rolls Royce Silver Ghost; Talbot Lago Grand Sport; Hispano-Suiza; Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing; Ferrari 250 GT and the list goes on. What a great way to witness this fantastic display of Automotive Art in motion
Meanwhile, south of Carmel on Pacific Coast Highway, spectators and photographers were “staking their claim” for the best shot and viewing angles. Some photographers were reminded this year how an excellent vantage point could turn to dust when an RV decides to pull over and park right where they had envisioned capturing a Mercedes “gullwing” with the Pacific Ocean in the background (true story).
The iconic Bixby bridge is the most coveted of viewing areas, and photographers were already “swarming” the bridge two hours before any classic car would arrive. This is Monterey Car week; preparation is everything if you want to capture the best.
No Monterey Car Week event is complete without an award being presented, and the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance has its “Elegance in Motion” trophy. This year’s Elegance in Motion was given during the awards ceremony at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to the 1938 Packard Cabriolet of Anne and Robert Lee of Sparks, Nevada.
Fifteen years after the first running, event founder Craig Smith reflected on what he viewed as some of the Tour’s main accomplishments. First and foremost, he was satisfied that it allows many spectators who may not be able to attend the Concours a chance to enjoy a wide variety of world-class automobiles at no cost.
From the participant’s perspective, it allows them to drive their vehicles on iconic roads, including Pacific Coast Highway, and disprove any notions that their cars are not road worthy.
Lastly, any Tour participant who finds themselves in a tie with another vehicle on Sunday will be given “the nod” when it comes time for the judges to hang ribbons. That said, this year’s 24th running of the Tour d’Elegance was a resounding success furthering the belief that cars, no matter how valuable, are meant to be driven.
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