Monterey Car Week 2012: Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

Our coverage of Car Week at the Monterey Peninsula continues with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This year marked the 62nd anniversary of the Concours, which takes place on the grounds of the beautiful Pebble Beach Golf Links. Much like the Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca, the Pebble Beach Concours also selects different themes and marques to focus on each year.

This year’s Concours featured cars with coachwork by Jacques Saoutchik, cars previously owned by the Maharajas of India, and Shelby Cobras. These were just a few of the dozens of different Classes of cars that competed for Best of Show at this year’s Concours.

For many car collectors, being invited to show a car at Pebble Beach is a lifelong dream and great achievement. This year, Sub5Zero was able to arrive at the Concours early enough to see some of the very proud owners driving their prized cars onto the 18th fairway. It is simply amazing to see cars that are more than 100 years old being driven, like the 1907 Cadillac Model A Wilso Rear Entrance Tonneau in the photo above. Each year, the Pebble Beach Concours brings some of the best cars from not just across the United States, but also across the World to the 18th fairway of the famous golf course. Judging at the Concours focuses not only on originality and authenticity of each car, but also design, styling, and elegance.

Many other articles have already been written about this year’s Concours featuring the actual cars that won Class Awards as well as Best in Show. So we chose instead to play the role of Concours Judge, and chose some of our favorites from this year’s show. As we mentioned, this year’s Concours featured cars that were previously owned by the Maharajas of India. There were many beautiful cars in this Class, from famous marque such as Bentley, Duesenberg, and Mercedes. But the car in the photo above is the that really caught our eye, unlike anything we have ever seen. It is known as the Swan Car, or the 1910 Brooke 25/30 HP Swan Car to be exact. A wealthy British engineer originally created the car. He then took the Swan Car to India, where it caught the eye of the Maharaja of Nabha who purchased it. It features actual gold leaf details, and a squirt out steam out of its nose to clear a path on the street.

Class F at this year’s Concours featured cars with coachwork by Jacques Saoutchik. Although he was born in Russia, Saoutchik immigrated to Paris in the late 1890’s, where he founded a coachbuilding company in 1906. In the early days of the automobile industry, it was common practice for one to buy a chassis & powertrain from a manufacturer, and then select a coachbuilder to create a custom body to be created. Many of us have heard of other prominent names in the coachbuilding trade, such as Pininfarina, Zagato, and Bertone. Cars built in this era were extremely special; each was unique and built to reflect the desires and personality of its owner. The car pictured above is a 1948 Talbot-Lago T-26 Saoutchik Grand Sport Coupe. It featured some incredible, flowing lines, as well as a very eye-catching color scheme that clearly stood out in the foggy morning we spent at Pebble Beach.

This year’s Concours was not just about cars, as represented by Class V, which featured German motorcycles. This is where we first ran into Jay Leno at this year’s Concours, chatting away with a few owners. Even though we have seen Jay quite a few times over the years, it still amazes us just how knowledgeable he truly is about everything with wheels, not just cars. In this group of gorgeous motorcycles, some more than 100 years old, one bike caught our attention. The motorcycle in the photo above is a 1922 Megola Touring, which was built in Germany in the early 1920’s. As you can see from the photo, this bike is powered by a radial engine that is built onto its front wheel. It is unlike anything we have ever seen – simply an incredible piece of engineering. It actually has no clutch or gearbox – it is essentially a single-speed. A racing version of this same bike was actually capable of reaching speeds over 80 mph. Only a few of these have survived over the years, and they are worth close to $200 thousand.

Similar to the Rolex Reunion at Laguna Seca, Pebble Beach also honored the late Carroll Shelby. Class N-2 featured over 10 unique and significant Cobras, from coupes, to FIA Competition Roadsters. Cobras were seen everywhere during the weekend, many of us joking that it was the opposite from the usual – odds are, most of the ones you saw were actually real. To us, none was more thrilling to see in person then the car in the photo above. This is the original 1962 Shelby Cobra 260 Prototype – the first Cobra ever built. Carroll Shelby personally owned this car up until his death earlier this year.

The first cars visitors see as they enter the Concours grounds are not actually part of the judging competition. Each year, the golf course’s practice ground is home to the Concept Car display. This year’s group included the Fisker Surf, Lexus LF-LC, McLaren’s newly unveiled 12-C Spider, and Aston Martin Vanquish. But our clear favorite was Lamborghini’s Sesto Elemento. Although it was first shown at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, this was the first chance we had to see and hear this car in person (yes, it has an engine, not just a rolling showcar). With a carbon fiber body, the Sesto Elemento weighs in at just over 2200 lbs., and with its 570HP V10, can reach 60 mph in 2.5 seconds. Although originally intended solely as a show car, after strong demand from some of its top customers, Lamborghini chose to build 20 of these marvelous machines. Maybe someday they’ll loan Sub5Zero one to review? We can dream can’t we?

In our opinion, no show is complete without a Ferrari or two. And this year’s Pebble Beach Concours did not disappoint, featuring not one, but two separate Ferrari groups. Class M1 featured Grand Touring Ferraris such as 410 Superamerica and the famous 250 GT LWB California Spyder. Class M2 was home to the Competition Ferraris at this year’s show, such as a gorgeous 500 TRC Scaglietti Spyder. Our favorite from both groups was the 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Pinin Farina Coupe owned by famous collector Jon Shirley shown above. We know most love Ferraris in their classic red, but this blue just left us breathless. This car actually won this year’s Gran Turismo Trophy. Yes, we are talking about “that” Gran Turismo. Each year, GT5’s creator, Kazunori Yamauchi picks his favorite car of the show to receive this trophy, and later be future on a future Gran Turismo title. Although this Sub5Zero author has met Yamauchi-san in the past, we were saddened that we did not see him at this year’s show.

As you can see, there was no shortage of fantastic automobiles at the2012 Pebble Beach Concours. This event clearly demonstrates that an automobile can be truly seen as a rolling piece of art. If you have not attended this event in the past, do yourself a favor and go. You will never see a more impressive gathering of some of the world’s fines automobiles. And be sure to book your hotel soon, don’t be caught paying $300 a night for a 2-star hotel as we did this year.