CARMEL, CALIF.—Last Sunday, the 69th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance took place by the Pacific at the Pebble Beach Golf Course. A concours d’elegance is a fancy way of saying a fancy car show, and car shows don’t come much fancier than this one, the grand finale to Monterey Car Week. Two hundred old cars—ones with significant histories or perhaps significant owners—drove onto the 18th green at dawn and line up to be judged. As with my round up of the Quail, this is a story much better told in pictures, so please make sure to scroll through the galleries. Otherwise you might not see the parrot.
The cars were grouped into classes, and the winner of each class was eligible for best in show. Some were the product of expensive and obsessive restoration, and they looked better than they ever would in period. Others showed a more sympathetic touch, with a few looking wonderfully patinated and original. Classes celebrating the centenaries of Bentley and the Italian design studio Zagato bookended the lawn, which (as usual) was top-heavy with cars from the prewar period.
For those seeking something a little more current, there was the increasingly misnamed “concept lawn.” It’s supposed to be a place for automakers to show off their newest flights of fancy, and a few got into the spirit. BMW brought not one but two concepts, one of which has a rather cool story behind it. Genesis brought along the Mint, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on the 18th green, and Volkswagen showed off the ID. Buggy. Other car makerss were so lazy they didn’t even phone it in: a production SUV with a sticker or two is the equivalent of sending a single emoji text message, Maserati.
Bugatti and Ferrari also catered to those seeking modernity. The former was stationed just outside the main entrance, while the latter held a mini-show of its own on the first green. Ferrari rents a big house by the first hole and finds a car from each year of its past to display. I think the car maker started the tradition to celebrate its 70th anniversary; all I know for sure is it’s one of the few times I’ll ever cross paths with an F50 GT.
I have to admit, I was not entirely at ease this year. I get that this is a show for old cars, but that’s a moving line, and Pebble Beach is starting to feel trapped in amber. Regular readers will know I adore Zagato’s work, especially the angular, uncompromising cars of more modern times, and while a late-’90s Hyena is probably too new, surely there was room for something from the ’80s? An Alfa Romeo SZ perhaps, or Aston Martin V8 Zagato—there’s one of those with both a celebrity and racing past.
My feelings of generational warfare were being stoked by the time Best in Show was awarded. That delightful Howmet TX turbine-powered race car won the Chairman’s trophy, picked by Pebble Beach’s Chairman Sandra Button as “the most deserving car present.” However, it was not eligible for best in class, which was a four-way contest.
The obvious winner ought to have been a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it’s the most beautiful car ever made, plus it was the newest by several decades. The 1938 Talbot-Lago with a body from Figoni & Falaschi was a close second; few did the whole prewar-teardrop thing as elegantly as those French coach builders. A 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K also made the short list, but a Mercedes won in 2017, and so the overall prize went to a Bentley. And not one of the more interesting Bentleys either, like the Speed Six Gurney Nutting coupé, or the Pourtout aerodynamic coupé, or even the brown two-seater with that elephant hood ornament.