Classic car shows are a summer tradition. But if you want the most exotic, rare, and the most expensive cars in the world, then you need to head to the Monterey Peninsula, Calif. The 67th annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance caps off a week of intensive, obsessive car love.
The Concours this year features 204 of the highest-caliber cars that have ever been made. Essentially, the international car world descends on the region. Fifteen countries and 31 states enter the elite car show held on the famed 18th hole of the Pebble Beach golf course.
That's just the end of a week of car madness, when cars take over the coastal towns of Monterey, Pebble Beach and Carmel by the Sea. The Monterey airport hosts an event of cars and airplanes. There's the Tour d'Elegance, where show cars cruise the streets, a wild exotic car show on Cannery Row (Steinbeck fans wouldn't recognize it), and, most importantly, plenty of public and private auctions. Take a look at the top 20 most expensive cars ever sold (publicly) and more than half were sold in or around car week on the Monterey peninsula.
To get an idea of the caliber of cars shown around town, Ferrari chose the show to celebrate its upcoming 70th anniversary with a concours of its own. This year, Jeff Mosing, a serious car collector from Austin, Texas brought his Ferrari F40. For him, cars are way more than a form of transportation or even rolling art They are more like pets: "There's a gut feeling just like if you meet somebody and you've never met them before that you know that there's something there. Definitely had a connection with this car."
Mosing's Ferrari goes for between $1.3 million and $1.5 million. His car wasn't for sale, and it wasn't entered in the big show. His car, a mere 27 years old, wouldn't make the cut at Pebble. The Concours is about painstaking restoration.
Thomas Shaughnessy from Oceanside brought his 1958 Ferrari Ghia to show on the 18th hole. As he prepped his vehicle, Shaughnessy unrolled $25,000 worth of tools. These look like ordinary wrenches and hammers, but when you're restoring a classic car, it's about the right tool for the right car.
For the privilege of strolling on the greens of the course, an estimated 15,000 attendees paid $350 each. Men and women parade the fairway dressed to the nines, with hats and parasols. The show also draws its share of car loving celebrities, Jay Leno (naturally), former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and ABC's Michael Strahan were just a few of the bold name celebrities.
As wealthy and star-studded as the show was, it's hard not to be affected. Deep and profound love is shown these classic cars. Morris Lum was detailing a 1958 Dual Ghia, owned by Tom and Gwen Price of Belvedere, Calif. Lum uses a toothpick to get into the crevices. The Dual Ghia is an example of an extremely rare car, only 115 were completed and only 36 are known to have survived.
Paula Blair's love of the automobile reached its maturity at Pebble Beach, she says: "I started off as somebody who really wasn't interested in a car." Blair and her husband Peter first came to the show 11 years ago for a anniversary and now she considers herself "becoming what I call a minor car person somebody, who just likes the look of them versus other people who love them so much they start collecting."
Sandra Button has worked at Pebble Beach for 32 years. She started coordinating events at the course and began over the years to focus year round. Button has become one of the most prominent women in this male-dominated world. "They'll call my husband instead of me 'cause it's like a guy talk thing," Button says with a laugh about the men who can't believe she's really the boss, when it comes to cars and Pebble Beach.
"And I don't really care because as long as a great car gets to Pebble Beach, if they want to talk to my husband instead of me, that's fine. But ultimately, he'll even say, 'You know you got to talk to the boss.' "
With self-driving and electric cars in the future, it's not hard to see this antique car show as, well, antiquated. Button says she was reluctant to accept electric cars, but now she's been converted. "They're fun. They're torque-y and you feel the power under you." Button says as the world goes more electric, an issue for antique car lovers may be access to gasoline.
But even when cars drive themselves, she believes the Concours will prevail: "If you go all the way back to the days of the horse and carriage," Button said while strolling onto the 18th hole, "People don't need horses in the same way we used to. I mean everybody used to really need their horse ... (but now) there's still horse shows and there are still places to race them."
She says that may turn out to be what happens with cars. "We're going to have great places to enjoy our cars" she says, "but not in the everyday way."
That's because, the future will come to Pebble Beach, eventually.
NPR's Emily Bogle edited the photos for this story. Maquita Peters edited and produced it for the Web.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
If you want to see or perhaps purchase the most exotic, rare and expensive automobiles in the world, then you need to head to the Monterey Peninsula in California. The Concours d'Elegance on the famous Pebble Beach golf course is where hundreds of the wealthiest car collectors show off and sometimes sell their cars. NPR's Sonari Glinton filed this report from the show.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: As a car reporter, I go to a lot of car shows. But none is quite like the Concours d'Elegance here at Pebble Beach. I'm standing right on the cart path at the first hole, watching a parade of Ferraris drive by.
(SOUNDBITE OF REVVING ENGINE)
GLINTON: Tell me your name.
JEFF MOSING: Jeff Mosing from Austin, Texas.
GLINTON: And is this your car?
MOSING: It is. I've had it for about two years now. This one came up for sale in Houston. I'm out of Austin. And it was the right car for me, so I picked it up.
GLINTON: What do you mean, it was the right car for you? How is it possible that Ferrari is the right car for you? Come on.
MOSING: When you see a car, and there's a gut feeling - just like if you meet somebody, you know, that you've never known before - that you know that there's something there. This was - I definitely had a connection with this car.
GLINTON: You're like - you looked at this car. And you're like, we can be friends.
MOSING: Yeah. Yeah.
MOSING: It just takes a big check. But, yeah, we can be friends.
GLINTON: How big is that check?
MOSING: These cars right now are trading anywhere from 1.3 to 1.5.
(SOUNDBITE OF REVVING ENGINE)
GLINTON: That's million dollars. Cars here go for 30 times that. Classics, antiques, concept cars, Lamborghinis Porsches, Corvettes, oh my. Car fans spend hundreds of dollars for the privilege of being on this golf course with the rarest cars dotting the fairway. There are men and women in their Sunday finest in hats with parasols. Fans like Paula Blair (ph) came here from Dallas.
PAULA BLAIR: Well, I started off as somebody who really wasn't interested in a car. I've totally changed to becoming what I call a minor car person, somebody who just likes the look of them - versus other people, who like the look of THEM so much they start collecting one and two and three, twenty and forty.
(SOUNDBITE OF REVVING ENGINE)
BLAIR: And then there's that. I love the noise of a vehicle. Oh, my gosh. These new electric cars with no noise - they're losing out. They've got to put that wonderful, wonderful sound in there. Listen to that. That was great.
(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE RUNNING)
GLINTON: Could you do me a favor and introduce yourself?
SANDRA BUTTON: I'm Sandra Button, chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. You know, this is my 32nd year. So it's been more than half my life. And if you love cars, and you do car events all year round, it kind of becomes your life.
GLINTON: Now, she's become one of the most prominent women in the car business. But still...
BUTTON: They'll call my husband instead of me because it's like a guy talk thing. I'm like - and I don't really care because as long as a great car gets to Pebble Beach, if they want to talk to my husband instead of me, that's fine. But, ultimately - and he'll even say so - you know, you've got to talk to the boss.
GLINTON: And with self-driving and electric cars in our future, I had to ask.
Are Pebble Beach's days numbered? That's the question.
BUTTON: When you think about it - I mean, if you go all the way back to the days of the horse and carriage - right? - people don't need horses in the same way we used to. I mean, everybody used to really need their horse. And there's still horse shows, and there's still places to race them or to hunter jump from or whatever people do. You know, it may turn out that way - that, you know, we're going to have great places to enjoy our cars but not in the everyday way.
GLINTON: That's because the future will come to Pebble Beach eventually. From the 18th hole, Sonari Glinton, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRONTIDE'S "KNIVES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.