Pebble Beach, the world's most exclusive car show, revealed a number of world debuts and some of the most expensive classics available.
20 August 2012

If you can’t stand conspicuous displays of extreme wealth, look away now. The automotive gathering known as Pebble Beach, held on the Monterey peninsula in California, met for the 62nd time last weekend. It has grown into a wide range of automotive events over four days, most at the premium end of the scale and a mix of high society, very serious monied enthusiasts and a scattering of the discerning public.

The Friday Quail gathering in Carmel is a mini Concours d’Elegance held on a small section of the golf course and was, for a few hours, probably the most concentrated area of wealth – both personal and automotive – on the planet. It is so exclusive that tickets have a face value of $450, if you can get one. Ebay touts were trying to sell them on for $2000.

Aside from the extraordinary collection of classics, most of the world’s premium and super-premium car makers had stands at the event. This is where the wealthiest car-savvy customers congregate, sip champagne and appetites are whetted and even sales made. McLaren, Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover all had impressive stands, with Jaguar showing a 1964 E-Type, Land Rover a late-model Range Rover Mk1 and McLaren the one-off customer-specified McLaren X-1. Bugatti showed a Veyron Vitesse customer one-off. The striking Lamborghini Urus SUV concept also made its first appearance since its April debut at the Beijing motor show

Quail’s exhibition of classics was heavy on the Iso Rivolta brand (which is 50 years old), which blended the most sophisticated Italian styling and no-nonsense Chevy and GM V8 engines. A Lamborghini Miura and Bizzarrini 5300 GT (Giotto Bizzarrini was the engineer behind the Ferrari 250 GTO and a co-founder of Iso) were among the Quail 2012 show winners.

The following day saw the famous Laguna Seca historic races in the traditional baking heat at this inland circuit. Much of the racing was dominated by the thorax-rattling noise of US muscle cars, but the highlight of the day was the exceptional gathering of AC Cobra competition cars in celebration of motorsport legend Carroll Shelby, who died earlier this year. Fifty original Shelby Cobras turned up and 169 in total, including around 75 replicas. A parade of Cobras ran around the circuit in tribute.

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Sadly, one of the ultra-rare Shelby Daytona Coupés (valued at over $4m) crashed at the circuit. Its provenance as the last one built, however, means it will be reborn. In the one-off spirit of Pebble Beach, Ford unveiled a celebratory Mustang-based Shelby GT500 Cobra with 850bhp. 

Sunday saw the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which takes over the ultra-exclusive shore-side golf course. Here is where the rarest cars in existence, the old masters of the automotive industry, gather to be judged. If not literally unique, these cars have only been built in tiny numbers and are maintained to extraordinary standards. 

Blazered judges – including senior car industry names such as Porsche design boss Michael Mauer, ex-BMW design boss Chris Bangle, Nissan design boss Shiro Nakamura and Sir Stirling Moss – picked over the cars. Prizes were plentiful with 30 classes on display, but the winner of the coveted ‘Best in Show’ title was taken by the coach-built 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo, one of eight built and just one of three with a truncated windscreen.

Show experts predicted that the value of this Mercedes could have jumped 10-20 per cent with the Pebble Beach title under its belt. Others said the choice of a car of relatively restrained styling was an indicator of the future tastes in the classic car business.

Perhaps the best indication of the phenomenon that is Pebble Beach was the two classes Maharaja and Maharaja Rolls-Royce. The former was for coach-built specials commissioned by Indian Maharajas and the latter for bespoke Rolls-Royces. An extremely elegant 1924 Rolls-Royce 20HP Barker Tourer rolled on to the stage, with an equally elegant gentleman in the rear seat. It turned out to be Arvind Singh Mewar, the Marharana of Udaipur himself, who was travelling in the car commissioned by his great-grandfather.

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20 August 2012

It's only recently the two have come to be regarded as the same thing, and actually this kind of ticket-price inflation is no more than one finds at pop concerts.

20 August 2012

I think the sheer fact that the event is expensive and exclusive means that the pics get broadcast worldwide on every car blog, so it's well worth it for manufacturers to attend due to the free advertising alone.

20 August 2012

Where was my invite to Pebble Beach. Was Autocar really invited or is this just reporting from afar. Surely we are all just mere peasants.


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