The Annual Amazing Auto Weekend

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A rare Mercedes-Benz is crowned Best-in-Show at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

If you’re a car person in Southern California, you probably set aside the third weekend in August. Actually if you’re a car person anywhere in the country, or even the world, you probably set aside the third weekend in August for it. “It” being the annual Pebble Beach and Monterey classic car weekend.

In reality, it’s become more than a weekend, and really even more than a long weekend. The fun actually gets started the Tuesday before (not Thursday but Tuesday) with a classic car show in downtown Carmel. The charming little village just south of Monterey decided a few years ago that it wanted in a little more on the action of the surrounding area, so a few local car buffs started organizing an event for Carmel to call its own.

On Wednesday more people arrive to the area, and that evening the hot ticket is the McCall Motorworks Revival at the Jet Center at Monterey Airport. Here, classic and racing cars are celebrated alongside vintage fighter planes and modern luxury jets. Several local charities benefit from the party’s proceeds.

Thursday morning, it’s fun to rise early and head to the polo grounds in Pebble Beach. That’s where the annual Tour d’Elegance begins, as cars that will compete in Sunday’s Concours d’Elegance are invited to take a scenic driver though the area, proving that they function as cars and are not just static show pieces. Not every car does the tour, but a good percentage of them do.

On Friday, two big shows inland compete for enthusiasts’ attention. The longer-running event is Concorso Italiano, celebrating all things Italian. Not just the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Maseratis lining the grass at a beautiful golf course (not to mention many other cars with Italian heritage), but Italian food, wine, artwork, and even fashion.

The more exclusive (and expensive) show that same day is called “Quail, a Motorsports Gathering” at The Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. If you don’t buy your rather pricey ticket early, you will be out of luck, as it’s an annual sell-out due to limited tickets. But the event is elegant and all-inclusive, with many food stations and wine pours as part of admission, so you never have to reach for your wallet again to enjoy the day. Vintage cars shown here are invited to attend, and generally very special.

Yes, Friday is indeed the busiest day. In addition to the two car shows, the historic racing is going on at nearby Laguna Seca Raceway. This is a chance to see significant race cars from years past tackling the famous hilly track, giving their owners a chance to exercise them while giving spectators a chance to see what these machines were built to do.

The racing continues on Saturday, and if you like whimsy there’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek event called the “Tour de LeMons.” Oddball and misfit cars from over the years take a driving tour through the Monterey area. You’ve never seen cars like AMC Pacers, Cadillac Cimarrons, and old beat-up Volvos receive such praise, all in the name of good fun.

Things get much more serious at the various auctions around town. Two of the houses that offer significant and rare cars for bid each had some “wow” pieces in their catalogs this year. RM Auctions sold a very rare Ford GT40 racing car with extensive history for $11,000,000, and Gooding hammered a very special Mercedes-Benz 540K off the auction block for $11,777,000.

But the biggest event of the entire weekend is still the Concours d’Elegance, held on the 18th fairway of the historic Pebble Beach golf course. It’s been going strong since 1950, is known around the world, and only invites the best of the best to compete. This year the coveted Best of Show trophy went to a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo, among thunderous applause and lots of confetti when the day was done.

If you’re at all into cars, you should attend this weekend at least once in your life. Start making plans for next year if you can (hotels get booked up months in advance), as the fun begins on Aug. 16, 2013.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave

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