Once a year, the picturesque and upscale village of Carmel-by-the-Sea becomes the absolute center of the known universe for collector car folks, and their friends, families and dogs. Usually a sleepy little burg where local folks and tourists come downtown to eat and shop, that all changes on the Thursday that the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance rolls into town.
The Pebble Tour, as it’s known, is the best deal on the Monterey Peninsula during car week, when most of the exceptional vintage cars from the greatest concours in America drive onto Ocean Avenue and park while the drivers and passengers stop for their catered lunch.
That’s because unlike the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which costs $375 per person, the Carmel stop is totally free. The only cost is dealing with the dense crowd of people who pack into a few short blocks; it looked like 10,000 souls were present this year.
As for parking, forget about it unless you get there hours before the concours cars start arriving around 11 a.m.
But what you get is a remarkable close-upview of the luscious array of rolling artworks, just as you would Sunday on the 18th Fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. It may be crazily crowded, but also fun enough to make it all worth it.
The Tour is a 70-mile drive on the gorgeous back roads of the Monterey area, including stretches of Highway 1 and the famous 17-Mile Drive. For Pebble Beach concours entrants, it’s an opportunity to take out their cars, which range from chugging antiques from the early days of motoring to pre-war classics from the U.S. and Europe, and exotic sports cars and customs.
And for everybody else, it’s a chance to see magnificent machines driving on the road, where they were meant to be. Thousands of people stake out locations along the route to watch them go past, but Ocean Avenue is where it all comes together and where most folks arrive en masse to demonstrate their enthusiasm for great old cars.