“All these people, they got to see Pebble Beach for nothing.”
That was the comment overheard Thursday in Carmel-by-the-Sea as the spectacular moveable feast of classic automobiles rolled out of town to continue the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, a 60-mile drive through Monterey and as far south as Big Sur.
The tour’s lunchtime stopover in Carmel is the best deal of Monterey Car Week.
The annual tour is undertaken by most of the 200 rare and quite-valuable cars that will be shown Sunday at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where spectator tickets cost between $325 and $375.
What the Carmel stop provides is an absolutely free show of the cars driving into town, where they are parked for about two hours on several blocks along Ocean Avenue while the drivers and passengers eat a catered lunch. Where else could you examine classic Duesenbergs, Packards and Delahayes, or Ferrari and Maserati race cars, parked on a public street, en masse?
As always, there were many thousands of spectators, everyone crowding in for a closer look. That is, if you could get past all the other people crowding in for a closer look. And let’s not even talk about the parking issues in this small burg.
Most of these cars are exquisitely restored masterpieces, or preserved survivors, so one has to wonder how the owners or caretakers can leave them parked unattended while a zillion enthusiastic folk squeeze around them. McKeel Hagerty, the head of the classic car insurance company, says that this is his most-anxious day of the year.
For the car owners and tour participants, there is a major incentive – aside from the fun and camaraderie – for subjecting their pride-and-joy cars to the 60-mile tour and the lunchtime scrum in Carmel: In case of a judging tie in the Concours competition Sunday, the car that went on the tour takes the prize over a car that did not. That could be a big deal.
As for the roiling crowd in Carmel, everybody pretty much came away satisfied that they had attended a world-class classic car event without paying a dime.