Pebble Beach 2012 report
PH gatecrashes the billionaires' party and explores the delights of Pebble Beach
That's only marginally more than one wealthy individual has paid for his McLaren X1. Apparently, the 'friend of Ron Dennis' wanted a supercar "he could turn up to the opera in." Three years later, his bespoke creation debuted at Quail. It's based on the MP14-12C but has been completely re-bodied. Even the headlights are bespoke and cost several hundred grand to produce and homologate.
Lamborghini Sesto Elemento look like a bargain at a mere $2.2M. 20 will be made and it can't be driven on the road, which probably won't please the Quail goers. For them, exclusivity is everything so one can only imagine what the Bugatti Veyron owners felt like when they turned up to find five others in attendance.
Ferrari, Pagani and Koenigsegg were also there, but the real stars were the classics. A plethora of Shelby Cobras paid homage to the recently passed Carroll Shelby, a pair of Ford GT40s nestled together in the California sun, near an exquisite Aston Martin DB4 Zagato.
While the posers sup Champagne, the racers head to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca. Here you could take your pick of any significant sportscar since the concept was invented. Texan David Duthu was racing a Talbot Lago, a Jaguar XK120 racer and a Jomar MkII, which is based on the fourth chassis that TVR ever built. "I also have a Bugatti Type 35," he said nonchalantly, "but I didn't bring it here."
All these events though, are really only a prelude to the headline Concours d'Elegance. The hardy get up early for the so-called 'dawn patrol', witnessing the cars arrive from about 5:30am onwards. This year there were 220 invited cars and all duly lined up on the 18th fairway at the Pebble Beach golf club, regular home of the US Open.
Their combined value was in excess of £1bn and success is all about presentation. Aged billionaires could be seen removing sand from tyre treads with toothbrushes, while special cloths lifted dust from dashboards. It's all about the car as an art form. No Ferrari ever left Maranello looking this good.
It wasn't just Italian exotica though. A special display of the cars of the Maharaja included a 1910 Brook2 25/30 HP Swan Car. This features a 'beak' that sprays steam to clear the road ahead and a rear valve that sprays whitewash over unfortunate peasants for 'added realism.'
Every car is scrutinised by an army of blazer-clad judges who analyse everything from the carbs to the carpet. Eventually they named a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo as the 'best of show', no doubt adding another '0' to its value.
It would be easy to dismiss the Concours d'Elegance as horribly vulgar were it not for the sheer enthusiasm of those involved. Those in attendance were genuine car geeks. Pebble Beach is all about bobble hatters; it just so happens that most of them are billionaires.