Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Reading

Vacation time warrants vacation reading.

Pebble Beach — Leo Levine at the New York Times on the ultimate car show and auction.

1969 Mustang - Pebble Beach 08-10-14

1969 FORD MUSTANG BOSS 429 (Russo & Steele, no estimate)

MAX MUSCLE: The 375-horsepower Boss 429 peaked around $450,000 at the top of the market in 2007. With the recent sale of a Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda convertible for $3.8 million, the best muscle cars seems to be back near their prerecession highs.

The annual celebration of the automobile on the Monterey Peninsula of California, a vintage-car enthusiast’s version of the Academy Awards, hits the starter button this week.

By the time it concludes with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance next Sunday, records are expected to be set for practically everything that requires payment, be it a hot dog, a hotel room or a Ferrari. And as usual, reports of unimaginable prices for rare vehicles will obscure the fact that among all the glitter and precious metal there is much to see and do where admission is free.

The seed from which all this grew was planted in 1950, when a few dozen sports-car drivers raced on a makeshift road circuit through the Del Monte Forest, and about 30 owners of new cars organized a show, given the French appellation of concours, on the lawn next to the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

That was 64 years ago. This year there will be 10 concours of one sort or another, including Saturday’s Concorso Italiano at Fort Ord, expected to draw more than 1,000 entries; no less than six auctions, which market experts project will realize sales of more than $400 million; and a variety of events like Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival, a Wednesday evening social at the Monterey Jet Center. Admission is $325, limited to 3,000 guests.

High on the no-cost list is the Thursday morning Pebble Beach Tour d’Élégance, which typically includes about 150 of the 220 cars entered in Sunday’s headline concours. Intended to show that these cars are not just for exhibition, this year’s tour will cover about 80 miles, starting at 8 a.m. in the Del Monte Forest and stopping in Carmel for lunch before returning to the starting area. The opportunity to see some of the world’s great classic automobiles, at times with the Pacific Ocean as a background, can be a thrilling experience.

Admission is free for Tuesday’s kickoff, the Concours on the Avenue in Carmel, expected to draw some 200 entries. Other free events include Wednesday’s Little Car Show on Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove; Friday’s Porsche Werks Reunion at the Rancho Canada Golf Club on Carmel Valley Road and the Legends of the Autobahn gathering at the Nicklaus Club-Monterey.

One of the week’s regular curtain raisers, running Tuesday and Wednesday, is the automobilia exposition at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside, just off the Pacific Coast Highway. On offer are posters, badges, paintings and automotive memorabilia. Admission is $15 for one day, $20 for both. The Pebble Beach RetroAuto, where admission is free, runs Tuesday through Saturday at the Spanish Bay Hotel in Pebble Beach.

The largest crowds, as usual, will be at the Laguna Seca road circuit, where some 550 entries will be participating in a series of races Saturday and Sunday. No big-name racecar drivers will be competing, but there will be many great cars.

Other high-dollar events include Friday’s The Quail, at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. This is a concours with attendance limited to 4,000 and is sold out at $400 per person. The price includes parking, lunch, drinks, souvenirs and the accompanying feeling of well-being. Admission to the Pebble Beach concours is $275 in advance, $300 at the gate.

These numbers, however, don’t compare with what is expected at the various auctions. Favored to bring the highest bid of the week is a Ferrari 250 GTO to be sold by Bonhams on Thursday, with predictions of a hammer price that will be $40 million or more.

Doonesbury — Next question.