The beautiful cars of Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance could represent the end of an era – The Verge

Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pebble Beach doesn’t pretend to be inclusive. You have to be invited to show your car, which means you have to mingle and make friends in this moneyed set. Many longtime owners hire studied craftsman, some of whom graduated from McPherson College’s Automotive Restoration Technology Program, and the process can take several years and cost six or even seven figures.

By noon, the field was packed in a way that resembled a crowded outdoor art opening. For enthusiasts, there was much ogling at under-the-hood advancements of the combustible engine. Many of the participants were dressed in period finery and bespoke millinery to accentuate their cars. The very-French Delahayes, two-seater Indy cars, vintage BMW motorcycles and art cars, Elvis Presley’s cool 507 BMW, and my personal favorite the Italian engineer, designer, and coach builder Bizzarrini received featured treatment at this year’s Concours. It culminated, as it does every year, with the best in show award on Sunday evening, which went to the 1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet once owned by Eric Clapton and designed by the famed master coachbuilder Pinin Farina.

For the love of cars, there is no better gathering in the United States. It’s the physical story of the automobile come to life from a time when making and driving cars was not a utilitarian intention, but a wild symbol of innovation and audacity. These cars were about what they made people feel. The architect Le Corbusier called the car, “a machine for living” and had the panache to pose with his Voisin. That’s what continues to stoke my interest in the cars displayed at Pebble Beach.

Not everyone who comes to Pebble Beach cares to unearth the stories of yesteryear. Like anything high-dollar, many came to ogle in the presence of money and power in close proximity to the Bay Area. The auction houses reportedly sold nearly $345 million worth of vehicles during Monterey Car Week, a number that’s impressive, but actually in continued decline from 2014. The standout exception was a Jaguar D-Type Roadster that sold for $21,780,000 at Sotheby’s. While the collector car market isn’t hurtling to new heights, in this crowd the hurt doesn’t cut all that deep.

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