Jay Leno's Guide to the Concours D'Elegance, Pebble Beach's "Super Bowl of Cars"
The comic gives THR the inside track on the event where you can see Sammy Hagar's bespoke Ferrari or bid against "a Chinese gazillionaire" for prized wheels.
Every year in the third week of August, California's Monterey Peninsula (320 miles northwest of Los Angeles) is transformed from seaside enclave to ground zero for about 15,000 classic car nuts. The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, an ultraluxury auto show on the Pebble Beach Golf Links — this year rolling out Aug. 21 — has drawn such high-profile Hollywood motorheads as Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Patrick Dempsey and ICM partner John Burnham as well as Clint Eastwood, the former mayor of neighboring Carmel. The Concours itself, which in 2015 raised about $1.9 million for charity, dates to 1950, with competing events now filling the days leading up to it. THR asked car and motorcycle zealot Leno — a Monterey insider since the mid-'80s who will co-host an Aug. 19 Carmel soiree with THR and Alfa Romeo — to break down the highlights.
In this Aug. 18 bargain preview of the main event, cars that will grace the Concours on Sunday motor along portions of 17-Mile Drive (the gated scenic route that winds past stunning ocean views), then through the quaint streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Says Leno, "If you don't want to pay the $250 ticket or whatever it is [2016 Concours tickets are $350], you can see all the cars going on the streets through Carmel."
Auctions held by such firms as Bonhams, Gooding & Co., Mecum, RM Sotheby's, and Russo and Steele totaled more than $390 million in 2015; the top lot was a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM Coupe sold by RM Sotheby's for $17.6 million. "A lot of times you go to auctions in Orange County or Texas, and you're competing against people who live in that area, or the United States," Leno says. "You go to Pebble Beach, and suddenly you're competing for the same vehicle against a Russian oil guy or a Chinese gazillionaire."
Leno, a Concours fixture, rode a 1930 Bohmerland motorcycle during the 2014 event.
THE QUAIL GATHERING
Now in its 14th year, Friday's Quail Gathering spreads a slew of gorgeous cars (Sammy Hagar will display his bespoke Ferrari) across the lawn at Carmel Valley's Quail Lodge & Golf Club, with attendance limited to 3,000 (tickets are $600). "The Quail is, as they used to say, the right crowd, no crowding and all that kind of stuff," explains Leno. "You're likely to see [racers] Derek Bell or Stirling Moss wandering through, and it's quite elegant. You have the best food, the best cars and the most famous people from the motoring world." Legends of the Autobahn — which shows classics from Audi, BMW and Mercedes on the fairways at Nicklaus Club Monterey — and its offshoot, Porsche Werks Reunion (at Rancho Canada Golf Club in Carmel-by-the-Sea), also take place on Friday.
Italy's belle macchine are celebrated on Saturday with a car and motorcycle show on the Black Horse Golf Course in Seaside. "For a while, it was in some asphalt parking lot; now they've got it someplace nice," says Leno. "You get to meet all the obscure designers and people you've read about in magazines. I met [Italian design legend Giorgetto] Giugiaro. It's a great history lesson."
"It's the Super Bowl of cars, if you want to call it that," says Leno of the main event, where about 175 cars from all over the world compete. Best of show 2015 went to a 1924 Isotta Fraschini, an Italian automaker whose cars were featured in such films as Sunset Boulevard and Death Takes a Holiday. "It's the true classics, it's the car as art because it's the Concours d'Elegance," says Leno. "It's elegant cars." Along with vintage standouts — BMW, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, will reveal Elvis Presley's restored 507 roadster — manufacturers also will unveil such show cars as Mercedes' Maybach Coupe and Bugatti's Vision Gran Turismo, already snapped up by Prince Badr bin Saud of Saudi Arabia.
WHERE TO RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES
Bernardus Lodge & Spa
Former NFLer Fran Tarkenton recently tweeted from this getaway, fresh off a major remodel. Vintage racing fans will appreciate its proximity to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where you can see "real gentleman racing," says Leno. "It isn't that flat-out crazy, crash-into-a-wall kind of win." (Rooms from $395)
The Lodge at Pebble Beach
Pray for cool weather if you stay here or at the Inn at Spanish Bay; both venues were built in pre-global warming days, and the rooms lack AC. Still, situated smack on the course and home to an annual golf Pro-Am where Justin Timberlake, Mark Wahlberg and Aaron Rodgers competed in February, this is prime Concours territory. (From $815)
The Inn at Spanish Bay
To be in Pebble Beach but not of Pebble Beach, consider this spot just south of Asilomar State Beach. (From $695)
The Quail Lodge & Golf Club
Nestled in Carmel Valley away from Pebble Beach, this 75-room Peninsula property is a sanctuary from most of the week's proceedings, except the Quail Gathering. (From $245)
This story first appeared in the Aug. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.