Pebble Beach: Tour TerrificFri, 19 Aug 2011 00:00:00 -0700
These ain't no trailer queens.
While you might expect that a car that cost more than a million dollars to restore beyond its original glory would be something you'd keep in a sealed zip-lock freezer bag in the guarded basement of a museum, the vast majority of the entries in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance are actually driven on the street. Or at least they are driven once before the big show. On the Thursday before the concours--which leaves three days to repair dings, paint chips and mud splats--about 170 of the 210 or so cars entered in the concours roared off from the Equestrain Center above the Lodge and circumnavigated the Monterey Peninsula--squashed bugs on the windshield and all--to the delight of cheering fans waiting in beach chairs all along the route.
Thursday's circuit began with a short stretch of 17-Mile Drive and headed up into the hills of Monterey, through Tehama preserve, down Carmel Valley Road and then shot off south to Big Sur and back. A lunch stop in downtown Carmel provided plenty of opportunity for the public to ogle the parked cars while their drivers had lunch.
Surprisingly, almost all the cars made the trip without problems. One of the most difficult parts of the tour are the uphill sections, not because the cars don't have enough power to get up them, but because they tend to travel in a sort of conga line nose-to-tail. When one car without a synchromesh first gear has to stop to downshift, the whole line has to stop, except those quick enough to figure out what's going on and steer around the halted caravan, preserving their momentum. Stopping and starting again and again on a steep hill is not easy on these old drivetrains, and you could smell burned clutches when it happened.
But as the cars spread out on the much flatter Highway 1 to Big Sur and back, the great beasts could open up a little and roar along as their original builders intended them to.
The cars are all in private garages now having the bugs surgically removed from the windshields. Come Sunday, you won't know they ever left the showroom.
By Mark Vaughn