Pebble Beach Car Week 2021 | Classic Car Chat

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2021 Best of Show Winner | 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier shown by The Keller Collection at The Pyramids. Image Source: pebblebeachconcours.net

Pebble Beach Car Week 2021
By Chris Mulvihill


This year’s events more than made up for all that was lost in 2020.  It began on Tuesday, August 10th with the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours and the week concluded with the Pebble Beach Concourse. In-between these anchor events were car auctions, car club events, ride-and-drives, cocktail parties, discussion panels and an automobilia marketplace - something for everyone.

Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours

Ocean Ave is blocked off as are several side streets which provides a great arena for this 175 car concours.  The event is free to the public and features some outstanding and rare cars built between 1940 and 1973 (Porsches and Ferraris are displayed through the 1989 model year).   The cars are broken into 24 classes and Judging is performed by teams of 2.  This Concours debuted in 2007 and proceeds benefit the Carmel Foundation, a nonprofit that serves seniors.

‘In January of 1964 this ‘64 Triumph Spitfire 4 was purchased new in Texas for $1,950 by the current owner’s father.  It is powered by a straight 4 cylinder with a 4-speed overdrive transmission - the first year overdrive was offered by the factory.’

The Little Car Show Pacific Grove

The 11th annual Little Car Show was held on Wednesday, August 11th in downtown Pacific Grove.  This is such a fun show displaying some very unique smaller cars.  All cars are chosen by the selection committee and must be at least 25 years old with engines smaller than 1,601cc (93ci).  Some electric cars are allowed if they are unusual and produced before 1996.  This event is also free to the public with 11 trophies awarded in a variety of categories such as ‘Dare to be Different’ and ‘Most Smiles per Mile.’  Proceeds support the Veterans Transition Center, Pacific Grove Library and the Pacific Grove Youth Center.  A beautiful setting with fun participants, this is a must attend event.

‘Produced in the U. K. by Jack Turner, this 1959 Turner 950-S was a lightweight version using fiberglass for the body, a tubular ladder frame and disc brakes.  With only 670 Turners manufactured, all were made by hand to owner’s specifications.’

Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance

Early Thursday morning over 200 cars line up in Pebble Beach to trace 17 Mile Drive, HWY 1 to Big Sur returning to Pebble Beach.  All cars have been accepted to the Pebble Beach Concourse and participation in this event is to demonstrate they are road worthy.  There is no charge for this event and a great opportunity to view and hear the engines of a majority of the Concourse cars.  In prior years after The Tour these cars were parked on Ocean Ave for public viewing.  However this year due to the Virus numbers, they all returned to Pebble Beach.  Participation is also linked to Sunday’s Concourse judging.  In the event of a judging tie, the car that participated in the Tour d’Elegance will win.

‘Produced in the U. K. by Jack Turner, this 1959 Turner 950-S was a lightweight version using fiberglass for the body, a tubular ladder frame and disc brakes.  With only 670 Turners manufactured, all were made by hand to owner’s specifications.’

Bonhams Auction

Close to The Quail Lodge was the Bonham car auction.  In addition to offering 139 vehicles this year the auction featured vehicles from actor Tom Hanks.  In addition to a few of his trucks and Tesla sedan was the 1992 Airstream trailer he used for almost 30 years as a movie set dressing room.  It contained the original furniture, Tom’s autograph and sold for $235,200.  One might call it a moving piece of movie memorabilia.

‘Tom Hank’s 1992 Airstream set dressing room sold for $235,200 including the original furniture.’

Porsche Club of America (PCA) Werks Reunion

Held on Friday morning at the Bayonet Golf Course in Seaside, this Reunion attracted 165 Judged Porches with 533 Porches parked in the Coral.  The judged cars were broken into 14 classes with judges not only reviewing the quality of the cars, but the spirit and story behind them.  The PCA has over 140,000 members in the US and Canada and they claim to be the largest single mark car club in the world.  You do not need to be a PCA member to attend this fun event.  The friendliness of the PCA members and the wide variety of models at this event will definitely bring me back next year.

‘Early morning at the PCA Werks Reunion as cars are positioned for judging.’

Laguna Seca Raceway

Vintage car races began at Laguna Seca in 1974 and have been an extremely popular annual event.  This year’s event highlighted the Trans-American (Trans-Am) racing series which was created in 1966 by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).  This racing series drew much attention from both racing fans and the car companies as it was a manufacturer championship series for modified passenger sedans and coupes. All American car companies competed for bragging rights as the escalating ‘pony car wars’ were in full swing between 1966 and 1972.  Some say the marketing phrase, ‘Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday’ was born from this series.

‘The 1969 Mustang Boss 302 enters Turn 1 at 114MPH (note speed clock on bridge top) ahead of a Chevy Camaro.’

Ford Motor Company had a large and very interesting display in the Laguna Seca infield detailing the history of the series.  They also displayed racing cars from the early days of the series along with current model performance Mustangs. In addition to seeing some of these vintage race cars on the track, a high point of the weekend was a Saturday afternoon autograph session featuring champion drivers of the era and co-Grand Marshals of the weekend George Follmer and Parnelli Jones.  The Ford Motor Company festivities around the Trans-Am series created a great ‘racing in the day’ feeling for the weekend.

‘The future leads the past’ as this 2021 Ford mustang Mach-E (Electric) leads a line of 1960s Trans-Am racers around Laguna Seca.’

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the Concours - due to the fact the 2020 event was cancelled.  As usual, this event was spectacular in many ways.  Over 245 cars were displayed which were broken down into in 29 classes.  A few highpoints of the day were the special class of past Pebble Concours winners, the collection of Porsche 917 racecars and the Lamborghini Countach class.

‘In 2014 this 1954 Ferrari 375 Scaglietti Coupe was the first post WWII car to win Best in Show in four decades.’

It was amazing to see 41 Best of Show winners displayed in the Best of Show Reunion class.  All these works of rolling art looked as good this day as they did when they won the coveted Best of Show.  The most interesting car in this class was the 1931 Pierce-Arrow 41 LeBaron Town Car Cabriolet owned by the Phil Hill family.  This car was the first classic car to win Pebble Beach in 1955 as prior Best in Show winners were recently produced models.  Originally purchased by his aunt, Phil Hill learned to drive in this car and restored it (himself) before driving it to the 1955 Concours.  Phil Hill won the very first Pebble Beach race in 1950 (in an aluminum bodied Jaguar XK120) and in 1961 became the first American Formula 1 World Champion.

‘Phil Hill’s 1950 Jaguar XK120 that he purchased from the factory in 1949 while in England training to become a mechanic. The car was shipped back to the US on the Queen Mary.’

The Porsche 917 race car was produced from 1969 thru 1973 and was a turning point for the factory.  This revolutionary design combined with an air/oil cooled V12 engine produced many race and racing series wins.  In the 1971 24 hour of Le Mans a 917K exceeded 240MPH on the Mulsanne Straight as it drove on to victory.  Today, a select few of these are vintage raced and all are highly sought after by collectors.

‘this 917K (Chassis 053) with a magnesium frame won the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Note the famous Gulf-Porsche Team 917s behind it.’

Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his motorcar company after a disagreement with Enzo Ferrari.  The story is told that Ferruccio had a problem with his new Ferrari and after a less than satisfactory solution was offered from Enzo Ferrari, the Automobili Lamborghini Company was formed in 1963.  The Countach (Italian for contagious) was first produced in 1974 and its’ trademark ‘scissor’ doors (hinged at the front) opened vertically.  With futuristic angular looks and a V12 engine producing 375HP, it claimed a top speed of 190MPH.  This iconic car has been featured in many posters what graced the bedrooms of young admirers for years.

‘This Countach of the future was displayed in the prototype area of the Concours.’

The job of Pebble Beach Concours judge must be the most difficult car judging task in North America. Having to determine the best of show from the best cars in each class has to be a daunting task.  After a long wait for the judging sheets to be tallied, a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier was chosen as Best of Show.  Constructed to be a ‘Highway Kurier’ it was streamlined to speed on the newly constructed highways.  This is the only surviving 540K of the two built.

2021 Best of Show Winner | 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier shown by The Keller Collection at The Pyramids. Image Source: pebblebeachconcours.net

Every year I attend Pebble Beach Week I see more ‘new’ old cars and learn many interesting car facts.    If you have a deep or just a passing interest in the vintage car hobby, you must attend a few or all of the week’s events. Although some event tickets have now become expensive, there are enough free events during the week to provide you a great glimpse of some of the rarest and most interesting cars in the world.


About the Author | Chris Mulvihill

Chris founded Classiccaradvisors.com in 2007. His passion for cars began as a young boy walking the service area of his grandfather’s Oldsmobile dealership. After graduating from Indiana University, his automobile knowledge expanded to the factory side as a Ford Motor Company Field Manager based in Los Angeles. During his time on the West Coast he began attending vintage car events where he established deep rooted friendships in the classic car industry. His interests are in the history of the cars, restoration and maximizing driving enjoyment.

Chris can be reached at chris@classiccaradvisors.com


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