BLOOMBERG – In the end, it was as big as ever.
After skipping last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and early reports major automakers were planning to pass, the 70th anniversary of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance attracted thousands of ticket holders and 230 collector cars in a striking return to normalcy.
A black 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K won the Best of Show award at the climactic event of the Monterey Car Week, which is centered each year around Carmel, California. Navy-suited judges with straw fedora hats and clipboards lauded the coupe for its exact period-correct restoration and preservation. The rare fastback is the only known survivor of the three built at Mercedes’s factory in Sindelfingen, Germany.
This marked the ninth time the Mercedes marque has won top honours at the concours, a record shared with Molsheim, France-based Bugatti, and it came as the Kellers’ third win at Pebble Beach. In 1986, they won with their 1936 Mercedes-Benz 500K Special Roadster, and in 2001 with their 1930 Mercedes-Benz SS Erdmann & Rossi Roadster.
“It’s my triple crown,” Arturo Keller told reporters after the show. “This is the only remaining car of its kind, and I am the second owner from new. It’s a very special car, and we are very happy.”
Other class winners included a 1940 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Touring Coupé in the European Touring Classic class; a 1956 Maserati A6G Zagato Coupé in the Postwar Sports Class; and a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Fleetwood Sedan in the Postwar Touring class.
Spread among grandiose parties and private dinners hosted by automakers from Bentley and Lamborghini to Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, and Genesis, Monterey car week included smaller car shows, supercar debuts, prestigious multimillion-dollar auctions, and myriad networking opportunities for the hordes of car lovers who attend in the days leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Most attendees wore masks inside such places as the Pebble Beach Golf Club but very few did during outdoor events in the days before the concours, including the Porsche’s Werks Reunion, Concorso Italiano, and the Quail Motorsport Gathering. In an email, a spokesperson for the concours said organisers greatly expanded the show field and reduced the number of available tickets and media credentials to allow for proper social distancing. A spokesman would not share how many tickets were sold, but the crowd felt as thick-and even more buoyant – as in previous years.
The final daytime show was indeed the week’s biggest bash, complete with a live jazz band, hospitality suites operated by luxury automakers, and celebratory vibe.
Europeans, including automotive executives, were relatively scarce at this year’s event because of various pandemic travel restrictions. Such regulars as Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno were absent because of Delta-variant COVID concerns and scheduling conflicts, sources close to the men said.
Many longtime attendees agreed that a screaming Pagani-McLaren-Lamborghini contingent of modern hypercars in loud colors flooded the streets far more prominently than in previous years. Signs of air-cooled Porsches and stately old Jaguars were fewer and farther between, which some viewed as a changing of the guard from the old generation of Pebble Beach acolytes to a new one.
Still, there was something for everyone on the lawn.
Nestled amid prewar classics like as the 1937 Bugatti Type57SC Atalante and such modern collectable Italians as the 2003 Ferrari P4/5 Pininfarina Coupe, an assemblage of Alfa Romeos, Aston Martins, Packards, and Duesenbergs drew well-heeled car enthusiasts to ogle their distressed leather seats, ornate sculpted hood ornaments, and gleaming art deco designs.
The cars pictured here were some of the most beautiful.
Next year’s 71st Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will take place on Sunday, August 21. Lincoln and Talbot-Lago Grand Sport will be the featured marques. Additional special classes will be announced.