Monterey Tour d’Elegance 2011

You Have to Get Up Early
Foggy Start to The Tour

There’s a lot of car stuff going on around Monterey leading up to the third Sunday in August. None of it would exist without the little car show they’ve held at the Pebble Beach Golf Links for 60 years.

It’s such an American event, with its celebration of the flamboyant, expensive and sometimes outrageous in automotive design, (and its sheer size now – there were over 1,200 credentialled journalists alone this year) yet it betrays a self-conscious need for global validation in the French name they stuck it with – Concours d’Elegance, or “Contest of Elegance.”

They couldn’t change it now if they wanted to, but there is no longer any question of its status. Few dispute its rank as the foremost venue for bestowing legitimacy upon the quality of your show car. Every aspect of the operation drips with that now-rare quality, class. Just to be invited adds value to your car. To win a major award can add a zero on the end of a vehicle’s appraised worth.

Transporters at Pebble Beach Concours 2011

How do you get to the Pebble Beach Concours? Transporters! Ever wonder what the undercarriage of an immaculately restored Duesenberg looks like? Immaculate!.

There are three major events and a multitude of minor ones around the Links and the Lodge. The big three are the Concours itself, the Tour d’Elegance that starts on the polo fields, and the Gooding & Co. Auction.

If you want to see all that, there are three factors that outweigh all the others – parking, parking, and of course, parking. For most of us, that means arriving early for any event, either to find one of the scarce public parking spaces among the trees near the equestrian center, or on 17 Mile Drive between the Lodge and Stevenson Drive.

On Sunday, unless you are a guest of a Sponsor (or bought a $500 Club d’Elegance pass), you need to catch one of the first shuttles from Spanish Bay. I had a pleasant conversation with Ms. Dennie Gooding, mother of the Gooding & Co.’s David Gooding, and she had to walk! (She no doubt stayed nearby as someone’s guest.)

Drivers start lining up the cars for the start of the Tour d’Elegance at about 06:00 on Thursday, so I figured 05:00 would be safe arrival time. Leaving a cushion for unexpected contingencies, I left our secret team headquarters (a bargain motel 40 miles away) at around 04:00. It’s a good thing I did.

I’d reckoned without the notorious Monterey Peninsula fog. The Lodge and environs are difficult enough to find on a clear day. In the morning dark, without my GPS, I probably would have found myself in Pacific Grove before I knew I’d taken a wrong turn. As it was, for once in my life I found myself on a road posted at 25 mph and thought it was too fast. I gained a new appreciation for my BMW’s adaptive headlamps, which led me around the many tight curves and bends. As it says in the book, most fog lights are not much use in real fog, and mine were no exception.

First Glimpse

Before 2011 Tour d'Elegance Start

Crews in the process of unloading and preparing the cars that will attempt the Tour d'Elegance, in the foggy gloom of 6:09 AM on the Polo Field at Pebble Beach.


Front Row, Start of Tour d'Elegance 2011

06:30 on foggy Monterey Peninsula the Thursday before the Concours. Ferrari 250LM and 250 GTO will be the first two cars to leave on the Tour d'Elegance - in about 40 minutes. The 250LM was made for US Ferrari Distributor Luigi Chinetti - the only one fitted for road use. The 250 GTO is number 3223GT, the first GTO. Lorenzo Bandini took it to 2nd place overall in the Nassau Tourist Trophy in 1962. Other drivers included NASCAR legend Fireball Roberts. The driver on Thursday confirmed it was currently in the configuration in which it competed in the 24 hour race at Daytona - still racing and finishing in 1966.

Contrasts on the Road

At the Pebble Beach Concours, cars are placed among their peers, arranged by judging class, so the breadth of the field is harder to appreciate. The Tour d’Elegance on the other hand, arranges the cars in what seems like random order, so that you see cars of different eras and wildly different styles lined up cheek by jowl, three deep behind the lead cars at the start. There has been some muttering in the past among the drivers of faster machines with tall racing gearing at being stuck behind cars that could barely make some of the grades, slowing to the point where they had difficulty keeping the revs up. I heard one Ferrari driver say that they’d done a better job on that account this year.

Geneva Introduction Jaguar XK-E at Tour d'Elegance Start - 2011

A Ferrari GTO, A 1952 Pininfarina Lancia, a Preservation-class Mark II Shelby Cobra, and a 1936 Model 48 Ford V8 with Convertible Cabriolet body by Gläser of Dresden, line up for the start of the Tour, surrounding the very car that introduced the Jaguar XK-E to the world at Geneva in 1961, 50 years ago.

Among cars singled out for special appreciation this year were the famed Ferrari GTOs. Only 39 of these cars were built (of the 100 that the FIA’s rules should have required), and they went on to help Ferrari win the Manufacturer’s Championship in 1962, 1963, and 1964. Of those, 22 were listed in the Car Guide for the Pebble Beach Concours on Sunday, although my unofficial count only found 21. 

Two Ferrari GTOs at Start of 2011 Tour d'Elegance

Technician affixes the Tour d'Elegance sticker to the headlight of Ferrari GTO 3445, in its Swedish livery, while a silver example awaits the start. Cars that competed at the Monterey Historic "Reunion" races at Laguna Seca over the weekend qualified as participating in the Tour. If the judges awarded two competing cars the same points, that could be the tie -breaker that determined the award. Fortunately for those hoping to see them who did not attend the races, many GTO drivers preferred the less risky event.

300SL Roadster at Tour d'Elegance Start - 2011

The 300SL Roadster (with hardtop) seen dimly in the 6:09 am image, ready to depart on the Tour d'Elegance. Leave it to the Germans to arrive in Monterey in August all fitted out for skiing (inset).

Stevens-Duryea Ready to Start 2011 Tour d'Elegance

Brave and hardy participants get into the spirit of the 2011 Tour d'Elegance in this rare 1907 Stevens-Duryea - what else? - "Touring Car" of course.

Classic Rolls Royce, Packard, and Stutz at Start of Tour d'Elegance - 2011

Classic era Packard, flanked by examples of the honored marques for this year, "Edwardian" Rolls Royces and Stutz - this one's the famous Bearcat.

1953 Lincoln Derham Coupe at Tour d'Elegance Start - 2011

I should be used to it by now, but it's still strange to see cars like the ones that were new when I was a kid, showing up as "Classic" cars. Our family had a 1953 Lincoln that I remember fondly, and the principal design cues of that car are evident in this custom Derham Coupe awaiting the start of the Tour. Derham, a coachbuilder who clothed Duesenberg chassis in the 30s, was the last still in business in the 60s.

Ferrari Lusso awaiting start of 2011 Tour d'Elegance

The thing I like most about writing this stuff is that no one can tell me what to put in or take out, so although it may seem repetitive, I'm including a shot of the one example of my favorite Ferrari, the Scaglietti 250 GT Lusso, that made the Tour. This one also participated in the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic from Kirkland, Washington, to Pebble Beach.

1936 Auburn 852 SC Speedster at Tour d'Elegance Start 2011

The Auburn 852 SC Speedster was the equivalent to a Corvette in its day, with Ab Jenkins setting endurance records in a stock version of over 100 mph for 12 hours.

Stutz Convertible Sedan at start of 2011 Tour d'Elegance and broken down near end

The Tour d'Elegance is intended to show that the cars that grace the 18th Fairway on Sunday are not just pretty objects for display. Although for a modern car it's not much of a challenge, for cars fifty, seventy, or in this case a 82 years old, there's no guaranty that they'll finish. Rich Atwell's 1929 Minerva Type AM Convertible Sedan was built for Mrs. Campbell - of the soup company. Shown at the start (top), and as far as it made it - to Carmel, just a few blocks short of the public display.


Blue Ferrari GTO 3445 arriving in Carmel -Tour d'Elegance 2011

Carmel 11:00. This is Ferrari GTO 3445GT. It placed 5th at the Sebring 12 hour race in 1963, and in the Daytona 2000 km in 1964, and 6th in the 1963 Targa Florio, as well as 1st in several minor races. Its drivers included Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon, who drove it to 17th in the 12 hr race at Reims in 1964.

Rolls-Royce 40/50 & Lancia arrive in Carmel fot 2011 Tour d'Elegance
Rolls-Royce 40/50 leads later Lancia into Carmel. If it’s an “Edwardian” Rolls, the 1923 New York Licence is too recent. Note there are no radiator guards or shutters. Sparse traffic posed no threat of flying stones.
Stevens-Duryea arrives in Carmel - Tour d'Elegance 2011

Intrepid crew of the Stevens-Duryea shown earlier, safely shepherded their 104 year-old touring car into Carmel, none the worse for foggy, cool conditions.

Red Stutz Bearcat arrives in Carmel - Tour d'Elegance 2011

The riding mechanic in this Red Stutz Bearcat must have been cold - if he made the whole tour.

1960 Plymouth XNR Ghia Roadster at 2011 Tour d'Elegance

Virgil Exner designed this1960 Plymouth XNR Ghia Roadster to introduce Chrysler's1962 design ideas. I don't know what the critics said, but in my memory those were some of the ugliest cars ever built. This one does not even have a Hemi to mitigate the strangeness of its shapes. It's powered by a slant six.

Lamborghini Aventador in Carmel during 2011 Tour d'Elegance

The new high tech Lamborghini Aventador was supposed to be a big deal at Friday's Concorso Italiano, but anyone walking up the street in Carmel on Thursday got a preview.

I’ve always been an early riser, and this year my inclinations served me well. It’s fascinating to be there to see what goes into the organization of an event such as the Tour. Transporters disgorging their precious cargo, mechanics making last-minute adjustments, the affixing of the official Tour stickers, and the banter of car nuts asking questions and expounding on the arcane details of the cars and their histories.

There were three CHP patrol cars and their officers at the Start/Finish line at what we used to call in the service, “oh -dark-thirty,” to do their liaison with the organizers, and make sure everything started smoothly. Then there were what must have been dozens of motorcycle patrol officers controlling traffic to get the tour through busy intersections.

It must have been frustrating for the drivers of the first cars out – a couple of fast Ferraris from the golden age of sports-racers in the sixties – to have a clear road ahead and a troop of CHP officers to clear the path, while making sure they didn’t do anything too exuberant. That did not dull the enthusiasm of the spectators though. For once I wasn’t at Bixby Bridge to cover the cars for you as they crossed, but be honest. Did you miss it?


About carmacarcounselor

I'm one of those people that friends call "that car guy," except I've made it into a profession. Since 1988 when a friend found my help in choosing, finding, and negotiating for a new car was worth a fee, I've helped countless people, listening to their car questions and challenges, and helping with their car purchases, insulating them from the adversarial process that is the new car retail model today. Their word of mouth is my only publicity. My newsletter CARMA won the description "The clear crystal ring of truth" from award-winning automotive journalist Denise McCluggage. Now I'm going global!
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