Just back from Pebble Beach and overwhelmed with both jet-lag and some simply awesome memories.
I've been fortunate enough to experience the whole 'Monterey week' extravaganza three times and with each trip I've returned home totally astounded at the sheer variety and quality of the classics that you see at the string of back-to-back events (Concorso Italiano, Quail Lodge, Laguna Seca and Pebble Beach being the main attractions – but there are loads of smaller but equally impressive get-togethers).
Of the four big ones, Pebble is unquestionably the grandest and most impressive. Yes, the cars are mega shiny and seriously valuable – it's fair to say a substantial proportion are owned by millionaires (and billionaires) – but the displays are still hugely impressive, if only for their rarity, elegance and the simply astounding 'blank cheque book' attention to detail.
What's more, the cars aren't all over-restored. Pebble may have long epitomised the 'boiled sweet' look so common in America – and arguably had a hand in many an original car losing its nicely patinated interior and paintwork as a result – but each year the preservation element is increased (there were three classes dedicated to preservation last weekend) thanks to some spectacularly original cars. And many of them have covered high mileages, too.
You're unlikely to see them again at Pebble Beach, too, at least not for a while, because any car entered (with some exceptions such as model-specific celebrations) isn't invited back for a minimum of 10 years.
Consider that this year the organisers sourced some 227 cars across 25 period- or theme-inspired classes, and that the event has been running for 61 years, and you've got to hand it to them: dishing up a fresh line-up year in and year out is impressive.
And the annual show is accessible. Sure the tickets are a hefty $175 (in advance, $200 on the day!), but at least it's open to the public when many (such as Villa d'Este) aren't and it is affordable in a once-in-a-lifetime sort of way when you consider the spread of classics you get to see.
Below are some of the highlights for the C&SC team this year:
Rear view of Peter Mullin's 1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne that scooped Best of Show.
And its elegant interior.
Daimler Knight belonged to King George V and was a star of the Pre-War Preservation Class.
Swallow Doretti was a budget entry by Pebble standards, but it looked every bit the part.
1915 Stutz White Squadron was driven by Earl Cooper at the Indy 500 that year and later donated to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
1918 Stutz Series B Bearcat belongs to TV talk show host and classic car addict Jay Leno.
Magnificent 1929 Stutz M Convertible Victoria by Hibbard & Darrin was another highlight of the 1911 to 1924 Stutz class.
This gorgeous 1954 Ferrari 375MM Pinin Farina Berlinetta was a star in the Post-War Preservation Class.
As was this ex-C&SC feature car: Ben Caiola's 17,000-miles-from-new 1953 Fiat 8V Ghia Supersonic.
Another impressive Ferrari 375MM: a 1954 Pinin Farina Berlinetta Aerodinamica Speciale, but in the Ferrari Grand Touring class.
1954 Packard Panther in the Post-war American Chassis With Special Body class. It's one of just four made and sports a one-piece glassfibre body that's an inch thick in places!
Another favourite in the same class was this 1954 Hudson Italia Coupe by Touring.
This 1963 Jaguar E-type is one of the 12 famous Lightweights and one of four ordered by Briggs Cunningham for his final assault on Le Mans, but it was passed on to Kjell Qvale who won his class at the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours. It has done only 3400 miles from new and featured in the Post-war Preservation Class.
1932 Austro-Daimler 635 Armbruster Sport Cabriolet in the European Classic 1932-1937 Class.
Our favourite Ferrari 250GTO (and there were 22 to choose from!): Brandon Wang's nicely patinated black 1963 example that Pedro Rodríguez drove to first place at the 3 Hour Daytona Continental race the same year. Jo Bonnier campaigned the car at Sebring, too.
This 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL is the 19th Gullwing built and it was used by Stirling Moss for promotional work prior to his epic 1955 Mille Miglia win.
Imposing 1926 Renault 1926 40CV Labourdette Skiff has had just three owners from new. It featured in the Pre-war Preservation Class.
UK Rolls-Royce & Bentley specialist Will Fiennes showed off the ex-HRH Shar Ali Wali Kahn of Afghanistan1932 Rolls-Royce 20/25 HP that Fiennes recently restored. HRH accidentally drove it into Lake Geneva at one point and the car was later owned by a Scottish church minister who drove it around Italy on his honeymoon! Fiennes gave the Rolls its post-restoration debut for the current owner at Vila d'Este this year and it had a close call for needing some further restoration after a bear cub clawed its way over it the night before Pebble. Fortunately the bear went easy on the paint and no damage was done!