The Pebble Beach Experience: A First-Timer's Look at the World's Most Extravagant Celebration of Cars

Pebble Beach weekend is one of the best car events in the world, but what's it like for a newbie?

By Jacob Brown | Photos By Jacob Brown | September 17, 2013

Pebble Beach: Michael Schumacher Touched My Elbow

I have no idea what it's really like when a girl goes to a Justin Bieber concert and erupts into a rampant fit of excitement and estrogen-driven lust. But I can at least hazard a guess at what it's like to be that star-struck.
At the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, former Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher and the organizer of the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K., Charles Gordon-Lennox, were moseying about together while checking out older Alfa Romeo and Lancia race cars, one of which was the former Enzo Ferrari racer from the 1930s I had seen a few days earlier at my hotel. "Have you ever driven anything like that?" Gordon-Lennox asked Schumi. They carried on; I just looked like a tourist with my notebook in one hand and a camera in another. I didn't want to miss perhaps my only chance I'd ever have to talk to the racing legend. "Big fan," I said, awkwardly. "I'm a big fan." "Thanks," Schumacher replied. I wouldn't blame anyone in the U.S. for not knowing who he is, but Michael Schumacher is one of the winningest drivers of all time. I did a commendable job keeping my composure, I thought. The two started walking away. "Mr. Schumacher!" He looked over. I pointed to my camera. Schumacher, perhaps my height at around 5-foot-8, patted my left elbow and simply said, "Not at the moment. Maybe later." He then walked off. That was hardly the highlight of my trip; of course, Pebble is among the best concours in the world. Porsches, BMWs, Simplexes, Packards, Cords, Duesenbergs, former racing cars, and everything you can think of in between. No one car stood out to me, instead, it was the fact that 250 of the world's best antique cars were gathered on the 18th hole of Pebble Beach golf course to celebrate art and engineering, excellence and beauty. Was Pebble my favorite event of the weekend? Truth be told, probably not. But it was unparalleled in its glamour and without a doubt something that will be a highlight of my 2013, if not much, much longer. As a newbie entering this weekend of festivities, I'm not sure what I was expecting in retrospect, perhaps just nice cars and unmitigated pretentiousness. Instead, I sat outside my hotel room one night and met a woman who worked for Aston Martin from 1952 to 1956, hearing about why she thinks the company has lost its way and if there is a car made today that could quite match up to what the DB models of the 1950s were like. I spoke with team managers who professionally race historic cars. I met the working-class guy who had a poster of a Lamborghini Diablo on his wall and wanted one for himself. And I met up with some friends whom I'd not seen in months, sharing in the celebration of cars and culture, the effervescence of carburetors burning rich, and the sound of a Bugatti or race-worn Porsche trudging up one last time to receive its award, deafening onlookers with sounds that could best be described as suppressed aggression. Only on the track would they be able to stretch their legs. Pebble weekend isn't reality. I don't think it could be in its current form with fields of concept cars, test drives in Rolls-Royces and Bentleys for prospective buyers, and flamboyance abound. It's excess in the best way possible. It's something that every car guy or girl should have on his or her bucket list. It's a celebration that, while it may be a little too polished for some, is still impossible to not be giddy experiencing. And if this is the first and last time I ever get to go--hopefully, that won't be the case--it was something I don't think I could ever forget.
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