It’s been a couple of years since I’ve stood on the lawn at Pebble Beach watching the glow of daylight slowly spread across the 18th fairway of the famed golf course, participating in what is known as “Dawn Patrol.” Inarguably the most important Concours on American soil and quite possibly the world, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is so much more than just that Sunday morning when incredible, historic machines motor on to the green grass in hopes of earning trophies for their owners.
Like all events that attract people of both unbridled passion and pockets full of money, Monterey Car Week has burgeoned into a full-fledged orgasm of automotive excess. The events – a road rally through the Monterey peninsula, The Quail, Concorso Italiano, Legends of the Autobahn, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the nightly auctions, Concourse d’LeMons, and of course the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – are a convenient excuse for car companies, automotive aftermarket specialists, and luxury marketers from every category imaginable to hawk their wares. It makes sense. For one week in August, Cannery Row becomes Car Central where you probably have a better chance of seeing a Ferrari than a Focus.
As a lover of cars, it’s a fantastic event and one that will always be on my bucket list. If you’re reading this column, it should be on yours. As a student of marketing, it’s an amazing display of the lengths companies will go to get their brand in front and products into the hands of some of the most affluent and influential consumers in the world. The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering is a great example of this. It’s a $600 per person event that not only includes the opportunity to see an amazing assortment of classic racing cars – not all in Concours condition. It’s also where you’ll be treated to bottomless glasses of champagne (sponsored by Louis Roederer), gourmet foods from a number of local venues, and if you forgot your hat, don’t worry, Hagerty Insurance will be handing out very nice wide brimmed straw hats with their logo around the band.
Of course, every luxury auto manufacturer is there with a stand showing off their most outrageous creations. Many of the brands that show up here don’t go to the traditional auto shows plebeians like you and I can attend. Pagani, Bugatti, Rimac, Spyker and other specialty manufacturers who produce in volumes so low they make Rolls-Royce look like a mass production brand. Don’t worry Rolls is there, too, as is Bentley, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Lincoln, Infiniti, Acura, and nearly every other marque that has a whiff of luxury aspirations hoping that just a little of the magic will rub off on them. But if you want to stand out here, you have to be bold, as Rolls-Royce was with this bespoke Dawn created for one of the company’s best customers Michael Fux. They call the color “Fuxia” and it was developed based a flower Mr. Fux found and shared with Rolls-Royce designers.
And while the automotive eyes of the world are focused on Pebble, manufacturers take the opportunity to share some of their latest thinking in the form of concept cars. This year was no exception as Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, and Volkswagen turned up with visions of the future that seemed to each have a foot planted firmly in the past.
Let’s start with the one we’ve seen before, the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz. How is it news if we’ve already seen this updated, all-electric homage to the classic microbus? The news is VW is going to make it. They brought the I.D. Buzz out to Monterey and let several journalists take a spin in it while announcing to the world that it will be showroom ready in 2022. Yes, that’s 5 years from now, but it will take VW that long to develop the battery and promised autonomous technology necessary to bring the hippie bus to life. According to VW CEO, Dr. Herbert Diess, “After the presentations at the global motor shows in Detroit and Geneva, we received a large number of letters and emails from customers who said, ‘please build this car.’” If you were one of those people all we have to say is, “thank you.”
Mercedes-Benz hit the concept lawn with a drop-top version of last year’s stunner, the Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Cabriolet. Everything about this car is designed to impress. It begins with the massive size. It’s just under 20 feet long and nearly 7 feet wide, with a long sloping hood that harkens back to cabriolets of the ’20s and ‘30s. 24-inch wheels dominate the profile and the long, boat tail has an overhang dimension you just don’t see anymore. Also an all-electric concept, the Vision 6 will deliver 750 horsepower with a range of over 200 miles. Gigantic for a two-seater, it looks like a vehicle for a modern-day Jay Gatsby.
Infiniti came to Pebble intent on inventing a heritage for the brand that never really existed by introducing the Prototype 9, a single-seat Grand Prix style all-electric racer that Infiniti’s global design director, Alfonso Albaisa, says was inspired by asking themselves what if they discovered an old Japanese race car from the early days of Formula 1 in a barn somewhere? What would it look like, and how could it be modernized to a future design? The result is another all-electric prototype that has modern technology under its sleek stainless steel exterior. Looking very much like something Juan Manuel Fangio or Sir Stirling Moss would have been piloting decades ago, the Prototype 9 is said to have a top speed of 170 miles per hour.