Watchonista’s Guide To Monterey Car Week At The Legendary Pebble Beach
Cars & motorsport

Watchonista’s Guide To Monterey Car Week At The Legendary Pebble Beach

After a dormant year, a robust automotive homecoming flooded the rugged Monterey Peninsula with four days of car-centric events, auctions, races, and debuts.

By Alexandra Cheney

The Thursday Splash

Overlooking the verdant 18th green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links and Stillwater Cove, Aston Martin packed a powerful set of premieres to jump-start the long weekend. The British brand’s CEO, Tobias Moers, and Lawrence Stroll, its Executive Chairman, quelled years-long speculation, unveiling the 1,139-horsepower hybrid Valkyrie, along with the evermore limited edition Valkyrie Spider. “You can literally drive it on the ceiling,” Moers said of the naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 that revs to 11,000 rpm.

Moers clocked 26 years at Mercedes-Benz – including seven years at AMG, its race-inspired tuning division – and is the man responsible for brokering the $700 million purchase of technology from Benz to be implemented throughout the Aston Martin lineup, beginning with Valkyrie. Joining Moers, Stroll pulled a Union Jack off the three-motored V8 Valhalla, noting that “the future couldn’t possibly be any brighter” for the company he rescued from the throes of bankruptcy.

Later that day, Bentley revealed the new Flying Spur Hybrid Mulliner, the first electrified model created by the bespoke division, and the Bentayga Hybrid. The inauguration of the four-door sedan alongside the SUV further cements Bentley’s “Beyond 100” plan, which centers around an entirely electrified lineup by 2030, as well as being the first carbon-neutral automobile manufacturer.

Raising a dram, the Macallan regional brand ambassador Keiron Elliot led guests through an extensive whisky tasting, thanks to a freshly formed partnership between the two companies.

The Lawn Party

Descending on the event, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, is equal parts car-spotting, people watching, and jaw-dropping debuts. Hosted on the rolling green golf course of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley, Lamborghini unveiled the new, hybrid Countach LPI 800-4, while Bugatti showed the Bolide and Audi presented the Skysphere concept car. Mate Rimac and Christian von Koenigsegg, whose namesake companies are at the forefront of electric hypercar development, both noted the palpable excitement for their passion projects turned car brands. “People are hungry, not for either/or – power or sustainability – but for both,” von Koenigsegg told Watchonista.

The Quail, an exhibition and concours held by the Signature Events division of Peninsula Hotels, also included live-shucked oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co. and free-flowing Laurent-Perrier Champagne. Divided into 11 classes for judging, roughly 200 thoughtfully restored or immaculate automobiles zig-zagged across the golf links.

Sliding Into Saturday

The choice: Head to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion – a veritable moving museum of historic and period-correct race and sports cars from nearly every era – or slide behind the wheel into a series of cars for a sampling of past, present, and future along 17-Mile Drive.

On the heels of its newest black box – no photos allowed – the SL debuted Friday night, Mercedes-Benz offered drives for a handful of the model’s expressions over time. Tracing the outline of the Pacific coastline in a 1957 300SL Roadster, hair blowing in the breeze of a misty morning, it simply felt right. Convertibles and coupes from 1957 through 2005 were on offer, although the aforementioned drop-top and the 1969 280SL “Pagoda” easily drifted to the top of the favorites list. 

As day shifted into evening, the gavel began to fall at a series of auctions, and a 1995 McLaren F1 that sold for $20,465,000 at Gooding & Company bested the lot as the most expensive car to change hands throughout the week.

Concours d'Elegance

As the climactic event to close out Monterey Car Week, this year 230 collector cars competed for Best in Show at the Concours d’Elegance. Strolling the lawn in their straw fedora hats and navy suits, a series of judges inspected each vehicle for preservation, period-correctness, and beauty.

A black 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K fastback coupe took the award to the cheers of guests sporting fascinators and wielding espresso martinis or champagne flutes.

“Isn’t it just a marvel?” said Henrik Wenders, Senior Vice President at Audi, as he walked by a bright red 1952 Ferrari 340 Mexico Berlinetta by Vignale, complete with its original tool kit. Wenders was referring to the event as a whole, although the lineup of Ferrari’s proved exceptionally impressive.

Considered a kind of Kentucky Derby of motorsport, some guests bounced between hospitality suites provided by the automakers as a live jazz band kept spirits high – despite a chilly breeze that made itself comfortable throughout the day.

(Photography by Chris Meugniot)

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