Words| Photos : John Hietter
Seeing a car at a show is like seeing a picture of someone, you can only judge the car by what you see on its surface when it is in a static state.
Seeing a car on a tour is like meeting someone in person, now you can see the body roll and operation of its parts, smell the leather interior and the potent exhaust fumes, hear the exhaust, the creaks, the rattles, the gear shifts, and the brake squeal, and feel the engine vibration as the car drives by.
Classic car tours and rallies provide a chance to see a car going up hills, around bends, accelerating, and braking, giving onlookers a more complete picture of how it responds to challenges, its performance, and its overall nature. Tours also take cars through multiple lighting conditions, weather conditions, and scenic backdrops to show how the car looks in and interacts with a multitude of environments.
Experiencing cars in all these different ways through one event brings viewers closer to the ownership experience, and ultimately their dreams, than any car show.
Every year in mid August, California’s Monterey Peninsula hosts the Monterey Car Week, 7+ days of legendary car events, and one of the highlights is the The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. It showcases some of the most significant cars in history, shows them in the widest range of conditions of any event that week, and as stated above, provides the most complete experience of a car a spectator can get during this week.
The Tour D’Elegance is a companion event to the Monterey Car Week’s crown jewel, the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. The show is show known for combining a collection of the greatest cars and one of the most beautiful settings in the world. This year over 100 of the 200 or so cars in the show participated. The number is impressive because of the risk associated with taking a show car on the Tour; a car may be damaged or break down, making it more difficult to look and function its best to get high marks at the show on Sunday. Because of the risk, a car that participates in the tour will have the upper hand should it land in a tie with another car at the show.
On Thursday morning around 8am, the cars set off from the Pebble Beach Equestrian center and spend the whole day cruising the roads around the Monterey Peninsula, mainly around Del Monte Forest, Carmel, and Big Sur. Towards the end of the tour, the cars stop in Downtown Carmel where a mini show is held on the main drag, Ocean Ave., while the participants take a lunch break. Afterwards they work their way back along 17 mile drive to the Tour’s starting point where the cars are cleaned, serviced, and put away until the big show on Sunday
Part 1 – Walk to the show: This year I caught the tour at their lunch stop on Ocean Avenue in Downtown Carmel. Since this is by far the most crowded stop on the tour, it usually requires parking several blocks out into the surrounding neighborhood. Fortunately, parking far from Downtown provides an opportunity to stumble upon interesting cars also in town for the weekend. Here are some I found on the hike from the car to the mini show on Ocean Ave.
Part 2 – Show on Ocean Ave: By the time the cars arrive on Ocean Ave there is already a sea of people to greet them. The crowds can make it difficult to get the whole car in one photo, but the arrangement also allows you to really get up close and personal with the cars, to take in every little detail.
Part 3 – Cars driving: Once the Tour participants finish lunch and the fans have inspected each car, the drivers head back to their cars to get ready for the final leg of the tour. When all the participants are settled back in their cars and the cars are prepped and ready to go, the police escorts clear the way to start the final short drive back into Del Monte Forest to the Polo Fields, where the transporters that house these classics for the weekend are parked. I usually leave the show before it departs from Downtown Carmel so I can station myself somewhere along 17 Mile Drive to get clear photos of the cars. Just a few turns inside the south gate of 17 Mile Drive is a large uphill left-hand turn in a forest of oak trees that makes for the backdrop of this year’s photos of the Pebble Beach Tour D’Elegance.