Words: Ben Abrams | Photos: Ben Abrams/Nic Jimenez/Ernesto Che/Jorge Payan
The Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance is the absolute pinnacle of the vintage Automotive world. The annual contest is designed to highlight and reward the best preserved or restored, most historically valuable vehicles. In order to show your car on the 18th Fairway at the Pebble Beach Golf course, your car must meet the strictest criteria. It would be fair to say that every vehicle that is called to participate in this fabled show has undergone a massive journey to get there.
According to pebblebeachconcours.net, “to contend in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, an automobile must be a well preserved or accurately restored vehicle still quite capable of doing what it was meant to do — be driven. It will almost certainly have some historic value — perhaps in its day it served to debut new technology or new styling trends or it has an amazing racing record. And it will be rare —possibly a singular example of a special chassis bearing a respected coachbuilder’s art.”
In order to attend this year’s Concours d’Elegance, we decided we wanted a journey of our own and in order to uphold the standards for a car worthy of the lawn, we wanted to drive there. We decided to drive from Seattle to Monterey in a 1987 Lamborghini LM002. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Lamborghini, I had one goal in mind for this trip to Monterey: to drive the LM to the Serata Italiana taking place at the Pasadera Country Club so I could shake hands and take a picture with my friend Valentino Balboni.
Over the years, I have spoken to Valentino at many events as he and I share our admiration for this unique 6000lb, 450hp, 4wd Lamborghini. The first time I met Valentino was at the “Running of the Bulls” in 2004 when both he and Stephan Winkelmann gave me kudos for driving the “Rambo Lambo” from Seattle to Lake Tahoe. This year, I wanted to show the top brass at Lamborghini again that my big bull was still kicking. It didn’t come easy though. After a couple minor incidents that left us needing assistance on our trip south, we finally made it to Laguna Seca Raceway when the truck’s aftermarket ignition box failed catastrophically.
I was broken but not beaten. I ordered a replacement ignition box and coil from Amazon on Thursday night and overnighted it to the hotel. That was a long 24 hour wait. I saw Valentino on the lawn at The Quail that Friday afternoon and told him of my troubles. In a moment that I’ll never forget, he helped me troubleshoot the issues and recommended that I “hit” the distributor (as he swung his fist down through the air repeatedly). Coincidentally, that day I also learned that, another man I revere in the industry, Horacio Pagani, had designed the interior of the LM002. Leaving the Quail, I felt more motivated than ever to get the truck back on the road. I owed it to both of them.
I didn’t sleep well that night. Although my truck does not meet the standards for showing on the Pebble lawn, I felt a strange, compelling need to complete the truck in time, as if I was in danger of being disqualified. Knowing the kind of commitment that owners put into the vehicles that are invited to the Concours, it seemed like the respectful thing to do; as an owner of an important collectible, I wanted to completely participate in the camaraderie of the week’s events. We had come so far and I didn’t want to fail.
Although not possessing much of a mechanical bone in my body, when that package arrived, I didn’t even think of waiting for assistance. Ironically, the mechanic who knew my truck inside and out was staying at the same hotel but wasn’t available to help me until the last minute. With 2 minutes help from his trained eye, a leatherman, a portable socket set, and a lot of electrical tape, I was able to hear the glorious sound of the 48 valve v-12 rumble to life again. I had two hours to kill before the Serata party. Doing a victory lap through Fisherman’s Wharf and the Presidio, I saw heads spin and heard a scream of “holy sh*t that’s a Lamborghini!”. The exhaust note blared off the walls of the the Lighthouse Ave tunnel as I raced back to the hotel to change for the party.
That was the possibly the best 7.4 miles I’ve ever driven in the LM002. Although parking had been already closed, the Lamborghini Club graciously allowed me to pull into the Serata courtyard. As I parked the truck and started making the rounds, Winkelmann introduced me to other corporate officers as “the guy with the LM”. That was only possible because he saw me drive into the event. Check. I then managed to get my 5 minutes with Valentino. His smile was warm and genuine. He was thrilled to see the LM. He was proud of me. I had done it. Check.
The next day, Sunday, was the big event. We were on “dawn patrol” at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. While watching the cars pull on the lawn under the thick mist, all I could think of was the magnificent journey each and every one of these cars and owners must have experienced in order to get here.
My 2 day trip down the coast doesn’t compare at all to the years and miles these cars have traveled. But, on a microcosmic scale, and as a car enthusiast, I can share in their triumph rolling onto the foggy lawn this morning.
Some cars were spitting water on the lawn as the traffic to enter the fairway was not agreeing with these founding fathers of Automotive. But they were there, they had made it. As I watched Valentino and Horacio walk the lawn as guest judges, I realized that I was at the end of my journey here in Monterey. Arguably, it is the most important car event in the world showing off the most significant cars in history and, for another year, for all the cars and owners on that lawn, their journey too had been completed.