On the way back from Monterey, California and the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance we stopped at the Little America truck stop in Wyoming to gas up the Ford Raptor that was now towing the Tatra 603 we drove from Prague to Pebble Beach. Fueling up his heavy duty Chevy truck at the pump next to us was a guy with a massive 5th wheel from Kansas who had just spent the week in Monterey. Like me, it was his first time visiting the week long car circus that is the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. But unlike me, he had actually gone to the big show at the end of the week.
I asked him if it was worth the $300 entry fee to check out the classic cars on display on the dew-soaked lawn of the Pebble Beach golf course. He made that so-so motion with his right hand and said that it was a once in a lifetime trip. He continued that he was happy he had attended the show, but would never go back again.
At this point you may be wondering why, after driving a 1968 Tatra 603 across two continents and almost 4000 miles to Monterey, I never actually attended the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The answer is simple and it’s my number one newbie mistake. Please keep reading my Top 5 Newbie Mistakes from my First Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
5) Unless you owe a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati or Rolls-Royce, you probably don’t have enough zeros in your bank account to feel like you belong at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Let me put this into stark perspective for you.
- We spent $429 per night for a double room that normally cost $99 per night for a somewhat ratty Comfort Inn that wasn’t even in Monterey, just for the privilege of staying on the Monterey Peninsula during the week leading up to the show. The only consolation from this blatant price gouging was that the hotel’s parking lot was full of the Porsches, Aston Martins and Rolls-Royces of other guests who were forced to slum in a Comfort Inn.
- A cold hamburger, chips and a coke was $20 dollars at the Legends of the Autobahn Show at which we displayed the Tatra 603 and this did not include the privilege of using the host golf club’s bathrooms.
- A 1964 Ferrari GTB/C Speciale sold for a stunning $26.4 million at the RM Auction in Monterey the night before the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. I can’t even imagine paying more for a used Ferrari than most people will ever earn in their entire lives.
- You even have to pay $20 for the privilege of watching someone else sell their car at one of the many car auctions in Monterey.
Holy Crap! That was all I was able to say when I turned a corner and an ultra rare Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Le Mans was driving down the road in front of me. How about seeing not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 classic gullwinged Mercedes-Benz’ parked next to each other. It is all but impossible to get your arms around all of the car activities that take place leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. There are non-stop car auctions that feature the world’s most exotic cars.
Everyday there’s a different car show, classic car drive, or classic car race at Mazda Speedway Leguna Seca. The entire week is a mind-blowing, breath-taking, heart-stopping explosion of all things that are rare, fast, and fun in the automotive world that will stagger even the most jaded of car guys or gals.
Unlike a big city car show, the week’s activities are very spread out in Monterey. This means lots of traffic in a town not designed for so many cars in such a small space. If you want to attend a Monterey car show in the morning and go to the classic cars races at the Mazda Speedway Leguna Seca in the afternoon, you better be prepared for some big city traffic on little city roads. And if you actually want to go to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, you better get up very early at the crack of dawn if you don’t want to sit in traffic until the late evening.
This can be especially daunting in you are driving a classic car like our 1968 Tatra 603 with a funky gearbox and tricky clutch. After we showed the Tatra at the Legends of the Autobahn show, we decided to trailer the car back to the Comfort Inn. In retrospect, this was a wise move as we’d still be on the side of the road putting the clutch back together after just a half hour in Monterey stop and go traffic. The good news? If you have to be stuck in traffic, it’s very fun to see a McLaren P1 and a classic Ferrari Testarossa stuck along side of you.
Unlike all of the other car show, auctions, and events during the week, the annual Concours d’LeMons is free.
The annual Concours d’LeMons is like a breath of fresh air in a week that’s designed to quickly and surgically part you and your money. But perhaps more importantly in the rarefied air that is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, it is great to see a celebration of the cars that the rest of us drive. Yes, these may be well-worn and much faded Volvos, Citroens, Chryslers, Chevys, and even pickup trucks, but unlike many of the exotic cars on exhibit they are much loved and much driven members of the family, warts and all.
These lemons are not investments, museum art, a hedge in someone’s stock fund portfolio, or even trailer queens. Yes, they are lemons, but they are the cars that the rest of us drive to work everyday. In a week long celebration of cars, money, and privilege, the annual Concours d’LeMons is a refreshing reality check when most needed.
Almost a year ago I was chatting with the gentlemen directly in charge of the Tatra class at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. I was so happy to hear that this year’s show was featuring Tatras that I hatched a crazy plan. Why not actually drive a Tatra from the Czech Republic where I was born to Pebble Beach. Thus Prague to Pebble or Bust was born. I figured this would be a natural fit to actually drive a Tatra from Prague across two continents to a show now dedicated to raising the profile of Tatra. BTW: Did you know that that Tatra is the third oldest car manufacturer in the world after Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot? And did you know that Tatra designed and built the world’s first mass produced aerodynamic car?
Way back in January I called the press person in charge of the Pebble Beach show and told her of our plans. She said that’s great keep me in the loop. I did and I never heard from her or anyone else from the show again. After numerous email, calls, tweets, and even video updates we were met with a profound silence from the organizers of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
You see I had mistakenly assumed that just because I was driving a completely restored Tatra from Liberec to Prague to Bremerhaven and then from Baltimore to Chicago to Colorado and to California and to Pebble Beach, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance would give a rat’s ass. They didn’t. The Concours d’Arrogance, as someone called it who commented on our video updates, was stone silent. We requested press passes to cover the show for our viewers and readers. Silence.
In the end the fine folks at both Mazda and Autobytel.com offered to give us passes to cover the show but TFL’s editorial policy is straightforward. No press pass from the organizers means no coverage or reporting on TFL. We cannot pay for the privilege of publicizing a show to TFL’s 8 million monthly readers and viewers.
In the end the kind folks at BMW Club of America came to our rescue and invited us to show the Tatra at the annual Legend of the Autobahn Show. They even gave us press passes and more importantly a prominent position to display the Tatra 603 among the many stunning German cars. We spent a magical day on the lawn answering questions about the Tatra and showing her off to hundreds of crazed car fans.
And that’s really the one newbie mistake we never made. The real magic of the Monterey week isn’t the very expensive and exotic cars on display. No, that’s just the eye candy that brings together the thousands of car guys and gals from around the world. It wasn’t even the journey of driving the Tatra to Pebble Beach, which was painfully hard. Instead, the best part is having had the privilege of sharing the trip with all of you via our videos, updates, and of course in person on the Lawn of the Legends of the Autobahn.
Please stay tuned for more videos updates and a complete series of half hour episodes that will chronicle this completely crazy road trip from Prague to Pebble. You can watch the first episode of the series HERE as we start with the purchase of the Tatra and drive it to Prague.