2017 Monterey Car Week: Gathering of Unicorns

One of the most prestigious and provocative automotive events of the year is the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This is an event where the finest examples of the world’s most beautiful, uncommon, and expensive cars are put on display; some are even auctioned off to the highest bidder, assuming the reserve is met.

Big Money

People with names such as Bonhams, Mecum, and Gooding show up to ensure the safe handling of the often multi-million dollar, rare exotic sports cars and classics. The latest hypercars from all your favorite manufacturers come together with the most extensive collection of concourse condition, prewar roadsters. And let’s not forget the Rolex Reunion Vintage Motorsport races, marking this event as unquestionably the place to be to get up close and personal with the unicorns of the industry.

Albeit the estimated value of cars auctioned off at the 2017 Monterey Car Week was down 14 percent to a paltry $290 million, it did not disappoint. One of the most beautiful examples to hit the auction block was a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta. The Scaglietti-designed coupe changed hands for a high bid of just over $8.3 million.

Racing Roster

As always, racing is a theme with many of the truly desirable cars offered, and the mostly-original Jaguar Lightweight E-Type presented by Bonhams was no exception. The Jag did not sell this time around but it will be offered again in Scottsdale (where I hope to witness and report its sale). Another icon in the race world was handled by Gooding & Company: the very same Porsche 917 seen in the film Le Mans became the most expensive Porsche ever when the new owner shelled out $14,080,000 to add this legend to their collection. Even though a McLaren F1 made an appearance and garnered an impressive $15.6 million, the coup de grace of the auction lineup was the 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 raking in a dizzying $22,550,000.

As stirring as the high-dollar auctions are, some of the most exquisite pieces did not have a price tag. One such vehicle is the 1932 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A owned by the Atwell family. It has been in the family for ages and showed at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance by three generations of Atwells. There are mind-boggling numbers of pristine prewar autos at this affair, so many that one even took the best overall award. The 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer rolled across the honored ramp with its polished hood glimmering more brightly than the seas of Monterey Bay behind it. The marvelous restoration of this supercharged 7.0-liter Mercedes-Benz was completed a mere two weeks before the showcase.

1973 Jaguar E-Type at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Photo: Benjamin Caschera for Automoblog.net.

Notable Dignitaries

From distinguished cars to distinguished people, Horacio Pagani himself was present to introduce the most current lineup of eponymous hypercars, of which the Pagani Zonda HP Barchetta was unveiled. This open-top rendition of the Zonda sports a low-cropped windshield, dressed in body panels made of ultra-lightweight, proprietary Carbotanium. Being one of only three it is unlikely this model will be seen at your local Cars & Coffee anytime soon.

Mercedes-Benz also made a strong showing, unveiling the 19-foot long, ultramodern Maybach 6 Cabriolet. Arthur C. Clarke himself couldn’t have created a more strikingly futuristic automobile, in an early postmodern science fiction sort of way. When looking at the sophisticated 2-seat land yacht, one can’t help but think of the Riva Aquarama, not just because the cockpit resembles an opulent powerboat and the eternal length is reminiscent of the AMG Cigarette team race boat, but more so due to the idea that such massive elegance is typically reserved for marine fairing vessels like the Riva.

Although these mythical beasts are showcased on the exclusive fairway of Pebble Beach, a legendary gathering such as this attracts a cacophony of uncommon creations from near and far. One of the most unique and wonderful manufacturers to recently join the gathering came to us all the way from Sweden. This year’s Car Week became host to the largest showing of Koenigsegg supercars to date; 10 of these extraordinary machines were on display for all. The general public could view these Scandinavian jewels as they adorned the streets of Cannery Row among their European contemporaries at the Exotics on Cannery Row event.

1967 Lancia Fulvia 1.3 HF at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Photo: Benjamin Caschera for Automoblog.net.

Stunning Showstopper

It is not just scheduled proceedings that display fantastical and insanely engineered automotive marvels. Most of the festivities related to the automotive utopia take place in Monterey, however many of the surrounding parking lots and roadways become a bit of a show in their own right. A colossal congregation of this proportion is a magnet for car enthusiasts that flock to the annual pomp and circumstance of Car Week.

Before reaching the first scheduled event, I suffered from a case of whiplash caused by wildly turning my head to catch a glimpse of all the cars on the roadway. The first neck breaker was a parade of Lamborghinis roaring in the opposite direction on highway 101. Somewhere near the middle of the pack, a white Countach caught my eye as I excitedly asked my kids if they knew what it was.

I became increasingly more concerned for the safety of my passengers as my attention was drawn to the Porsche 356 and Alfa Romeo GTV in my rearview mirror. Fortunately, traffic began to slow. As we found out, the slowdown was due to a filming session of sorts on the opposite side of the freeway. The spectacle of multiple McLarens on the roadside literally stopped traffic (the traffic was clearly comprised of many car fanatics anyway). As we entered the City of Monterey, an Aston Martin Rapide greeted us with a full-on profile view as it crossed traffic. It made a left-hand turn through the intersection to the freeway we just departed.

1976 Chevrolet Vega Cosworth at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Photo: Benjamin Caschera for Automoblog.net.

Unicorn Central

Added to the list of fabled cars, the limited-production Chevy Vega Cosworth; as a matter of fact, an entire herd of them assembled on the lawn of City Hall. Only 3,508 Cosworth branded Vega’s were ever made and five of them sat in a row, hoods propped forward in all their “Cosworthless” glory. Other sightings of cars previously thought to be extinct in the continental U.S. included the Peugeot 505, and not just one . . . we spotted three . . . on the road . . . driving under their own power!

The list of rarities goes on and on, and each one could stand alone as an in-depth editorial. The one common thread my semi-coherent ramblings and any other dictation of the entire occasion is how it is a true gathering of unicorns. 323 days (at the time of this writing) and counting until the next one. It is now some time later, and I find myself still reminiscing and yearning for next year’s Monterey Car Week.

Benjamin Caschera is a car nut in every sense of the word. His eclectic writings range from rants on traffic and wrenching on $500 cars, to adulation of the finest classic and/or latest hyper cars. Follow and heckle him on Twitter and Instagram: @TheBoringCarGuy

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About The Author

Like any good gearhead with gasoline in their veins, Ben’s affinity for cars came at a very young age. Some of his earliest memories from childhood are taking hot laps around Sonoma Raceway in a Ferrari Dino 246. The experience sparked a passion that still burns strong, which explains his particular fondness for Italian sports cars. As a hobbyist, Ben has bought maintained, repaired, and sold countless cars and appreciates all types, from classic British compact super Minis, to the latest hypercars and everything in between. This all-encompassing love of cars is evident by the ranting nature of Ben’s writing on a wide variety of topics.

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