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Pebble Beach Cranks Up for the 50th Anniversary Concours Weekend

August 16, 2000|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's Pebble time again, the weekend that rocks the Monterey Peninsula as upward of 100,000 automotive aficionados cram onto the promontory to cheer vintage race cars, ogle some of the finest automobiles ever built and spend wads of cash--or watch others spend it--at three spectacular automotive auctions.

This year there's a special cachet: It's the 50th anniversary run of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the raison d'etre for the entire long weekend.

In honor of the occasion, organizers of the show have doubled the ticket price to $100 a person, which has raised the ire of a few.

But despite the escalated price of admission and the fact that the cost of a hotel or motel room anywhere near the Pebble Beach area code--if you can find one this late--doubles or even triples for the duration, the show is expected to draw about 20,000 spectators.

They will jam the 18th green of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Course from the time the gates open about 10 a.m. Sunday (things tend to be approximate on Pebble weekend) until the last trophy is awarded for Best of Show about 5 p.m.

Most of the showgoers will have been on the peninsula for several days by the time the last dab of polish is applied, the last bit of brass is shined and the gates are opened to the fans flush enough to have bought a ticket--or connected enough to have been comped.

Special features of the 50th anniversary Concours will include a display of 20 previous Best of Show winners and two new classes for boat-tail design--cars of the late 1920s and '30s whose sharply pointed rear ends gave them the sleek look of the fast speedboats that also were popular in that era--and French "teardrop" cars built in the streamline style of the '30s.

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But Pebble weekend is much bigger than the Concours. In fact, locals say, it is now bigger than any of the golf tournaments that made the peninsula famous. These days, the weekend also includes:

* The unveilings. Nothing to do with clothing, the unveilings--by auto makers eager for public notice--are an increasingly important part of any big car-oriented event, and Pebble is one of the biggest. In fact, most luxury car companies maintain a presence at the event, reserving posh picnic and viewing areas all around the judging area to provide great seats for valued clients and employees and to fly their corporate flags for the world to see.

This year, Ford Motor Co. is expected to use Pebble to pull the covers off the production version of its 2002 Thunderbird; Cadillac is slated to unveil the restyled Escalade SUV and to announce that it will, indeed, turn the edgy Evoq show car into a production vehicle in a year or two; and Irvine car builder Steve Saleen has scheduled a news conference to announce a new "super car" that, insiders say, shares nothing but the Saleen name with the hyper-tuned and almost totally reconstructed Saleen Mustangs the former race car driver has been turning out for 17 years.

* The Historic Races, held Friday through Sunday at Laguna Seca racetrack in Monterey. (800) 327-7322. The races feature 360 vintage competition cars, from antique roadsters and runabouts to thundering Ferraris and Shelby Cobras, with heats running almost constantly throughout the daylight hours all weekend.

* The relatively new Pebble Beach Tour on Thursday, an event that gives owners of the cars being shown at the Concours a chance to take them out on the road for a 50-mile run--and gives people who can't or won't pay for a Concours ticket a free glimpse of many of the vehicles participating in the by-invitation-only show Sunday.

* The Concorso Italiano, a show open to Italian cars (lots of Lamborghinis and a flock of Ferraris for sure, but many other marques as well) held Friday at the Quail Lodge Resort in Carmel. (425) 688-1903.

* The auctions. They specialize in classic, vintage and collectible motor vehicles. (And if you have to ask the difference, you probably aren't going to be bidding anyhow--suffice it to say that a collectible doesn't have to be classic or vintage, and a vintage vehicle isn't necessarily a classic.) There are three auctions, and among them they typically see $30 million or more change hands over the weekend, which can make for fun spectator sport.

The most eclectic of the three is RM Classic Cars' two-day Monterey Sports Car Auction, Friday and Saturday evenings at the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Monterey. (800) 211-4371.

Brooks USA Auction at Quail Lodge, held Saturday evening, is the youngest--just 3 years old. It features a wide range of competition cars as well as vintage and classic road cars. (415) 391-4000.

Los Angeles-based Christie's International Motor Cars' annual Sale of Exceptional Motor Cars on the grounds of the Lodge at Pebble Beach caps the weekend on Sunday, immediately following the Concours. (800) 395-6300.

Last year, five of the cars sold at Christie's event fetched more than $1 million each, with a 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Cabriolet bringing down the gavel for the night's highest price: $4,072,500.

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* Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Lodge at Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive. (831) 659-0663; http://www.pebble-beach-concours.com.

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Times staff writer John O'Dell can be reached at john.odell@latimes.com.

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