Finding your Perfect Car at Monterey Car Week

Photos courtesy Rolex


Every year, thousands of auto enthusiasts pack their bags and fill their tanks as they race toward the central Californian coast for the prestigious Monterey Car Week.

Playing host to the world’s most beautiful and expensive collectible cars for a week of lavish parties, blue-chip auctions, elite rallies and exclusive high-roller meetings, the scenes (and exhaust sounds) from downtown Carmel and Pebble Beach are anything but normal.

With counts reaching 20,000-plus each year, 2021 was expected to be no different. There had not been an event of this size due to the previous year’s cancellation, leaving enthusiasts desperately wanting more. Nevertheless, the 2021 car week culminated following painstaking preparations to reveal one of the largaest gatherings noted to date.

If you are lucky to score an invite this week, you are in for a real treat. We were lucky enough to be included with team from O’Gara Coach in Beverly Hills, joining them on their Malibu to Monterey Rally. Consisting of 30-plus clients driving personally owned super cars from the starting point at SoHo House in Malibu to a beautifully catered lunch at Vincent Vineyards in Santa Ynez for the midpoint and ending the 306-mile coastal journey in Monterey.

As the name denotes, Car Week manufacturers and independent dealers pack the scheduled full of independently held vehicle reveals, drive and concept previews, events and vintage commemorations that aim to serve as the platform for both press, as well as client test drives and sales conversion opportunities.

As this now marks my 12th Car Week attendance, one thing is certain – you learn a thing or two. Coming from an internal automotive marketing background, I’ve had the pleasure of both directing and planning the experience for luxury clientele and enjoying it as a spectator, while silently taking constructive notes. This year was truly exciting as it was a combination that brought experience full circle.

The two main events of the week kicked off with The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. At Quail Lodge & Golf Club, a Peninsula Hotel, automotive industry leaders, motorsports legends, celebrities and a wide variety of automotive enthusiasts assembled on the scenic fairways for the show’s unprecedented awards ceremony. This year’s event was headlined by three featured classes. The first, “50th Anniversary of the Alfa Romeo Montreal,” paid tribute to one of the most unique sports coupés of the 1970s. The second featured class, “Automotive Couture, French Cars Featuring the 50th Anniversary of the Citroën SM,” celebrated a historic milestone with several examples of the SM and other stylish French vehicles such as a 1965 Matra Bonnet Djet VS. Additionally, “Cars of Curiosity” showcased unique vehicles including a 1957 Fiat 600 / Eden Roc and a 1978 Lamborghini Urraco P2000. 

A 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster was awarded the Rolex Circle of Champions “Best of Show” out of more than 200 entrants. The vehicle, owned by K. Heinz Keller from California, was selected for its design, engineering, sophistication and presentation. Keller acquired the car in 1986 from a private owner in Colorado, and the vehicle underwent an eight-year, ground-up restoration.

In addition to the awards, the event played host to several vehicle debuts and premieres from revered manufacturers and sponsors. Rimac Automobili, Lotus Cars, Pagani Automobili, Automobili Pininfarina, Gateway Bronco, Lamborghini, Hennessey, Acura, Bugatti and Bentley Motors each held press conferences to unveil new models and make significant announcements. Some highlights included the U.S. premiere of the Lotus Emira, a new mid-engine premium sports car; the first public displays of the Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid, GT Speed and special Mulliner introductions including the coach-built Bacalar, and the long awaited reveal of the Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4.

“The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, is truly one of the world’s most prestigious motoring events,” said Kai Lermen, General Manager of Quail Lodge & Golf Club. “Our 18th annual celebration delivered the allure, excitement and passion The Quail has become known for. Thanks to the generous support of sponsors and automotive icons, the beautiful atmosphere of Quail Lodge & Golf Club, and, most of all, the enthusiasm of the automotive community, this event has continued to grow and evolve year after year. We are looking forward to everything 2022 has to bring!”

Each evening, manufacturers carefully handed out invitations to owners, influencers and the very elite for a celebration of their brand and the latest bespoke models they have to present for this model year. Gaining access to one of these soirees is the tough part, but once you make it inside the House of Bentley or Casa Ferrari, or have the privilege of attending the most-talked-about party at the Rimac House – you will always come back to car week with a need to attend each one!

As blue skies peeked out from behind clouds on the warm Sunday morning, spectators flooded through Pebble Beach with anticipation for the sold-out Concours d’Elegance. This being the second of the two largest events for the week, with over 230 classic and luxury cars stretched across Pebble Beach Golf Links’ 17th and 18th fairways. Wide-brimmed hats and carefully tailored suits could be seen across the landscape, and if you were lucky enough, you may just have caught a glimpse to see which celebrity was under that mysterious hat as they paused to admire automobiles far too rare to pass by.

This year the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier was named ‘Best In Show.’ It belongs to The Keller Collection at The Pyramids in Petaluma, Calif. This win is the ninth for Mercedes-Benz, tying the marque with Bugatti for the most ‘Best of Shows’ at Pebble Beach.

“This Best of Show winner embodies so many sensational features—styling, speed, and performance. Unveiled at the Berlin Auto Show and built to rule the new German Autobahn in 1938, this rare automobile is truly an example of beautiful German design,” said Concours Chairman Sandra Button.

“It’s my triple crown,” said Arturo Keller. “This is the only remaining car of its kind, and I am the second owner from new. It’s a very special car, and we are very happy.” The car was last restored in 2006, and has continued to be shown, rallied and toured since then. The Kellers also went home with the ‘Elegance in Motion’ Trophy.

Gooding & Company, which is the official auction house of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, realized more than $107 million in sales at its annual Pebble Beach Auctions during the concours weekend. Notable auctions included: the world record-breaking sale of a 1995 McLaren F1, which sold for $20,465,000; a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione, which brought in $10,840,000; a 1929 Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix, which sold for $5,615,000, and a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Series I Cabriolet, which achieved $4,405,000.

It was also great for us to learn that The Pebble Beach Concours raised more than $1.75 million for charity this year, bringing the event’s total charitable donations to over $32 million to date. Through the Pebble Beach Company Foundation, the primary charitable partner of the Concours, these funds will benefit more than 95 local charities, impacting the lives of more than 10,000 children annually in Monterey County.

But one thing is always a constant, do not be surprised when the person sitting next to you on a shuttle bus ends up owning all of Houston for example (“Hi Tilman, great to see you this year!”). You never know who you may see, as the truth is – cars bring people together and deep down everybody has an appreciation with an innate fascination for the sensory overload they bring us – not just how fast they go!

MICHAEL J. SNELL LIFESTYLES CONTRIBUTOR POLO LIFESTYLES 2021