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California’s Monterey County,100 miles south of San Francisco, has a lot to offer tourists, from spectacular coastal drives and beautiful countryside to charming towns and world class events.

It is the home of the Big Sur, a region of unspoilt coastline, towering cliffs, giant redwood trees and iconic bridges, and the 17-Mile Drive, a scenic road through the Monterey peninsula that includes sight of the famous Lone Cypress tree.

For one week in August, it is also a magnet for car enthusiasts worldwide. This is when Monterey Car Week, including the prestigious Concours d’Elegance, takes place. 

This year, the annual motoring event runs from 10-16 August and offers displays of rare classic cars and motorcycles, vintage car racing, car auctions, sales of automobile memorabilia and more. Venues are throughout Monterey and include Pebble Beach, a small coastal resort that has eight public and private 18-hole golf courses, and Carmel-by-the-Sea, rated this year as the second best small city in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler magazine.

The highlight of Monterey Car Week is undoubtedly the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which started in 1950 and has grown to become the main collector car competition in the world. It takes place on 16 August on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach golf course and will feature about 200 of the world’s most prized collector cars and motorcycles.

Vehicles that appear in the Concours d’Elegance (from the French meaning a competition of elegance and now applied to any exhibition of classic motor vehicles) are chosen by a selection committee of experts from a list of applicants. Once at the show, the motor vehicles are judged by a panel of knowledgeable judges for their elegance not their speed. This includes their historical accuracy, their technical merit and their style. As well as classic cars and motorcycles, new concept cars are also included in the show.

A winner is chosen for each class and the Best of Show is then chosen from these winners. In 2014 the Best in Show was a 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti coupe. General tickets to the Concours d’Elegance, which include parking and a commemorative program,cost $300 in advance and $350 on the day of the show. Children under the age of 12 are admitted free.

Alternatively, VIP tickets, which include early access to the show field, breakfast and lunch, a signed poster and other commemorative gifts, are $750.

Another automotive-related activity taking place at or near Pebble Beach is the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, presented by Rolex and taking place on 13 August. It is a drive through parts of the original 17-Mile Drive that crosses nearby mountains and valleys, and pauses for a time in Carmel-by-the-Sea. This year the Tour will once again add a lap around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a race track located near Salinas. Spectators can view the Tour at key points along the route, particularly along Ocean Avenue in Carmel.

At the Inn at Spanish Bay, an ocean-side resort offering fine dining and a Scottish-style links golf course closed every evening by a bagpiper, three events are being held. One is called RetroAuto and it features a number of exhibitors offering historic automotive collectibles and memorabilia, auto parts, original poster art, books and literature, fine art, photography and posters, as well as luxury items to complement the motoring lifestyle. The others are the Pebble Beach Classic Car Forum and the Pebble Beach Classic Car Expo. The Forum features industry leading lights discussing the most pertinent topics facing the collector car world today. At the Expo, people can peruse and purchase collector cars from classic car dealers.

On the evenings of 15 and 16 August, the Pebble Beach Auctions, conducted by Gooding & Company, are expected to be among the best attended events of the week. At last year’s auctions, total sales amounted to more than $105 million. The top seller was a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider which achieved more than $15 million. Thirty cars sold for more than $1 million.

Racing and Activities at Monterey Car Week

The only motor racing at Monterey Car Week is the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, held at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a track that is popular with both spectators and drivers, and that hosts a number of race events throughout the year. The Monterey Motorsports Reunion is the largest event of the week. About 550 race cars are invited to compete and are accepted based on the car’s authenticity, race provenance and period correctness.

August in Monterey County is typically dry and warm with daily highs of around 20°C, perfect conditions, not only for Monterey Car Week, but also for seeing

California’s spectacular scenery and getting involved in some of the many activities on offer in the area. Among the outdoor attractions are cruises to watch whales and dolphins, trips to the five state parks or to vineyards, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking and canoeing, sailing, fishing and golfing.

In Carmel there are many high-end shops, art galleries and restaurants, as well as historic sites such as the Carmel mission. Monterey city has a highly-rated aquarium on the historic Cannery Row, a waterfront district on Monterey Bay. Nearby is Old Fisherman’s Wharf where it is possible to eat, shop or take a cruise.