The Countdown to the Concours
August 11, 2020
Above: Concours Chairman Sandra Button greets Sir Stirling just before the 2012 Pebble Beach Tour gets underway.
Here we are, heading into what should be Pebble Beach Automotive Week, and I find myself feeling serious car withdrawal. The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is more than a one-day event for me, and I know the same is true for many of you.
Every Concours comes into being through the decisions and actions, both large and small, of hundreds of people over the course of many months and sometimes years.
Time and again, I’ve walked into restoration shops where the primary calendar is a countdown to the Pebble Beach Concours. Sometimes it is on a whiteboard encompassing a detailed schedule of goals to be met — from parts to be repaired and reassembled to final shipping date. Occasionally it is just a big bold number on the wall, indicating the sum of days to our next event.
In recent years, we’ve included a countdown clock discreetly at the bottom of the Concours website, but shortly after we announced the cancellation of our 2020 event — when the number jumped from 116 to 481 — I asked that it be taken down. While a longer timeline might be a comfort to some people, I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from you all for so long!
The Concours, complete with all of its challenges and joys, has determined the pace of my life — and has energized and excited me — for 35 years. And during Pebble Beach Automotive Week, we are always in high gear. Long-haul trucks fill our transport lot, carrying their precious cargo. The construction of event and sponsor venues is completed, the competition field is laid out and the awards ramp built. Printed programs are stacked at entry points, posters are rolled, and trophies are polished. Most importantly, the first entrants arrive on site — and a multitude of judges, volunteers and spectators soon follow.
Over the past few months, void of the usual frenetic activity, I’ve grown to understand more strongly than ever that although the Pebble Beach Concours is focused on cars, it is at its core about people.
We like to say that our awards go to cars, not people — and technically that’s true: our judging seeks to evaluate each car apart from its past or present owners. But each and every car is the culmination of the vision, the hopes, and the many efforts people have put into creating and caring for it.
All of those people come together at the Concours, where, in celebrating the cars we love, we are celebrating each other.
In the absence of a chance to be together, this digital Insider celebrates car people.
Included in this issue is a special tribute to Sir Stirling Moss, who served for decades among our Honorary Judges and who also often led the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance presented by Rolex. Sir Stirling was at the heart of many memorable Concours moments, including the time he and fellow famed racing great Juan Manuel Fangio nearly toppled a Benz Patent Motor Wagen replica, as you will read here.
Jay Leno once said, when asked why he attends the Pebble Beach Concours, “You know that people like Sergio Pininfarina exist, but you don’t think they really exist. It’s a name you sort of read about. Being in the business I’m in, I’m not particularly enamored of movie stars — I mean I am, and I enjoy them — but to meet someone like Fabrizio Giugiaro or Jack Telnack or Bruno Sacco and to put a face with a name is exciting to me.”
Yes, you might see and even meet your heroes at Pebble Beach. But you also have the opportunity to talk at length to a host of people who care about cars as deeply as you do — the many people who continue to bring this Concours to life. We will do this again!
Each year we work together toward Concours Sunday. And I can’t wait to see the event we create for this coming year. The countdown clock is now up and running again — and so are we. 2021 here we come!