For some, the holiest of automotive weeks is “Speed Week” on the Bonneville Salt Flats. For others, it is the Pebble Beach Conours d’Elegance. Automotive passion is not defined in dollars (or Euros, or Lakh, et al.). It’s not about how much we spend, but how pleasing the end result is.
This was on our friend Lisa Smith’s mind as she returned to the Monterey Peninsula. The things we have in common are what empowers us to get the most from our differences.
Every year automotive enthusiasts descend on the Monterey Peninsula of coastal California to take in the best of vintage and new automotive finery. From car shows to gatherings, tours, racing, auctions, memorabilia shows, manufacturer exhibits, concept cars, test drives and new introductions, there is something to capture the attention of every gearhead and automotive enthusiast on the planet.
People from all over the world convene during Pebble Beach Car Week to speak one language: car. Old cars, new cars concept cars all represent.
In case you thought customs or modifieds are new or current, here is a little history lesson: way back before Lowriders, Exotics, or Hot Rods, cars were gushing in their owner’s personalization. Before any such idea as the SEMA Show, there was bespoke or “customized” automobiles which make today’s rides look like kid stuff.
One of the features from the 62nd annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was the Cars of the Maharajas. Bling-a-ding-ding, these babies reeked of customization. The Maharajas/Maharanas, or “great kings,” ruled states large and small throughout India and South Asia until the middle of the twentieth century, often surveying their lands from highly customized Rolls-Royce, Daimler, Duesenberg, and other luxurious automobiles. Kinda cool to see what they did back in the day before technology – these men invented Pimp My Ride.
- 8 note horn playable from the back seat
- Spits steam from the mouth of swan head to clear the road ahead
- In-roof venting or air conditioning before air conditioning
- Oh, and it poops from a device which squirts out a little white goo from the back end
Today we have West Coast Customs, Chip Foose, and others. In the old days, the custom guys were called Coach Builders. Names such as Saoutchik, de Villars, Zagato, Pinin Farina, Figoni & Falaschi, and many others were the big name automotive artists in their day. One ordered a car by make and chassis then selected the coach builder.
A new class to grace the famed Concours d ’Elegance lawn this year was American Sport Customs. All American, all one-of-a-kind totally pimped out sleds.
Having viewed the rear-end open earlier in the day it was funny to listen to people after it was closed, they were stumped. The engine sits behind driver. Just might be the best looking car with a Buick Straight 8 in existence. For what one might consider meager in today’s dollars, Norman Timbs & Emil Diedt completed this streamlined aluminum bodied roadster in 1948 for a total cost of $10,000.
For over fifty years the world’s best collector cars have perched upon the famed 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links to judge and be judged in what has become the most important automotive celebration. Of course, there is plenty of envy bandied around as this being just a billionaire’s tailgate party, but for someone who’s actually had a goal and worked towards it, you will appreciate this more as a celebration of achievement for a job well done. Anyone who has sunk money into their four wheeled object of desire, modified the engine, or invested crazy money in wheels knows it isn’t about how much, but how pleasing the end result is.
Lisa M. Smith is an interior designer and car lover. She can be found on DécorGirl.net, blogging about design during the week and some sort of automotive splendor every Saturday. If you fancy the finer things in life – even if only from a digital distance – you definitely want to stop by her site. If you didn’t click any of the links in this story, you’ve only heard half of it!
PS: This is the 400th post on Gearbox Magazine. Thank you for making it possible!
- Has automotive customization culture changed for the better or worse over time?
- Why do you think that is?
Lisa M. Smith says
Thanks for letting me contribute part of my take on Automotive Holy Week!
Brian Driggs says
Thanks for thinking of us, Lisa. You’re welcome any time!