‘Polish and Covet’ Versus ‘the Vroom-Vroom Bunch’

Alfa Romeo Spider

The Stock Market, Vegas, and Car Auctions: They could be valued as the same concept in trade, except for one tactile observation. The art of purchasing and maintaining historical engines is much more sexy.

Having just come off Concours Week in Carmel, California, I have a renewed appreciation for the vehicular world, and a ‘better late than never’ feeling from having attended such pageantry.

Carmel Concours on the Avenue: a parade of pride and excellence as collectors showcased hundreds of foreign and domestic cars on the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Alloy steel and carbon fiber bespoke greatness, strategically placed by category; some receiving an occasional hood ornament-to-boot ‘polish and covet’ dusting by their owner, glad to have avoided what is normally a day fraught with misty fog in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Instead, everyone was in top spirits that day, basking in California sunshine.

‘Vroom-Vroom’: The owner of the 1954 Ferrari Mondial Spyder revved its engine in anticipation of receiving the Tiffany trophy presented front and center on Ocean Avenue, a crowd of spectators angling for a glimpse of this raven beauty who has experienced her share of racing accolades. I envisioned an Italian craftsman tenderly looping his needle through the custom leather, as he prepared his beauty for her racing world debut.

Throughout the day, automobile enthusiasts descended on Carmel-by-the-Sea to visit with the motorcars and their owners who make Concours Week so unique with its event offerings. Even the Germans and Italians respectively enjoy their own days of showmanship.

Auctions: Every voyeuristic opportunity in auction chant, from the used car salesman approach of the ‘cattle rattle’ to English ‘bid calling’ theatrics. “Come on, it’s only $100,000 more! Crumbs! You’re investing in provenance!” Each auction offered a fascinating range of unique perspective into the auction announcer’s world.

A voluptuously curved lambent black 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback contrasted with a down and dirty sleek red-hot performer, a 1990 Ferrari F40 LM, respectively taking their turn modeling at Gooding & Company’s auction, presenting themselves in stage lit glory.

As a deft cameraman treated the audience to a perpetual close-up of each body and its interior, a male prop sat stiff as a mannequin in the driver’s seat as to not take away from the steel, chrome and leather craftsmanship on display. Due to the fog drenched evening closed-top windows were steamed, a provocative preview of good times to come in that vehicle, and all–in-all I could understand dropping $3 million if you’ve got it lying around in escrow.

I was transported into the each buyer’s mind and surmised what his motives could have been as the bidding commenced on a shadowy 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Three-Position Sedanca Coupe. Phew, that’s a mouthful. Did this car hold familial significance for this paddle holder as the model his great grandfather drove before he perished in WWII? What about the cherry 1950 Crosley Gardner Special and the 50-year-old bidder who’s finally fulfilling a midlife dream that couldn’t be realized until he footed the bill for his kids’ college tuition. Priorities. I like it. Then there’s the lifer. He’s been turning cars ever since his driver’s permit. It’s in his blood, and as this die hard marched into the auction tent to monitor the sale of his latest mistress of the ‘Vroom-Vroom Bunch,’ a sultry 1964 Shelby 289 Cobra, only to later bid on his next conquest, a 1958 Maserati 3500 GT Spider Prototype Bella from Bologna, the adrenaline surge had him procuring yet another travel companion, perhaps in the form of a 1953 Aston Martin DB2 Vantage Drophead Coupe under the guise of a gift for the Misses; an additional sparkplug to the diamonds he’ll adorn her with from one of Carmel’s local jewelers, a successful week for the gem industry as well.

I even spied a teenager bidding on a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, an elated smile as he looked up to his father for approval, paddle jerking up nervously as his elder advised him with a nod; either a glutton for Gamblers Anonymous by 20 years old, for goodness sake, or a lesson in what to look for in quality and performance. Well done, Dad.

The elevated testosterone in the room was palpable, and if a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model suddenly entered the tent in her birthday suit, she just may have been asked to step aside from distracting the high stakes German, American, British, and Italian engineered pissing contest that was taking place. Mecum Muscle Cars, Bonhams & Butterfields, RM Sports & Classics, and Russo and Steele hosted auctions as well.

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance: A human and automotive sea of civility as the local and international set pay homage to the impressive selections gracing the eighteenth fairway at Pebble Beach. Lincolns, Aston Martins, American Classics, Mercedes, Rolls, Bentley’s, European Classics, Ferraris, Early Race Cars, Indi Roadsters, and even French Motorcycles kept the crowd enchanted for hours, quietly and respectfully intoxicated by the style and true elegance of a Sunday spent in splendor.

“Heaps of polished bumpers here.” An observant Australian in his 70s reported to his stunning, age appropriate wife, as he referred to the women in attendance that day; and she chuckled, her arm entwined in his.

The 1934 Packard 1108 Twelve Dietrich Convertible Victoria won “Best of the Best” this year, fireworks and streamers ushering the Packard to its honorable place on stage. If that car could talk, it would have emitted, “Eat my exhaust, Miss America.” For this was true pomp.

As the fog drenched sun was setting on the links, and groundskeepers hurriedly prepared for a typical Monday hosting golfers, I was grateful to have been shaken to my core by the sounds of automotive history and the irony of sleepy Carmel having been its setting. Never again will I cringe from my urban bed, wakened by the ungodly early morning throttle of a motorcycle or vintage roadster. Instead, I’ll laze back into a fog, dreaming of next year’s Concours Week, and my hopes to one day navigate PCH in a dove grey Mercedes 300 SL.