When faced with change and uncertainty, traditions become more cherished—a chance to find comfort by celebrating the past. As the automotive landscape undergoes a seismic shift in power-train development and autonomous advancements, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is an important constant for enthusiasts and collector’s alike. This year, that sense of familiarity was enhanced when a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster was named Best of Show, giving one of the longest existing marques a record-setting ten wins at the world’s most revered show-car competition.
The 72nd edition fielded 216 vehicles divided into 27 classes and evaluated by 56 judges. Categories specific to 2023 included Lamborghini 60th Anniversary, McLaren 60 Anniversary, and Porsche 75th Anniversary. For those, a 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 Bertone Coupé, a 1967 McLaren M6A Can-Am Race Car, and a 1963 Porsche 901 Prototype “Quickblau” Karmann/Reutter Coupe finished first in their respective classes.
The oldest model to receive a class accolade was a 1908 Benz 105 HP Prinz Heinrich Two Seat Race Car, while the most contemporary was a 1995 McLaren F1 Coupe. The car that earned ultimate bragging rights, the 1937 Mercedes-Benz, had once belonged to the Shah of Afghanistan before eventually becoming part of the Patterson Collection in Kentucky. It marks the third time that owner Jim Patterson has taken the top prize at Pebble.
Having Pebble’s confetti descend on and around their car is the dream of every collector, but most would be content to just have their wheels on the legendary lawn. At least that was the perspective that Robert Ross was trying to maintain during the course of the day. Ross had brought his immaculately restored 1966 Lamborghini 400 GT, which features coachwork from Touring.
“Bringing a car to Pebble Beach is especially piquant because I’ve been coming here for 20 years, but I’ve always been a spectator on the grass, and been able to admire the wonderful cars,” says Ross. “I never thought that I would actually have an opportunity to have my own car on the lawn—it’s a huge honor, and a very humbling experience.” The day ended in disappointment, though, as his rarified Raging Bull was passed over for, aside from the winning 1968 Miura, a 1971 Lamborghini Espada Series 2 Bertone Coupé, and a 1994 Lamborghini Diablo SE30 Coupé.
Ferrari also had a strong presence, as it does every year, and examples fell into two categories; Ferrari Grand Touring and Ferrari Competition. For the former, a 1953 Ferrari 212 Inter Vignale Coupe earned first, while a 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC Scaglietti Barchetta beat out the rest in the latter division.
Unlike the Quail, a Motorsports Gathering, which, along with hosting a traditional concours, gives automakers a stage to woo potential customers with their latest high-performance machines, Pebble only relegates space for roughly a dozen concept cars on a separate lawn. This year’s presentation included the Lotus Type 66, the all-electric Lamborghini Lanzador concept, and the Porsche GT4 e-Performance. Yet banner brands like Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, and the like, do make more of their presence known by taking up residences that flank the fairways.
The most exclusive of these enclaves is Casa Ferrari, which, while open only to VIP guests and valued clients, displayed for the public a comprehensive stable of classic and contemporary examples from Maranello, including the new SF90 XX Stradale and SF90 XX Spider.
“For a luxury company like Ferrari, it’s important that we take care of all our kids [the models] because the family keeps enlarging . . . and what better place,” says Benedetto Vigna, global CEO of Ferrari, who, with a grin, suggests changing Pebble Beach’s name to “Ferrari Beach.”
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance also has a long history of philanthropy and has, since its inception, raised a total of $37 million to support local charities, $2.68 million this year alone. And with change and uncertainty, that’s the tradition to cherish most of all.