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Pebble Beach: the good, the bad and the pricey

  1. California, according to the late Tupac Shakur, knows how to party. It also knows how to look after its cars, and for a week in mid-August the two concepts come together gloriously.

    After four days in the Monterey area, it would be easier to list the cars I haven’t seen on the roads and car parks. Indeed, at 1am yesterday morning, having enjoyed a few post-RM auction sherberts (the ex-Steve McQueen Ferrari made $10.1m and a 275 GTB/C Speciale an eye-popping $26.4m - the mood was celebratory), I decided it was probably time to call it a day when a Lamborghini Countach 5000S grumbled across an intersection and I thought, ‘meh’.

  2. At Friday’s Quail Lodge gathering, we saw the Huracan Super Trofeo for the first time. Nothing meh there. As well as carving chunks out of the standard car’s taut form and weight, the ST is rear-drive, unlike its Gallardo predecessor.

    The Super Trofeo world champion, Andrew Palmer, told me that the new car understeers less and is generally more neutral than the all-wheel drive Gallardo. Sounds like the Huracan we want. will drive it soon to confirm.

  3. We’ll also drive the Bentley Continental GT3R, the stripped, 580bhp ‘lightweight’ Conti that lops 100kg off the regular car’s weight, and rockets to 62mph in 3.6 seconds. Five times Le Mans winner and all-round legend Derek Bell was on hand to talk it up, and generally be the David Niven of motorsport.

    He also introduced to US racing star and 1985 Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan, who then upped his coolness by riding off on his Vincent Black Shadow. Quail, basically a highly condensed Goodwood FOS, is that sort of deal. In a sea of wealthy men wearing red trousers and squiring surgically enhanced ladies, you’ll have lots of ‘we’re not worthy’ moments.

  4. Knock-out cars, too, obviously. Celebrating its 60th anniversary in North America this year, the Ferraris on display were gobsmacking. We’re entering a new era of bespoke - Jaguar Land Rover’s SVO division is arguably the one to watch there, and its lightweight E-type reincarnation was one of the week’s smash hits - so seeing old-school carrozzeria cars like the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Boano and Vignale-bodied one-offs shimmering in the Californian sunlight was a proper knee-trembler.

  5. There were two Jag XKSSs - following the D-type homage Project 7, Project 8 is rumoured to use Steve McQueen’s favourite car as inspiration - all six Bugatti Veyron Legend cars were present (Veyron production is now officially over), lots of crazy US muscle cars, including a 1965 Corvette Stingray roadster that we persuaded the owner to fire up just as Sir Jackie Stewart’s fire-side interview was winding up (sorry JYS), and the ridiculous Hennessey Venom. It has eleventy billion bhp.

  6. One of the absolute stand-outs, though, was Singer. absolutely loves what these guys are up to, and things are looking very rosy. Its gorgeous resto-mod 911 has racked up 50 orders since we first covered it in 2011, and while gawping at the two cars on display, we wondered where they might go next.

    Personally, I fancy a Singer 928… At which point the boss, expat Brit Rob Dickinson, arrived to give us a preview of exactly that. We’re sworn to secrecy - for now - but if it all comes off it will be a truly extraordinary car. Pioneering, even.

    Friend of, design genius and furturist Daniel Simon (of Cosmic Motors, Timeless Racer and various Hollywood films fame) is working with Singer on the visuals. It just doesn’t get any cooler.

  7. Onwards to the McLaren P1 GTR preview. This, too, has eleventy billion horsepower, or 987 to be exact. You can read the fuller story elsewhere on, but McLaren Automotive boss Mike Flewitt was very excited, as well he might be. The GTR, whose colour scheme echoes its 1995 forebear and will arrive to commemorate its 20th anniversary, looks utterly bonkers in the flesh, with even more aero insanity than the ‘regular’ P1.

    Frankly, we’re not quite sure who of the 30 existing P1 customers will have the balls or talent to wring the best out of this thing, but the idea is that McLaren’s experts will optimis…, sorry, teach them how to do it during a series of track days, regular spells on the F1 team’s simulator, and a full-on fitness and nutrition programme.

    It’s Mac’s answer to Ferrari’s FXX programme, and we’d be up for it were it not for the small matter of the £1.98m it costs. On top of the £900k you’ve already forked out for the existing car. P1 update: 180 have been delivered so far, there are 30 in North America, and 38 in China, where the average age of the owner is 27.

  8. You can be sure none of them will turn up at the Concours d’Lemons, the so-called ‘ugly oil stain’ on Pebble Beach.

    “We say it’s about showing good examples of bad cars, and bad examples of good cars,” founder Alan Galbraith told, although we quickly found some utterly grim versions of truly execrable cars.

    And, to be fair, cars that aren’t all that lemony at all, just European. Categories included ‘Das Self-Satisfying Krauttenwagen’, ‘Rueful Britannia’ and ‘Needlessly Complex Italian’.

    Highlights included a handful of Cosworth-engined Chevy Vegas (very Pulp Fiction), an all-electric 1980 Datsun Sunny converted as part of a Californian clean air drive (22bhp, and with a home-made chop-top for added effect) a Renault 9 cabrio (called the AMC Alliance Stateside), and a Studebaker something-or-other, as driven by Statler & Waldorf from The Muppets.

    The Lemons organisers have exported the idea, and the first Festival Of The Unexceptional was held in the UK a month ago. It’s a corking idea, though we recommend an ‘Oversexed, Overweight, and Over Here’ US selection as a riposte to their rampant xenophobia.

  9. Next up, Laguna Seca, a circuit whose stomach-churning changes of elevation and famous cork-screw corner make it one of the world’s best. The paddock for the Monterey Motorsports Reunion is packed to the gunwhales with stuff I never thought I’d see, and stuff I didn’t know existed, along with the Porsche 917s, GTOs, and Trans Ams no sentient human being could ever get bored of looking at. Not to mention two McLaren P1s, a McLaren F1 and a LaFerrari parked up almost casually.

    But it was another McLaren, a Seventies M8F Can Am nutjob, that I couldn’t tear myself away from, not least because it had a 9.3-litre, 860bhp V8. Detuned. Apparently it had 1180bhp back in the day, and would simply peel its tyres off. “It was 95 per cent dangerous before. Now it’s about 93 per cent dangerous,” the guy working on the M8 told me.

    As for the racing, well let’s just say that this is one area where the Goodwood Revival and its ilk kicks the US into the middle of next week. For some reason the race organisers here don’t appear to actually like racing very much at all, preferring instead a slightly hopped-up demo drive. In fact, of the hundreds of motorsport events I’ve been to over the years, I’ve never once seen anyone get black-flagged (apart from me at a charity karting event).

    But they whipped it out here, for the lead Ferrari 250GT SWB and the car in second place, both of whom seemed to be guilty of nothing more than… racing each other. WTF?

  10. And so to Pebble Beach, a heady, almost perfumed experience, the classic car world’s Oscars, wherein the finest cars compete in 21 categories for first-, second, and third-place glory. Any event that can muster 20 Ferrari Testa Rossas is clearly not messing about. These are rarer and have far more historic racing provenance than their more valuable 250 GTO brethren, with three outright Le Mans wins between 1958 and 1961.

    But even the TR can’t quite match the 206 Dino Competizione for rarity or the ability to loosen your jaw. Pininfarina owned this car until a few years back, when friend of Jim Glickenhaus - creator of 2006’s P4/5 glorious one-off - was offered it and wisely decided to buy it.

    When we caught up with Jim, he revealed news of his next project, a limited series supercar he also plans to race at Le Mans in 2016. “Yep, I’m a constructor now,” he said enigmatically. More on that as we get it…

  11. Pebble Beach is eye-wateringly exclusive, not merely a sea so much as an ocean of red-trousered men of a certain age, and often notable eccentricity. One gentleman was wearing a fez, and was clearly not a Tommy Cooper tribute act. Another had a parrot on his shoulder.

    A chat with one of the judges revealed a definite bias towards the pre-war art deco behemoths that the US used to be so good at. “Mark my words,” he said, “it’ll be one of those that gets best-in-show. It always is.”

    But it wasn’t. Only six times in the event’s 64 years has a car made after 1939 won the big gong, and it hasn’t happened since 1967. So the Ferrari 375 MM, commissioned by film director Roberto Rossellini for his movie star wife Ingrid Bergman, must count as a shock winner. Former President of Microsoft Jon Shirley rescued the car in the mid-Nineties, and restored it.

    Amazingly, this is also the first overall win for a Ferrari. Maybe that anniversary had something to do with it.

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