One of the biggest gripes you hear against the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance is that it’s a static car show, with the cars parked on the preternaturally perfect grass of the Pebble Beach golf links, more art objects than automobiles. There is, however, an opportunity to see those cars—most of them, at least—in motion, and that’s on the Tour d’Élégance, which takes place on the Thursday before the Concours.
The Tour sees the cars head out 17-Mile Drive, venture east on Aguajito Road, and trace a square through Carmel Valley, then turning back toward the coast on Carmel Valley Road. Next, they head down Highway 1 for nearly 25 miles to Big Sur before turning around and returning to Carmel. In downtown Carmel, the cars line up on the main drag, Ocean Avenue, where the public is free to mill about, getting a close-up view of the extraordinary machines.
With moving cars and free spectating, the Tour is the antithesis of the Concours. But what’s the incentive for Concours entrants to put their precious machinery—which often is about as robust as a Fabergé egg and even more valuable—at such risk? Because it can give their car an edge in the judging on Sunday; if two cars are in a tie for class judging, the one that went on the Tour will get the nod. But you also get the sense that many of these owners just enjoy driving their cars.