2014 Pebble Beach: Concours d'Elegance begins with Dawn Patrol

Long before dawn, the faithful came to gather in the darkness on the 18th green of the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links and wait for the arrival of the vintage automobiles that have come to compete in the Concours d'Elegance car show.

On a cool, calm morning, dressed in dark blazers and baseball caps, the most fanatic of the collector-car crowd stood by the sea, having paid $250 for the privilege of drinking predawn coffee from paper cups and waiting on the storied course.


Some had come as early as 4 a.m., the first of a crowd that would grow to 600 before the sun began to rise and the cars began to roll.

When they did, it was to a burst of cheers, applause and flashbulbs, as the first car in the private parade — a 1910 American Underslung Traveler Toy Tonneau — rolled onto the grassy field.

"They're beautiful, but they're not cars anymore," said one enthusiast who asked to remain anonymous. "They're just ... possessions."

The 1910 American would go on to compete in the Antique category, one of dozens of collectible niches as specific as "Early Steam Cars," "Pre-War Preservation" and even "Eastern European Motorcycles."

All 200 or so of the classic cars would also be eligible for the "Best in Show" award.

Tom Goyne had driven from Denver in a pickup truck, hauling his 1902 White Model B Stanhope Steamer. Dressed in a period "duster," Goyne said he had purchased the antique car eight years ago and performed almost all of the restoration work himself.

It was not his first Concours. He had come in 1958, 1960 and 1962 with a classic Packard, and again in 2009 with a 1910 White steamer.

Keeping a car like his requires considerable attention, he said, plus a duster to keep the engine oil from splashing on your clothes.

"You have to work at it," he said. "These are really messy cars."

Down a few aisles, and a few decades, was Howard Kroplick, who had come to the Concours with a 1937 Chrysler Imperial C-15 LeBaron Town Car.

Known as the "Chrysler Chrysler," Kroplick said, the car had been tailor-made by LeBaron for Walter Chrysler, as a gift to his wife, Della.

Kroplick acquired the chauffeur-driven vehicle in 2012, and spent considerable time and money restoring its tiger maple and leather interior — and figuring out how to operate what he believed to be the automobile industry's first set of power windows and door locks.

The Chrysler wore a bright green ribbon on its hood, signifying that it had participated in — and completed — an 85-mile Concours road rally earlier in this annual Monterey Car Week.

All of the cars competing must be in complete working order, with windshield wipers, turn signals and even cigarette lighters all functioning.


But the green ribbons are used as a tie-breaker, in case two automobiles receive the same number of votes by judges for the best in their class. Those cars that completed the 85-mile run win in case of a tie.

More than 700 cars applied for entrance to the Concours d'Elegance, attendees said. But only 200 or so were granted admittance.

It was Kroplick's first time at the show. Gazing around at his competition — two vintage Cadillacs, two Packards, and another Chrysler, all build between 1930 and 1941, and all restored to perfection — he said he didn't necessarily expect to win.

"I'm hoping to have fun!" he said. "It's an honor just to be here on the lawn."

Follow me on Twitter: @misterfleming