The attainable Pebble Beach

Launched more than 50 years ago as a social gathering for the upper echelons of auto collecting and racing, the Pebble Beach weekend has evolved into an entire "holy week" for the motoring faithful.

With auto-related events spread out across the entire Monterey Peninsula, the festivities begin Tuesday and don't slow down until Sunday evening's pivotal event – the Concours d'Elegance, where Duesenbergs and Darracq/Talbot-Lagos parade before auto-aficionado royalty.

On the off chance you can snag a hotel room, your presence on the peninsula will provide you with spectacle enough. Imagine an entire county filled with exquisite automobile classics – most in perfect condition – with histories spanning a literal century. The cars are well framed by the whimsical backdrop of Carmel-by-the-Sea as they wind their way along mountain roads and dazzle passers-by in the parking spots of the charming shops and restaurants.

With its almost legendary status, many car lovers believe the event to be reserved for only the very rich and have considered it virtually unattainable. Well, rejoice, ye faithful motorheads, because we've compiled a menu of events and spectacles for both the few and the many to enjoy. Although by no means exhaustive, this insiders' guide can be mixed and matched to form a more attainable Pebble Beach week or weekend as you ride on into the Carmel sunset.

Pebble for the Privileged

Gordon McCall's Jet Party
Gordon McCall, the purveyor of the acclaimed Christie's auctions, holds this invitation-only private party of more than 1,000 where the insiders meet to kick off their opulent weekend of car showing, ogling and buying.
When: Wednesday, Aug. 15
Where: Monterey Airport (private hangar)
How much: Invitation only
(831) 372-9311

Christie's Auction
Auctioneers from famed Christie's have some special properties to call this year, including Steve McQueen's Ferrari Lusso and Peter Fonda's Harley-Davidson Road King.
When: Thursday, Aug. 16, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Monterey Jet Center
Admission by catalog: $60 (admits two to presale viewing and the auction)
(310) 385-2600

The Quail (a Motorsports Gathering)
Sponsored by the Quail Lodge and Resort, this high-ticket event features all things opulent – fine wine, cuisine, auto auctions, personal test drives of historic cars and even executive helicopter rides to the Monterey Historics at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
When: Friday, Aug. 17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Quail Resort
Admission: $200
(831) 626-2478

Monterey Historic Races
This historic racing series runs for four full days from dawn till dusk. Featured this year are the Indy Roadsters – the original open-wheelers. Remember, these are race cars, but they are the race cars of the past, and seeing them tool down the track is indeed awe-inspiring.
When: Thursday to Sunday, Aug. 16-19
Where: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Admission: $45 to $125 (see link)
(805) 686-9292

Concorso Italiano
In the nearby community Seaside, a gathering of more than 500 Italian classics such as Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Fiats and Alfa-Romeos are paired with festival-style food, drink and exhibits in a park-like setting.
When: Friday, Aug. 17
Where: Bayonet Black Horse Golf Course, Seaside
Admission: $100
(425) 742-0632

Concours d'Elegance
The pinnacle event of the Pebble Beach Week, the Concours brings out the who's who, the rich, the famous and the crème of the automotive press' proverbial crop. The event sets up early in the morning for viewing and culminates in the grand showing of the top motorcars. These are rare works of art on wheels and history, and there is only one winner. A stunning event, indeed.
When: Sunday, Aug. 19
Where: Lodge at Pebble Beach
Admission: $100 to $350 per person
(831) 622-1700

Pebble for the People

Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue
Kicking off the festivities early in the week, this Tuesday gathering closes down the famous Ocean Boulevard in Carmel as more than 100 classics from 1946 through 1971 are on display to view and admire. And, as you walk down the avenue, don't forget to take a peek at the more than fifty shops participating in a fun auto-themed window dressing contest called "Concours in the Windows."
When: Tuesday, Aug. 14
Where: Ocean Boulevard, Carmel-by-the-Sea
How much: Free to view
(831) 372-9311

Automobilia Monterey
More than 45 specialty vendors show off and sell their memorabilia, catering to the auto-everything collector. Exhibits include vintage posters, photos, signs, clothing and books.
When: Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 14-15, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Embassy Suites, Seaside
Admission: $10
(831) 659-5335

Tour d'Elegance
Starting and finishing at Collins Field in Pebble Beach, this 65-mile Highway Patrol-escorted grand tour of the Monterey Peninsula gives everyone in town a chance to view the entrants of the Concours d'Elegance from their respective beach chairs or restaurant patios. Tip: Perch near the steep Laureles Grade near Laguna Seca Raceway to see whether these antique beauties can indeed make the grade.
When: Thursday, Aug. 16, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Starts at the Lodge at Pebble Beach
Admission: Free to view
(831) 622-1700

Baja Cantina 'Hot Chili Nights'
A casual Mexican restaurant located down the road a piece from Laguna Seca Raceway is the place to be for the average car collector looking to kick some tires and swap stories (or parts). Roadsters, muscle cars and American classics are all on display as this modest establishment tries to keep up with the demand for food.
When: Thursday, Aug. 16
Where: Baja Cantina, 7166 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel
Admission: Free
(831) 625-2252

Pacific Grove Concours Auto Rally
On Friday, the more down-to-earth classic cars compete and tour throughout the Monterey Peninsula beginning in neighboring beach town Pacific Grove. Mid-century MGs, Austin Healeys and Corvettes abound, but this year, classic Porsche cars will be the lead feature. Whatever make and model constituted your automotive first love, it will probably be entered in this endearing rally for the rest of us.
When: Friday, Aug. 17
1:00 p.m. staging
6:00 p.m. rally
Where: Staged along Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove
Admission: Free to view
(831) 372-6585

Russo & Steele's Monterey Sports & Muscle
The most approachable of the auctions, Russo & Steele provides the public with a jumbo TV screen on the street outside the Marriott Hotel in Monterey. What you'll watch are some very exciting cars at auction, including a 1965 Ford Shelby Mustang GT 350 R and the "Batman Returns" Batmobile.
When: Thursday to Saturday, Aug. 16 to 18
Where: Marriott Hotel, Monterey
Admission: $60 or view outside for free
(602) 252-2697

Can't make the Pebble this year? Just click in with Dan Neil and Joni Gray as they blog their way through the high-and low-ends of the Pebble Beach weekend experience on LA Wheels August 15-19.