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Pebble Beach Automotive Week is champagne and oysters, triumphant classical music and wicker sun hats. It is summer dresses and brightly coloured suits.
It is golf courses and country clubs, Clint Eastwood and Jay Leno. There's the scion of an Italian gun manufacturer and a man with a green parrot on his shoulder.
It is hot and crowded. A sea of privilege under the golden California sun.
Matt Bubbers is in California for the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. This is just the beginning of the rare and phenomenal cars on display.Posted by Globe Drive on Friday, August 14, 2015
It is Davos with cars.
"I would say paying $300-million for a painting is absurd," said a car dealer from Britain. A Paul Gauguin reportedly sold for that sum earlier this year and the implication is that a mere $10-million is a reasonable sum to spend on a collectible car.
"It's a good way to protect your money," the dealer said.
Pebble is a feeding frenzy for the 1 per cent, who gorge on multimillion-dollar collectible cars and celebrate conspicuous consumption.
The main event of the week is the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, but there's also the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the Quail and auctions by RM Sotheby's, Bonhams and Gooding.
Grant Kinzel's tiny jewel of a sports car became a finalist for best-in-show at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, August 15. The Calgary enthusiast's 1953 Abarth 1100 Sport Ghia Coupe won its class, Postwar Early, and ranked among three nominees for the top award, won by a 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8AF from Louisville, Kentucky. A class win itself is a very big deal among car collectors, as a car must first win its class to qualify for consideration as best-in-show. Kinzel's car outscored a 1946 Delahaye and a 1950 Aston Martin DB2 from Singapore.
In total, nearly $400-million (U.S.) changed hands at auctions held Aug. 12-16.
Pebble Beach is a place where gearheads, enthusiasts, racers and kids can get up close to the greatest cars in the world.
We were given the keys to one, Lamborghini's most extreme product: the Aventador SV, half a million dollars' worth of car-shaped dreams.
With so much wealth concentrated in one place, luxury auto makers have a big presence. Lamborghini unveiled its new convertible SV Roadster at the Quail, where tickets are $600 apiece. BMW took the wraps off its track-ready M4 GTS. Many high-end auto makers offer test-drives to potential customers over the weekend.
It's for this reason that, despite being one of 600 Aventador SVs in the world, we passed another on the road – and a McLaren P1, a couple of Bugatti Veyrons and a fleet of Lambo's new Huracan.
It is prime hunting season for the local sheriff.
In the cabin of the SV, my head is against the roof and I don't care. The single-clutch automatic gearbox is jerky in traffic, but it doesn't matter. Because when you find a suitable stretch of road – it had better be a long one – and you flatten the throttle, 750 horsepower meets tarmac with a deafening shriek and the subsequent flood of adrenalin erases all other thoughts. This is as pure as modern supercars come, a small taste of the Pebble Beach good life.
Matt Bubbers shows us his favourite part about the new Lamborghini Aventador SV - the soundPosted by Globe Drive on Tuesday, August 18, 2015
But the SV is a bargain compared with the real stars of Pebble Beach, which were, among others: a 1982 Porsche 956, a 1998 McLaren F1 upgraded to LM spec and a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM by Scaglietti. They all sold at auction for $10.12-million, $13.8-million, and $17.6-million, respectively.
This is the $17.6 million Ferrari.
Pebble Beach is business, buying low and selling high.
Before the RM Sotheby's auction on Saturday evening, outside the Portola Hotel and Spa in downtown Monterey, the cars waited behind a fence for their turn to roll across the auction block. Security was tight, but the guards let kids peek through the cracks.
Last year at Pebble Beach, a Ferrari 250 GTO set a record – at $38-million – becoming the most expensive car ever sold at auction to date. Expectations are high.
Michael Goudsmit crouched down and ran his hand along the underside of a red 1956 Bentley Continental drophead. Lot 327, estimated at $900,000-$1.2-million.
He's a classic car dealer with a shop in Amsterdam. "Some of my customers, they're like small kids in a toy store," he said.
He was hunting for cars with room for improvement, cars he can restore and, he hopes, resell for a profit. This was his 26th year at Pebble Beach.
The auction started just after 6 p.m. The RM auctioneer bantered in fluent Italian, French and English. He teased out bids with a winning smile and boundless energy, keeping the mood light, despite the seriousness of the transactions. "Sir, are you scratching your head or bidding on a Ferrari?" Audience laughter.
In minutes, bidders spent more money than most people will see in a lifetime.
Mike Pickles, a collector based in Leeds, has 40 cars in his stable. "I'm going to open a design museum," he said. He bought a cute Fiat 600 Multipla at Bonhams earlier in the week.
"After you bid, you try to stare [the auctioneer] down, to make him drop the hammer by telepathy. But it never works."
The sheer volume of money on the line creates drama.
A 1966 Ferrari – lot 309 – got up to $3.5-million. Bidding slowed to a crawl. Going once, twice. Then someone in the front row made a bid. Gasps and applause. The phone bidder came back at the last second with $3.6-million. More applause, and lot 309 was sold.
Waiters continued making the rounds, delivering drinks, carrying little tip jars as they went.
As one woman said at the Quail over a plate of oysters, "There are people who just admire their money and people who get out and enjoy their money."
Above all, Pebble Beach is about winners and losers, but here even the losers go home in a Bentley.
(With a file from Dan Proudfoot)
The writer was a guest of Lamborghini. Content was not subject to approval.