IN 1950, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) established the Pebble Beach Road Races, a weekend of sports car racing through the streets of the Del Monte Forest. A Concours d'Elegance that featured a group of marvelously restored automobiles was added, almost an afterthought.
From those humble beginnings, a nineday celebration of the automobile has developed, anchored by the Concours and the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Featured at the Concours d'Elegance will be Ferrari, with 20 of the iconic GTOs entered and the marque for the Reunion will be Jaguar. Both events are renowned as the best in the country and among the finest in the world.
The nine-day event will begin August 13-14 with the "pre-reunion," an opportunity for vintage racers that have traveled from all over the world — as far away as Japan, Australia and Singapore — to get more track time in a relaxed atmosphere as well as some others that don't make it into the Reunion field.
That is followed with a week of auctions, shows and exhibitions, culminating with three days of vintage racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, this year from August 19-21, and the Concours d'Elegance on the lawns of Pebble Beach Golf Course.
The Concours, featuring the 18th hole as a backdrop for magnificent vistas of the Pacific Ocean, is now the champagne event for the week. It will be held this year on Aug. 21.
Tariff for that first Concours was $1.
Soon after the inaugural races through Pebble Beach in 1950, the cars were too fast, the crowds too big and safety became too much of a concern.
A series of three incidents spelled the end of the Pebble Beach Road Races. With spectator and driver safety not yet paramount as it is today, in 1955, a car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans left the track and careened into a crowd of spectators, killing a number of them.
In the 1956 Pebble Beach races, Warren Finchaboy left the road and hit a tree. It took an hour to free Finchaboy from his Triumph TR-3. He survived but suffered major injuries. That was followed by an incident where well-known driver Ernie McAfee left the course at high speed and hit another tree. That tree was all that kept him from careening into an area crowded with spectators.
That was the end of racing in the Del Monte Forest.
So a group of local leaders formed the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula — known as SCRAMP. The group leased some land on Fort Ord property and built Laguna Seca Raceway in about 60 days.
The first event was called the 8th Annual Pebble Beach at Laguna Seca National Championship Road Races. The Pebble Beach reference was dropped the following year.
In 1974, Steve Earle had some old race cars and a dream. He sold SCRAMP on the concept of a vintage event at the track, contacted some friends and produced a field of 66 entries for the first Monterey Historic Automobile Races which was held in concert with the Concours. The Historics and the Concours continued to grow together, fostering a host of other activities.
Two years ago, SCRAMP took over operation of the Historics and renamed the event the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, bringing Barry Toepke on board to run the event.
The Concours hasn't been without growing pains and, at one time, nearly went belly up. That's when the late Lorin Tryon and Jules Heaumann stepped in.
"They turned it around," said Gordon McCall, who has placed his mark on everything historic regarding the automobile on the Monterey Peninsula and will be holding his 20th annual gala during that week at his Monterey Airport facility.
Among other events during the week are the Bonhams auction; the Blackhawk exhibition, held all week at the Peter Hay golf course (it's not an auction but cars can be purchased there); the Russo and Steele auction at the Marriott; the Gooding & Co. auction at Pebble Beach, RM Auctions in downtown Monterey; the Mecum auction, The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering, now in its ninth year at Quail Golf Club and Resort; and the Concorso Italiano at Laguna Seca Golf Course.
It all might sound like, well, too much. McCall has an answer for that: "I once heard there's never too many rides at Disneyland."