I’m About To Attend The Fanciest Car Show On Earth And I’m A Little Nervous

Dt Pebble

I’ve been scrubbing my hands for two hours straight, using a brush to get all the crusty motor oil and wheel bearing grease out from under my nails. I’ve scoured through all of my clothes for one — just one — shirt that doesn’t have a stain somewhere (yes, I’ve debated just dyeing a shirt in oil to solve the problem). I’ve been learning about the sports of golf, lacrosse, and stock portfolio management, plus I’ve picked up some books on air cooled Porsches and Delahayes. Vineyard Vines? I know what that is now. Hell, I even bought a shirt from “Bonobos,” whatever the hell that is. Like most shirts, it is made of cloth and covers much of my torso; unlike most shirts, it cost as much as a rebuilt alternator; I’m not thrilled about it. I’ve also been trying to condition myself to avoid using certain words and phrases, but as a man who has spent so much time watching YouTube wrenching videos and choppin’ it up with mechanics, I know I’ll say something like “Shoot a little Gumcutter down that Studebaker’s carb and we’ll smoke that thing up real quick,” and I’ve tried training myself to vomit at the sight of any vehicle sold in quantities over 1,000. But it’s all just no use. The people of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance — the fanciest car show on earth — will see me for the junkyard dog I am, and ask me to bring their car around or head to NAPA Auto Parts to fetch them a few bottles of wine. [Editor’s Note: Does David really think you can get wine there? Does David get wine there? – MH]

Back in 2009, my mom dropped me off at the Kansas City airport and sent me on my way to Charlottesville to attend college. It was my first time in Virginia that I could remember, and almost instantly I felt out of place. The University placed me in the rowdiest dorm on campus (which the students called “grounds”), where the kids were so “affluent” that they literally used the term “affluent” to describe their childhood neighborhoods. Plus they bragged about the boarding schools and other private schools they’d attended. “Yeah, I went to St. Paul’s” I distinctly recall one New Hampshire -ite telling a group of kids. “Well, I attended Thomas Jefferson,” said another. I had no clue what any of this meant. I also didn’t know what a cotillion was.

So many of the kids in my class hailed from “NOVA,” which I learned was short for “Northern Virginia.” Many of their parents worked in consulting, or for a firm whose belly always remained full from the endless Las Vegas buffet that is the U.S. government. I was from Leavenworth, Kansas, a prison/Army town, and I’d just graduated from Leavenworth High School, a 1,200 person public center of excellence that received more bomb threats than a Ft. Sill training ground and that did its best to mimic the prison with its frequency of fistfights. In truth, I actually really liked the school, and thought it offered some good learning opportunities, but the point is: I grew up in a totally different world than many of these kids at UVA. They knew it, I knew it. I wore cargo shorts, they wore pastels. I wore transition lenses that they made fun of, they wore Croakies. I drove a 225,000 mile 1992 Jeep Cherokee with rusted out rockers, they wouldn’t be caught dead in something that old or American.

Heading to Michigan after college was a breath of fresh air, I have to admit. And the freshest breath comes right around this time of year in the form of exhaust gases thanks to the Woodward Dream Cruise. It’s a car show for everyone — a Saturday during which tens of thousands of cars driven by people from all walks of life head up and down Michigan’s fabled Woodward Avenue. Families break out lawn chairs and picnic blankets, father-child duos stand proudly next to the vehicle whose engine they’d just installed the night before, and I — always unable to contain my excitement — walk from sun-up until sun-down until I literally can no longer continue. I talk with hundreds of people, from car manufacturing plant workers driving old Chevy Novas to executives cruising in shiny Ford GTs, and from them I learn about the incredible unifying quality of car culture.

Screen Shot 2022 08 17 At 6.55.42 Am
image credit: Pebble Beach Concours

But this year, in an act of blasphemy, my lungs won’t be taking in that glorious fuel-filled air of Michigan’s legendary Highway 1, for I will be attending, for the first time, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the swankiest car show in all the land. I’m fairly sure the tickets to attend this event are more expensive than most of the cars I own, and the average value of a car in the parking lot is almost certainly higher than that of all my cars combined.

I will not find any JB weld or zip-ties holding together body panels, Duralast-brand parts from Autozone won’t be anywhere in sight, and floorboards won’t be littered with old Rock Auto receipts. Rocker panels will not be of the “Wi-Fi” variety (this is what the kids these days are referring to parts that have rusted out); every exterior vehicular surface will be covered in shiny paint. That is to say: I will be deeply out of place, far from the Sterling Heights, Michigan junkyard that I visit pretty much every weekend.

I’m thrilled to have this opportunity; any car-lover should be. And though, in truth, I enjoy choppin’ it up with people from all walks of life and I’m excited to meet new people (especially ones with different experience than I), this event couldn’t be further from the car culture I’m used to. I don’t know what to expect, and I’m a little nervous. I have no doubt that, like UVA, there will be some awesome, down-to-earth folks there, and the pomp and circumstance will mostly be taken as a bit of fun while just a minority of folks take it all dead-seriously. Heck, who knows, maybe I’ll be inspired to up my game from $700 Chevy Trackers and $1500 Willys FCs to vehicles with a bit more, um, overall functional capability. Honestly, this could be the kick in the pants I need to live a healthier, less-greasy, less-rusty lifestyle.

Here goes nothing.

Top image credit: Marshall Farthing

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79 Responses

  1. Well, maybe next time you can roll up in something very well-patina’d from here:
    Chuck Wallace Tractor Man
    319 Cowlitz Ridge Rd, Toledo, WA 98591

    I’ve driven by it many times over the years, and I think you are the man to investigate what appears to be 20+ glorious acres of various automotive rust-heaps.
    Just don’t forget to pencil in time for a few other local wonders. Heck, there’s time to get a slot in the Decades Driving School at WAAAM next spring!

  2. As many, many others have already said, you’ll be fine!

    I remember doing Dawn Patrol at the Concours after sleeping in my 91 Toyota Previa (with 250k+ miles on it) at a nearby town and driving it into the event parking lot predawn…with a dress shirt and pants on, nobody batted an eye at me and were none the wiser about what I rolled up in.

    If Hardigree is there with y’all, you’ll be especially fine, as I quite fondly recall that I got the idea to do Monterey Car Week on the cheap from Jelopnic…

  3. On one hand I should be happy for you Since it is one of the most prestigious concourse events. On the other hand I am very disappointed for the lack of Woodward Dream Cruise Coverage. Woodward Dream Cruise this year has a lot going on including an actual car announcement. When was the last time some one announced a new model during the week of the Dream Cruise? I hope something is happening but if not it feels like you guys are turning a blind eye to one of the largest car gatherings in the country. Its a move that your former anti Detroit boss would pull circa 2010-2011.

  4. David has some serious auto street cred. He has navigated Moab, driven cross country, driven across Europe, actually engineered something on a real automobile, worked as a professional journalist, and is a partner in a frickin’ automotive website startup. That will get you far during West Coast Car Week.

    Just don’t mention rusty jeeps. Believe it or not, that doesn’t impress most people.

  5. If only there were any gear-heads around…

    Not sure if you know what your arrival sled will be, but something like one of your FCs would be perfect in my opinion. The J10 would also be a solid steed in the parking lot. I know I’d be taking pictures of either, especially with context.

    Have fun! Find us some unique engineering marvel from 100 years ago that never caught on. I’d be excited to see the 24 Hours of Le Mans racers (I’ve learned my favorite show cars are ex-racers that still have the grime, scars, and pit-lane patches).

  6. David great article, great writing. But I’m sure that especially with some of the folks that make it all the way to the top of financial world and thus maybe also car world… you’ll find them actually quite gracious (I tend to think mainly because they are so successful, that they don’t need to play stupid ego games no more). I’m sure you’ll be more welcomed than you think.

  7. Three things:

    1. You’ll do fine.

    2. See if Paul d’Orléans is around, he’s the owner of thevintagent.com and has hosted that event before (if I remember correctly). He’s more of a motorcycle guy, but you guys or he and Torch would definitely have a lot to talk about.

    3. Related to commenting, can you guys get it coded so that when we log in, it redirects to the previous page we were looking at? It makes it a lot easier than the song and dance of pressing the back button, having to refresh the page, and then *hoping* to be able to comment.

  8. I wonder if the postal jeep driven by David in the top photo was the same one that our beach house neighbour in Jericho Beach (west of Galveston, Texas) owned more than forty years ago.

    Our neighbour had one that she used for errands around the Galveston Island. The advantage of driving the “retired” postal jeep was its robust ability to survive the hurricanes, floods, salt air, and so forth. Not to mention ability to fix anything on the cheap.

    One evening, she was to attend a formal event at the country club where she was a member. She dressed up to the hilt for this occasion and didn’t give a fuck if she was driving the heavily patina-ed postal jeep there. The newly hired guard refused to allow her to enter and was very adamant that she come back in a proper vehicle. They argued loudly, catching the attention of one of the country club executive directors. He spotted her and countermanded the guard to let her in. The valet was instructed explicitly to park the postal jeep close to the entrance as to “showcase” the fancy cars.

    I learnt that our neighbour was very loaded to the hilt thanks to her late husband’s oil business and was very active in the philanthropy. Yet, she lived in a very simple and unpretentious life.

  9. Reminds me of going to a public university, thinking it’d be more “working class”, only to find it full of NYC metro area kids who talked about crashing their S4 into a pole on the L-I-E in high school and then Mom bought them another. Or the guys who apparently got to choose between going to an Ivy league school and driving a Civic, or public university and a BMW.

    We also had Stuyvesant grads who really weren’t that impressive for how proud they were of their “elite” high school. And as a Northern VA resident today, I’m not sure if Thomas Jefferson kids measure up better.

  10. David, they are still cars and some of the wildest stuff you will ever see. We used to attend annually in the 80s, showed a car a couple of times. Driving on to the green in the morning fog is surreal and best time to see cars, just offer to help pick grass off tires on someone’s car :-). Honestly the best part is the tour done the day before where they are actually driven. First time I saw a Deusie SJ driven “con brillo” was there and it was being followed by an SSK and then a gaggle of Ferrari’s. Have fun and mind the sun.

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