A cruise through a car weekend like no other.

Joy Ride : — Mark C. Anderson

Merriam-Webster must not be familiar with car week in Monterey County. “Car:” it reads. “1. A vehicle moving on wheels.” Poor, cloistered Webster—a car—the car!—is so much more. It is art and engineering, emotion and memory, history and future. It is a feeling of freedom and possibility. It is a legacy, a reality and a lifestyle. The next few days, it is all of these things, as well as a shared escape (Tour d’Excellence) and a proud story (the Historics), a concept (gravity races) and an ideal (Concours). It’s an identity (Concorso Italiano) and a gift (the Quail). And it’s all in here:

THURSDAY

2006 Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance

It’s an embarrassment of beauty, really—a free and accessible symphony of sight, best witnessed from a roadside lawnchair next to a cooler with Councours-appropriate champagne. The rare caravan starts in Pebble, moves along 17-Mile Drive to the Highway 1 Gate, crosses Highway 1 to travel along serpentine Aguajito Road, hits Monhollan, moves through picturesque Tehama and Monterra to reach Carmel Valley Road, then turns south to meet the Pacific for a cruise to the Point Sur Lighthouse. When it returns to Carmel, onlookers can check out the surreal rides while the drivers eat lunch.

7AM/CARS LINE UP ON PORTOLA ROAD, PEBBLE BEACH; 8:30AM/DEPARTURE. 11:30AM-NOON/CARS ARE PARKED ALONG OCEAN AVENUE, CARMEL. VISIT PEBBLEBEACHCONCOURS.NET/TOUR.HTM FOR A MAP.

XGR Greenlight Extreme Gravity Races

Think tanks, not gas tanks, fuel the 2020-esque racers at this event: Design teams from the world’s great autos manufacturers—including Ferrari, Bentley and Audi—bring cutting-edge concepts to 50mph fruition with gravity as their only engine. Last year, the only thing cooler than watching the sequence of racers resembling cyborgs and torpedos rip around the corner on Jacks Peak Road was studying their contours up close. Post race they go on eBay to raise money for Concours charities.

8AM-3PM. JACKS PEAK REGIONAL PARK, JACKS PEAK DRIVE, MONTEREY. CALL 310-924-1303 TO RESERVE ONE OF LIMITED SPOTS AVAILABLE. GRAVITYSERIES.COM.

Russo and Steele Sports and Muscle in Monterey

The consensus is in: this is an entertaining auction—Voom’s Treasure High-Definition Television has even partnered with Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles for exclusive live coverage of their auctions. Bidding is open only to registered individuals and their guests, but enthusiasts can check out the line-up of classic American muscle and Europe’s best sports and custom rides in the City’s parking lot all weekend. Tonight, there’s a MY Museum benefit preview with wine and snacks to get the event up to speed.

6-9PM/BENEFIT. 10AM-5PM THU-SAT/FREE PREVIEW; 5-11PM/AUCTION. PARKING STRUCTURE, CALLE PRINCIPAL ONE-HALF BLOCK SOUTH OF THE MARRIOTT. RUSSOANDSTEELE.COM.

FRIDAY

Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races

History moves quickly—here the historic beauties aren’t just for the lookin’. Fourteen different races—from antique Formula 1 racers to the testy Trans Ams—anchor the 33rd running of this weekend-long tradition. Just don’t scratch anyone’s ride. “The number-one rule is you don’t take someone out,” says Laguna Seca spokesman Reece White. “But if you can get by somebody…” The Cooper is the featured vehicle this year, meaning its storied history as the forbearer of modern racecar design will be the highlight of a wealth of exhibitions. And that hundreds and hundreds of members of the Mini Cooper cult will descend upon the Peninsula. More than 400 vintage racecars also join the party.

8AM-5PM FRI-SUN. MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA, HIGHWAY 68, MONTEREY. $45-$65/DAY PASS; $95/TWO-DAY; $125/THREE-DAY; FREE/CHILDREN UNDER 12; 1-800-327-SECA OR MONTEREYHISTORIC.COM

The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering

Sure, the cars here are showstoppers: note the 1963 Ferrari 250 GT once owned by Steve McQueen, the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Zagato (one of three on planet) and the 1954 Lancia D24, winner of the Targa Flio in ’54; these three top a deep roster of cars assembled to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Targa Florio and the 50th anniversary of the Laguna Seca Raceway. But it gets better: the Bonhams & Butterfield Auction, the on-site massages, designer top-shelf cocktails, superb local wines and Mediterranean dining from Cal Stamenov—fennel-crusted pork loin, spiced leg of lamb, wild salmon, paella—all set in the reliable sunshine of mid-Valley, all included in the price, make for a show all their own. It’s a rare bird that can be called a bargain at $150.

10AM-4PM. QUAIL LODGE, 8000 VALLEY GREENS DR., CARMEL. $150. 877-734-4628 OR QUAILLODGE.COM.

Concorso Italiano

The Italian boot is more than a geographic shape. It is the heavy foot that floors the gas in a sleek 2005 SSC Aero SC. It is the stiletto that stalks the high-fashion catwalk in Prada. It is the cleat that drills the clinching penalty kick in the World Cup final. This event pays tribute to the finest incarnations of the spirit of the boot (minus the soccer) with an orgy of gorgeous cars, fashion and all-around Italianess celebrating 100 years of the Taglio Florio, 100 years of the Lancia Automobile, 35 years of the Pantera and 50 years of design by Giorgetto Giugiaro. That means exquisite automotive exhibits, music, a fashion village and an inspired fashion show.

9:30AM-5PM. BAYONET BLACKHORSE GOLF COURSE, 1 MCCLURE WAY, SEASIDE. $100/IN ADVANCE; $150/DAY OF; $50/CHILD (AGE 4-12). 425-742-0632 OR CONCORSO.COM.

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RM Monterey Sports and Classic Car Auction

Given the onboard speaker system, the seat that elevates through the open canopy and the flying-bridge windscreen, the official Vatican flags that come with the 1964 Lincoln Continental Papal Limousine are simply bonus. The ultimate car for Catholic collectors is joined at this event—the self-proclaimed largest sports and racing car auction in the world—by a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster that looks like mercury (the element, not the marque), a 1955 Ford “Beatnik Bubbletop” that feels like the future, retro, and the 1937 Studebaker “Posies’ Extremeliner” that is simply badass. And hundreds more—here, the significant, historic and exotic are unexceptional. It’s an amusement park for the eye.

6-9pm Thu/gala reception. 9am-5pm Thu-Fri/preview; 5pm-midnight Fri-Sat/sale. Portola Plaza Hotel and the Monterey Conference Center, 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey. $30/three-day event pass; $80 catalog; $150/bidder registration. rmauctions.com

SATURDAY

Khaki’s Annual Ferrari Event

Here’s a great way to keep the car weekend in gear without draining the money tank. Throaty Lamboghinis, slick Alfa Romeos and cherry Maseratis primp in the Barnyard’s parking corral, allowing the public to gawk—keep the slobber off the chrome—and chat with owners. Those registering cars get access to the wine and Barnyard restaurant cuisine in the VIP area; a $20 donation to local charities gets the public behind the ropes too.

4:30-7pm. Barnyard Shopping Center parking lot, Rio Road and Highway 1, Carmel. Free; $20 donation for food and wine. 625-8106.

SUNDAY

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

It’s an epic effort to get a car to the Concours: Elaborate shipping strategies and extraordinary resources are required to get, say, a 1934 Voisin C27 Coupe from Vorges, France to the 18th at Pebble Beach to compete in the World Cup of cars. And it just got harder: This year the Concours has dropped the number of competitors for 25 different Best in Class awards and the title of Best in Show from 225 to 175. The heightened drama is just part of the larger plot for the 56th anniversary event—Voisin and Delahaye are featured marques, concept cars serve as foils to the greats of yesterday, and cars from the Pebble Beach Sports Car Races (1950-56) are displayed. The finale is the Pebble Beach Auction, the car-collector’s Grail, where paddle-waggers can bid on a surprisingly affordable 1971 BMW 3.0CS or a practically priceless 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe.

With this Granddaddy of Car Week, and its seemingly endless permutations of perfection on the edge of the Pacific, amazement is mandatory.

7:30am/gates open; 1:30pm/judging starts; 4:30pm/best in show announced. $150/in advance; $175/day of show; free/children 12 and under; $400/Club d’Elegance package. 622-1700 or pebblebeachconcours.net.

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