When Leslie Mark Kendall, chief curator of the Petersen Automobile Museum, gets behind the wheel of the jet-black 1938 Delahaye with orange pinstripe details, a feeling of calm comes over him. He starts up the car, listens to its rumble, then turns to me and smiles. “There’s artistry in everything about this car,” he says. “Artistry in how it looks, artistry in the mechanism and artistry in driving it. These cars transcended transportation.”
We pull out behind a handful of incredible cars, with more than a hundred following us in the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance and Kendall explains to me that this is exactly how it is supposed to be.
“Cars can only be fully understood and appreciated when they are driven, to see them do what they were meant to do,” he says. “It makes your heart sing when you see these cars. Even though they are worth millions of dollars, you can drive these cars every day—they have modern performance. Not driving them is missing the point.”
On this day, we drive the Delahaye for about an hour, the wind in our faces (we even folded down the windshield onto the hood) and the beautiful scenery of the Monterey Peninsula as the backdrop for the spectators’ view—a rolling museum. There are people on every corner, waving and taking pictures as these marvelous cars drive by.
Rolex is the main sponsor for Monterey Classic Car Week, which includes this tour, The Quail Motorsports Gathering, the Monterey Motorsports Reunion and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the granddaddy of all the classic car events.
And Rolex’s replica watches involvement really is organic and logical. One of the most collectible watch brands, with vintage Rolexes selling for incredible money on the pre-owned and auction circuit, and modern Rolexes, like the brand-new ceramic-bezeled Rolex Daytona, selling strongly even in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis, Rolex backing a celebration of the artistry and elegance of classic cars just makes sense.
“Mechanical watches and cars go together,” Kendall says. “The beauty is in the mechanism, not just the use. These products have a soul. You can’t help but smile when you see them.”
The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance is an incredible event, to see all these cars, driving on the local roads and not in some museum, which really underscores their beauty and their purpose.
And these are expensive cars. Kendall would point out cars to me, quoting their multimillion-dollar price tags. And here they were sharing the road with Toyotas, Nissans and Fords.