Never mind the sleep deprivation. Set your alarms to V12 engines.
Dawn Patrol is a curiosity, a stench of seaweed and fumes, a darkness in the light, the sun breaking through the clouds of Monterey Bay, over the shapes of what we’ve collectively deemed as automotive icons. It's a gathering that once belonged to a small but merry band of masochists, but has since exploded: More and more are now willing to wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. and drive through the woods to the shores of Pebble Beach Golf Club.
The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance gets crowded, after all; better get up early and check your Rolex.
Wake up when it's still pitch black and it is a surreal feeling to watch the skinny trees pass by, lit up by the headlights. When you arrive there’s always more people than you expect. You’re in that zone of semi-awakening—too tired to stay alert, too awake to sleep if you needed to, but not willing to try.
And then the cars roll in. Roaring up the lawn, between the crowd, past the white ropes. The crowd curves around the ropes, directing the cars onto the lawn, reminiscent of the old Group B rallies where people moved out of the way for jumping Audi Quattros. The Ferraris fly past the crowd twelve cylinders barking while the coachbuilt Bentleys and prewar Rolls-Royces dazzle with their silence. Both equally impress, phones and cameras raised in the air. And the fog and the steam and the blue smoke and the exhaust fumes swirl around in the Monterey Bay, a tantalizing preview of what’s gonna happen for the next 12 hours.
But hey. For all of your sleep deprivation you get a free hat. When the fog burns off around noon you're going to need it.
This cute little guy was designed by Michelotti, and built by Vignale, around a Fiat chassis.
This Fiat 8V Supersonic just rolled out of a restoration shop in Amsterdam to make it down here. Ghia built just 15 examples; one of these sold for $1.3 million.
Famed Pontiac engineer Herb Adams conceived of this delicate Vivant roadster in 1965, drawing liberally (and literally) from Alfa Romeo's BAT experiments. After disappearing for 40 years, with a new coat of paint and a running Pontiac V8.
If you've never seen a Bugatti grand tourer coast by you, it is quiet, majestic, and supremely fascinating.
Alex Tremulis and a gyroscope expert named Thomas Summers came together to design the car of the future, a self-balancing wunderkind with an Austin Mini engine and a 22-inch hydraulically-driven gyroscope that resembles a nuclear reactor. Apparently it could go 125 miles per hour—not that you'd want to try. Tennessee's Lane Motor Museum spent the past five years painstakingly restoring the Gyro-X to fully balancing configuration, and the result is mind-blowing.
Coming up to the lawn, past the Rolex clocks, it's easy to find a place to park.
Not many Ferraris in yellow. Not many Ferrari 330 P4s in yellow, either. Baby-blue wheels on a yellow Ferrari might sound insane, but in person it actually works.
The very first car to wear the Isotta-Fraschini badge. In the 1920s, Henry Ford considered opening a factory in Italy, and Mussolini cut Ford a deal, including donating this car to Ford's museum. , Italy went to war, and the car was lost for most of the 20th century.
Nearly 12 hours later, this one-off by way of England would win the Concours' Rolex Best of Show award—and its owner, an Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41.
What's a concours without at least one Gullwing? Even if this cabriolet doesn't, in fact, have any gullwings.
A trio of Boano-bodied 250 GTs in the midst of an entire row of Ferraris.
Here's another shot of that Gyro-X, just to avoid any suggestions of photographic trickery, chicanery, or flim-flam shenanigans.
The fun thing about Dawn Patrol is that you can get up close to the drivers of these fine automobiles, maybe offer them a cup of coffee. It helps that these Rolls-Royces are as quiet as you'd expect.
The last car Bugatti ever made, just one of six before the lights went out. One of these chassis would later lend itself to an attempted Virgil Exner "neoclassic," which you'll see later.
European car maestro Max Hoffman commissioned Pininfarina to build this one-off Jaguar XK120 in 1954. It soon disappeared in the '70s. Four decades later, the car resurfaced, and underwent a ten-months restoration, just in time to hit the lawn at 6:30 a.m.
The Ferraris wasted no time in blasting up the lawn, much faster than anyone else, because who doesn't appreciate a good show?
In 1960, twenty years of Pininfarina's experiments with streamliners came to a head with the Fiat/Abarth 1000 Bialbero record car, which used its 1,000cc, 43-horsepower Fiat 1100 engine to hit 118 miles per hour.
The unrestored record car was nicknamed La Principessa; in 72 hours at Monza it broke eight endurance records, including going the fastest, for the longest.
And here it is: the actual last Bugatti, styled in 1965 by a misty-eyed Virgil Exner, who attempted to also bring back Duesenberg and Stutz. Only the latter made it into the glorious '70s.
Right after Niki Lauda reversed Ferrari's F1 drought in 1975, he went back and did it again, winning his second driver's championship in this very car.
Legendary Italian director Roberto Rossellini () commissioned Pininfarina to build this Ferrari 375 MM for his wife, the actress Ingrid Bergman. Not only did the car go on to inspire the 612 Scaglietti in 2004, but its custom champgane hue would immortalize Bergman herself: Grigio Ingrid.
And of course there's a 250 GT SWB. Of course.
A stately manor, a two-tone Roller, and a mustachioed man riding shotgun—it doesn't get any more Pomp and Circumstance than this.