“I can sleep when I’m dead.” It’s the humorous battle cry coined by those who rise and shine before the sun and get stuff done. It’s also the mentality required to set your alarm for 4 a.m., brave the cool morning breeze at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and watch some of the world’s greatest automobiles arrive at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance each year.
It isn’t as crazy as cutting a hole through the ice of a frozen lake and joining the slightly odd dunkers in the Polar Bear Club, but it’s a stretch for many car enthusiasts.
So, beyond the awesome cars, what is your reward for becoming a hearty member of the Hagerty Dawn Patrol? Donuts. Coffee. And, as anyone who has ever participated can attest, the cerise sur le sundae is an exclusive Dawn Patrol hat, which proclaims to the world that you’re no ordinary car lover.
It is important to note that the powerful allure of the Dawn Patrol hat does not play favorites. Everyone wants one, regardless of station—some will even lead you to believe that they need one. This year is no different. Except that it is. Very different. Unfortunately, there will be no Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August (thanks, COVID-19). But there will be hats, and one of them could be yours.
The craziness that is Dawn Patrol began on a whim in the early 2000s, but Hagerty CEO McKeel Hagerty made it an official gathering in 2004.
“For a few years prior to ’04 it was McKeel bringing a couple dozen donuts and a carafe of coffee down for a small group of hardcore car nuts to watch the cars drive onto the lawn,” says Jonathan Klinger, Hagerty’s vice president of car culture. “It’s a slightly bigger deal now.”
Slightly. Held just off the 18th green, Dawn Patrol provides a perfect spot to see each entrant drive onto the show field. The opportunity to hear the cars run and see them in motion as the sun rises on California’s Monterey Peninsula is a magical moment that few enthusiasts ever experience.
When those hats come out, stand back. Or better yet, dive in. As one reporter once described it, it’s pretty much “an undignified frenzy among collector nerds, like autograph hounds at Comic-Con.” In that brief moment, a baseball cap steals the spotlight from the Duesenbergs, Rolls-Royces, Packards, and one-offs that rule the day.
So, you’re asking, how do I get one of those hats? The only way to score one is to get up early, just as you would have done at Pebble Beach. On Sunday 16 August, the day the concours was scheduled, fire up your car and take a drive between 6–9 a.m. (in your local timezone). Snap a selfie and then post it to Hagerty’s Community Platform.
It’s as simple as that. Too early in the morning, you say? Not if you want a shot at a Hagerty Dawn Patrol hat. Just remember, you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead.