The Quail Life—Up Close at the 2011 Motorsports Gathering
Story by William Edgar Photography by William Edgar and Noted
Arriving somewhat after the mid-August Rolex Circle of Champions Best of Show winner rolled onto, and off of, the awards ramp at The Quail Lodge Golf Club in Carmel, California—this article comes as an “up-close” companion to Sports Car Digest’s more timely, though slimmer, initially posted report. In the days since that event I’ve had time to gather my wits, transcribe notes and interviews, and scroll through hundreds of digital images in order to compose this piece on what being at “The Quail” brought to attendees—without, say, paying the $400 per adult ticket price (children 12 and under, $75) that sold out months ago to a fixed capacity of 3,000 enthusiasts. So, here goes in offering what this title suggests, a personal visit to the 2011 Motorsports Gathering Garden Party that it truly was!
To be perfectly honest, of the many non-racing entertainments offered each August during Monterey Car Week—some call it Monterey Madness, others Holy Week—this one, “The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering”, is the day-long treat in my opinion that tops them all. No offense to the other exalted venues—Ocean Avenue, Concorso, Pebble Beach, the auctions, the list goes on—it’s just that at The Quail you can find a true diversity of cars, sip delectable chilled champagne, and enjoy dining and conversation with the best of motorsport friends.
“I’m not here for the sun,” said Marcel Massini, the go-to Ferrari historian from Switzerland where they’d already had snow. “I’m here for the cars,” he told me, “and of course for the Ferraris! I like the 400 Superamericas, the 410s. The whole Superamerica idea is absolutely spectacular. I’ve never seen so many Superamericas in one place. Every style is here, every color, and obviously the Superamericas and the Americas do belong to America.”
Massini was soaking up the flawless Ferraris Jack Thomas brought from Missouri for this year’s Quail. “The ‘400’ Superamericas,” Massini went on, “came out at the end of 1961 and were produced up until 1963, and there are long wheelbases and short wheelbases—the short wheelbases being a little more desirable. One car, the dark red one over there, used to belong to Nelson Rockefeller and has a great history.” We stopped at a deep green and maroon accented 375 Ferrari America that looked like none of the others. Said my Swiss comrade, “This is the ex-Gianni Agnelli, ex-owner of Fiat, car. It has a little unusual grill that may not be super pretty, but it’s special. You should have a look at the dashboard. The dashboard alone is a piece of art. Perhaps not an elegant car, it’s different, and that is what it’s all about. Obviously Mr. Agnelli wanted to have something special.”
Wayne Obry, who’d been chatting with 1963 Superamerica owner Peter McCoy, a home builder specializing in mansions, stepped over at say hello. Along with partners and technicians at Motion Products in Neenah, Wisconsin, Obry had restored more than a few of the top Ferrari gathered here, including Thomas’ ex-Agnelli 375 built for the Fiat boss in 1955. Meanwhile, following Massini’s prompt, I’d been studying the 375’s dash and thinking it must be wood, though struggling to imagine Enzo Ferrari ever making a car with a wooden dashboard. Obry, an established deity in his rarified niche of Ferrari resto, smiled. “That’s faux wood,” he said. “Actually it’s an aluminum dash that’s hand painted with a brush, not a silk screen, not a sprayer. It’s hand brushed to look like mahogany, and then it has a clear finish over the top of it.” Fooled me.
Massini was checking out another of Thomas’ to-die-for Ferraris, a supremely rare 342 America Cabriolet, one of the only two 342 Pininfarina Cabs built and, in 1953, made even more special in its distinction of being the first grand touring Ferrari ever to carry the 4.5-liter, 300 hp Lampredi engine, 100 more horses than Ferrari’s 4.1-liter Americas. I was absorbed in Ferrarilandia and totally loving it.
Barely ten in the morning and with six more event hours to go, The Quail’s 163 cars and 12 motorcycles had already revved up my heartbeat—in the good way. I asked Massini how he felt about The Quail, how all of this compared to, say, Pebble Beach’s Concours d’Elegance that was to follow the day after the next. “I believe The Quail has more charm,” he said. “It’s more about the cars, more about passion. Here you can really meet all the true car lovers, and their combined knowledge is absolutely amazing. I like the concept. You pay four hundred bucks for a ticket—you can eat, you can meet great friends here, you can see fantastic cars, you can just have a great day. Pebble Beach on the other hand has turned into a really, really big affair, and it has its own charm as well. All of these events in ‘Monterey Madness Week’ have their own attractiveness. Even the Concours in Carmel on Tuesday was interesting. For me it didn’t have that many Ferraris, but it was OK. The world does not only consist of Ferraris—there is other stuff, too.” Such as Jaguars, The Quail’s featured marque this year.
Back in 1950, my father had one of the first XK-120 Jaguars from those early freighter shipments to America. Sleek with its long tapered hood and trailing fenders, faster than any car I’d ever know, he scared the livin’ hell out of me in it. Soon to become Le Mans winners, British racing Jags were absolutely captivating, as the make evolved through its rounded C-Type, tail-finned D-Type and curvaceous “E-Ticket” E-Type with its stunning 1961 debut in Geneva, honored now at The Quail as the model’s 50thAnniversary. Enzo Ferrari himself admired the then-new E-Jag for its beauty. Customers everywhere adored it for its speed and elegance, and for its price—in dollars about a quarter that of the first Ferrari GTO a year later.
Road & Track magazine, in its September 1961 issue, reviewed the entire Jaguar XK Series to write, “If a new car ever created greater excitement around our office than the new Jaguar XKE, we can’t remember it.” That was half a century ago when car guru Dean Batchelor was editor for publishers John and Elaine Bond. Hearst Magazines’ current R&T Editor-In-Chief, Matt DeLorenzo, was here at The Quail 2011 to present the Road & Track Editor’s Choice Award to—a Jaguar XK-120. No ordinary 120, I asked DeLorenzo about it.
“We gave our award for the car we would most like to drive to Mark Miller’s 1950 XK-120, the one that Phil Hill actually raced at Pebble Beach. It’s a real testament to The Quail if they are able to attract that quality of cars,” DeLorenzo said. The Quail this year was paying special tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Phil Hill’s Formula One World Drivers’ Championship, the first American to do so when he clinched the F1 title in September 1961 at Monza.
On another grassy end of this sprawling field of dreams, Road & Track’s Design Director, Richard Baron, was fairly blown away. “Seeing the Bugatti Veyrons there together is like, whoa!” Baron said. “Here’s one, here’s two, no, there’s three, four!—there’s nine! It’s just phenomenal.” Said DeLorenzo, “The Quail is terrific!” Added Baron, “It pulls together competition cars and street cars. It’s not too crowded, you can actually see the cars and stand around and take pictures all day long. It’s low key, you get to see a lot of friends out there. Gordon McCall just puts together great collections of cars.”