Champagne corks popped and the distinctive aroma of Cuban cigars wafted through the air. Flavors of geographically-themed gourmet cuisine teased the tongue while the charming crackle and roar of vintage motoring machines snapped eardrums to attention. The sensory overload that characterized last Friday’s annual Motorsports Gathering at the Quail Lodge in coastal California’s picturesque Carmel Valley illustrated the extent of luxury for which the show has come to be known…hopelessly exclusive, and unmistakably haute.
Now in its eighth year, the Quail Motorsports Gathering has somehow leapt to the forefront of the elegant automotive events that comprise Pebble Beach week, despite the strong competition of some of the more tenured car shows hosted by the Monterey Peninsula’s myriad boutiques, spas and 5-star hotels. Of course entirely besting the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance’s 60-year history and peerless association with the Pebble Lodge and its storybook rocky coastline isn’t quite possible, but the Quail has, in a comparatively short time, gained an equally sterling reputation based on exclusivity and courtesy luxury amenities. By limiting attendance to a sold-out lot of 3,000 tickets that cost $400, and by providing guests with complimentary al fresco dining throughout the event’s entirety, the Quail’s organizers have managed to raise the bar for the week’s festivities, clearly appealing to the most discerning of automotive collectors and enthusiasts that descend on the peninsula each August.
Fans of the esteemed Motorsports Gathering had no small cause for concern last September when the Quail Lodge’s parent company, Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Ltd., announced that it would shutter the Lodge following a determination that the luxury hotel could not be operated on a profitable basis. Fortunately, the company sensibly concluded that marquee events regularly staged on the Quail’s grounds such as the Motorsports Gathering hold sufficient cachet to warrant their continuation, despite the Lodge’s predicament. Delighted enthusiasts at this year’s event could not have agreed more.
The 2010 Quail highlighted a select cross-section of European and American manufacturers, offering a spectrum of important motorsports themes spanning several countries and decades. The sensuous design cues of coachbuilt Alfas were highlighted by a judged class titled Special Coachbuilders of Alfa Romeo. The hotly contested class offered sensational cars bodied by Zagato and Bertone designers Franco Scaglione and Giorgetto Guigiaro.
This year’s event also celebrated the 45th Anniversary of the Shelby Mustang, the high performance variant of Ford’s classic pony car that was orchestrated by racing legend Carroll Shelby. In addition to enjoying a stunning array of Shelby Mustangs, ranging from the lightweight and muscular racebred GT350 cars of the mid-60s to the luxurious GT500KR convertible models that culminated the model’s run in 1969, fans in attendance were treated to a rare appearance by Carroll Shelby himself. The octogenarian snake charmer, whose legendary resume also includes the Shelby Cobra and the Le Mans-winning Ford GT40, took the stage for a brief interview that enthralled and amused guests with candid anecdotes of his various projects, all delivered in his trademark Texan drawl.
Some the winners:
This 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition Disappearing Top Convertible, owned by Ken and Ann Smith of California, took top honors as the Rolex Circle of Champions “Best of Show.”
The Alfa Romeo Special Coachbuilders class was won by this Zagato-bodied 1932 Alfa 6C 1750 Gran Sport owned by Bowman Motors of California.
Washington resident Mark Hovander won the 45 Years of Shelby Mustang class with this 1965 Shelby GT350R.
This 1951 Maserati A6G/2000 Spyder, owned by John Bookout of Texas, won the class for Postwar Sports Cars.
Though winning no awards, the following cars did turn a few heads:
1952 Allard J2X
1952 Mercedes-Benz W-194 300SLR
1955 Alfa Romeo 1900C SS
1957 Alfa Romeo 1900C SS Tipo IV
1959 Chevrolet Corvette Italia