While there are many different concours d’elegance all over the world, most of them feature the same ingredients; a nicely manicured piece of grass to display some prime vintage vehicles. Usually they are divided in classes and judged by experts to yield an objective result for ‘best in class’ and ultimately ‘best in show’. The highlight of the concours season is the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which has over the years been joined by several other events in the same area building up to the Sunday spectacle on the shoreline. The most recent addition to these ‘supporting’ events is the ‘The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering’, hosted by the Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. Held on the Friday before Pebble, it combines familiar concours ingredients with some novel ideas. The concours is pretty conventional with the exception of the class judging, which is done by the other competitors in that class, who are considered experts themselves by the organizers. Also rather unique is the focus on racing cars. Quite in contrast to the Concorso Italiano held on the same day is the limited access to the show field and the relatively high price of the ticket. The reason for the exclusivity is that the ticket also includes a lavish lunch prepaired by the Lodge’s chefs. This year the visitors had the choice of the finest food from four different regions: Italy, Greece, Spain and California Farmer’s Market, complemented by a nice choice of wines. We of course sampled the goods, but our main focus was on the fine cars on display, which can be admired in our 150-shot slideshow
One of the three celebrated themes in the 2006 ‘The Quail’ was the 100th anniversary of the Targa Florio; the legendary road race held for many years on the Italian island of Sicily. Like the Mille Miglia, it was deemed too dangerous and eventually removed from the international racing calendar, but today it still survives as a retrospective event. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as popular as the Mille Miglia retrospective, but the Sicilians were treated to quite a delight by James Glickenhaus who brought two of his V12-engined Ferrari to the Mediterranean island. He drove his 166 SC (most likely the oldest Ferrari in existence) himself and had his 330 P3/4 driven by ‘Targa’ legend Nino Vaccarella, as he had done forty years earlier. At the Quail we were treated to the 166 Spyder Corsa, exactly two years after James had acquired it at the nearby Christie’s auction. The striking Ferrari was joined by a colourful mix of predominantly Italian and German machines of a type that had been raced in anger around Sicily. Our attention was immediately grabbed by the Lancia D24 present; the actual winner of the 1954 Targa Florio in the hands of Piero Taruffi. Together with the one in the factory museum, it is the only surviving example of this marvelous sports racer. Although it is restored, it is almost completely original and to protect the fragile body it is only very rarely seen in public. Fortunately there have been several exact replicas made in recent years to give people of our generation an opportunity see these highly advanced machines in action. One of these was in fact driven at the some time one valley north around Laguna Seca in the Monterey Historics.
Laguna Seca’s 50th anniversary was the second big theme, but the turn-out of just four cars for this class was a bit disappointing. Celebrating Laguna Seca on the same weekend as the Monterey Historics does seem a bit silly. Nevertheless there was a true star car in this class in the shape of the ex-Otto Zipper Porsche 906E, which was one of just four cars of this type fitted with an experimental fuel injection engine by the factory. At around lunchtime a selection of ‘street-legal’ historic racers came over from Laguna Seca for the ‘Historics to Quail run’. The trip took them over Laureles Grade Rd; one of the most exciting roads in the area.
Few design houses have combined form and function as well as Zagato; cars equipped with a Zagato custom coachwork have scored many victories in races and more recently concours all over the world. Zagatos past and current designs were highlighted with a separate class. All eyes were obviously on the recent Ferrari 575 GTZ, for the occasion was lined up next to David Sydorick’s glorious 250 GT Zagato, which clearly served as the inspiration for Zagato’s latest masterpiece. A variety of Maseratis and Aston Martins lined up served as further evidence of the Milanese coachbuilder’s rich heritage. Of particular interest was the one-off AC Ace, which received a Zagato coachwork complete with the trade-mark double-bubble roof in 1957 to the special order of a Swiss customer.
The remaining 75-odd vehicles (cars and motorcycles) were spread out in classes were clear descriptive captions like ‘post-war racing’, ‘super cars’ and ‘the great Ferraris’. In that Ferrari there were a large number of usual suspects, headlined by Jack E. Thomas multiple-award winning ex-Gianni Agnelli 375 America. For those of us that do not run into Ferraris every other week the selection at The Quail was a very nice (re-)introduction to the manufacturer’s most glorious period of the 1950s and 1960s. We were particularly interested in a very special 250 GT SWB, sporting a unique coachwork designed by a very young Giorgietto Giugiaro and built by Bertone. It was the first of two Bertone bodies to be fitted on a 250 GT SWB chassis. The unique car’s most unusual feature is the fully tilting nose-section that not only reveals the engine, but also shows parts of the chassis that remain hidden on other Ferrari 250s.
Ranging from a petite Amilcar to a huge Daimler Double Six, the ‘pre-war sports and racing’ class was the most diverse. Obvious favourites in this class were the Nethercutt Collection’s Teardrop Talbot Lago and two stunning Delahaye 135 Cabriolets, but John Mozart’s huge Isotta Fraschini was hard to miss. This 1912 behemoth features a 700 cubic inch four cylinder engine that could propel the racing car to 100 mph at a time when some people that speeds this high were deadly even without crashing into anything. To show off the huge stroke one of the covers of the engine-block has been replaced by a glass panel. Not quite as noticeable as the big Italian beast, but as interesting was the Triumph Dolomite. One of only two built, it was a very obvious copy of Alfa Romeo’s successful 8C 2300, so much so that the Italian company sued Triumph. After two years the case was settled and Triumph paid for the damages by supplying 500 motorcycles to the Italian government.
Award giving ceremonies
At 3 pm all ballots were counted and the award giving ceremony got underway. Each of the class winners was called to the centre of the field where a special winner’s circle was created. As the winning machines rolled up we could only conclude that the entrants indeed had a very fine eye. Class wins were scored by among others the Lancia D24, Ferrari 250 GT Zagato, Triumph Dolomite and Porsche 906E. With all winners lined up side by side in the ‘Circle of Champions’ it was time for the biggest announcement of the afternoon; the best in show. This major decision was again left to the entrants and they picked the ex-Steve McQueen Jaguar XK-SS. The legendary actor and racing driver liked the car so much that he bought it for a second time after he sold it to Bill Harrah in the early 1970s. After his untimely death in 1980, the car was purchased and preserved by the Petersen Automotive Museum. Perhaps a surprising winner, but it was still well deserved.
With fine cars, good food and a variety of cars, including the Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren, to test drive, this year’s Quail, a Motorsports Gathering was a pleasant day out under the sun for all visitors. For the second year running all 3000 tickets were sold out in advance, so within four years the new event has grown out to be set fixture in the busy weekend.