Eighteen years ago The Quail A Motorsports Gathering took over from what had become Concorso Italiano, turning what was a sort of frat party of Italian cars into a more formal but no less fun car show. Except it’s not really a car show. The Quail, as it’s abbreviated in conversation among those who know it, is based around race cars, but includes much more.
“It’s the eclectic nature of it,” said organizer Gordon McCall. “There’s such a such a broad spectrum of things. I hope people see things here they didn’t know existed, and then see also the kind of the stuff they expect to see. It’s everything in between. It’s not a car show. It’s a motorsports gathering.”
Nothing made that point better than the arrival at noon of a long, loud line of Trans Am race cars driven from Laguna Seca over the Laureles Grade and onto the Quail grounds under full CHP escort, the rumbling raucous racers roaring into the same space that only moments before had been playing yacht rock on the PA system. It was impressive.
So, too, was the range of cars: Everything from a gorgeously cute Citroen Ami 6 and a 1965 Matra Bonnet Djet that were part of the Automotive Couture French Cars class, to the biggest gathering of Alfa Romeo Montreals since the factory closed down that were part of the 50thanniversary of that model.
World champion Jenson Button was the featured guest on the annual Fireside Chat, talking about the U.S. debut of the Lotus Emira as well as he and fellow Quail attendee Ant Anstead’s new venture from Radford Automobiles, the revival of the Lotus 62.
On top of that there were industry premiers from all across the spectrum: the near-production Rimac Nevara electric supercar, a new Pagani, the new Lamborghini Countach, the first public display of the Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid GT Speed, and Mulliner introductions of the coach-built Bacalar and continuation Blower Car Zeros. The Art Center College of Design revealed a long, low Lincoln its students created that made you wish sedans and coupes would make a comeback. The new Meyers Manx company was in full force with a display of Manxes cleverly parked in a sand trap, followed by a flyover of new Manx company owner Phillip Sarofim’s 1951 Grumman Albatros flying boat with “Meyers Manx” painted on the underside of the wings. Sarofim also showed his recently acquired Big Oly Bronco, the race vehicle that Parnelli Jones wrestled to two wins in the Baja 1000 50 years ago.
Plus, there was a lot of food, not the least of which was an oyster and caviar bar hosted by our colleagues at Road & Track.
Best of Show at The Quail went to K. Heinz Keller’s 1938 Mercedes 540K Special Roadster, which looked about a block and a half long, resplendent after what was said to be an eight-year-long restoration, giving hope to project cars everywhere.
But my favorite might have been a 1902 Indian single-cylinder motorcycle that had spent 100 years in a wooden crate in a basement. That bike, owned by Shawn W. Coady of Illinois, won the Spirit of the Quail trophy.
The crowd had been culled from the usual 6,000 down to 5,000, according to McCall, due to Covid concerns, but it was hard to tell by the sea of smiling faces, many chomping big ceegars and talking cars. Looking forward to next year, when the Quail returns for its 19th run August 19, 2022.
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