The Pebble Beach Concours might be the headline event of the annual Californian festival of cars, but the gathering at Quail Lodge two days before is way more than just a side show. What started in 2003 as a small gathering of classic cars from the world of motorsport on yet another of Monterey’s absurdly manicured golf courses has now become a must-visit part of the almost week-long celebrations.
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Gallery: TopGear.com at Quail Lodge
This year the featured marques at the Quail were Aston Martin, which was celebrating its 100th birthday, and Lamborghini, which created a retrospective that included highlights from its 0-50 years in existence. The designs of Peter Brock, who penned such classics as the Shelby Coupe and the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray, were also given an airing in front of the caviar and Champagne-swilling crowd.
Oddities that you only ever see at events like this and then never again included the 1966 Cheetah Coupe. Designed to compete against the Shelby Coupes, these 377cu-in small block Chevy-engined race cars were famous for their ill handling but astonishing straight-line speed. Just 29 of them were ever made as racing homologation rule changes that required 1,000 cars, instead of the previous 100, had to be produced before it could race, made it unviable.
Unlike the array of 20 vintage Corvettes that streamed into line the spine of the event. And unlike the broad range of other racing cars, such as the Jaguar XK120 streamliner, complete with clear Perspex bubble over the driver, that set a land speed record (172.4mph) for the flying mile in Belgium in 1953.
But other than the old gold, there was plenty of new stuff to distract you, too as Michael Schumacher went on (and on) about his racing history, his collection of cars - he has every F1 car he won in except the Bennettons - and life after F1. First in line of the future classics was the new Legend Series of Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesses.
There are going to be six of these Legends released over the next year, with just three of each being made. The mini range-within-a-range debuts with the Wimille, which honours French racing ace Jean-Pierre Wimille who steered a Bugatti 57G Tank to victory in the 1937 and 1939 24hrs of Le Mans, the second time supported by Pierre Veyron. So there’s historical substance behind the car.
While the road-rippling eight-litre W16 drivetrain is left untouched, the designers have gone to town on the colour and trim. Most French racing cars were painted blue back in the Thirties, the 57G Tank being no different, so the Wimille edition recreates that aqua scheme with blue-tinted carbon fibre and Wimille Bleu paintwork and interior. Nice.
Walking past the gathering of super rare Ferraris - including Glickenhaus’ head-explodingly gorgeous P 4/5 cars from 2006 and 2009 - brought you to the next new headline star of the show: the Galpin Ford GTR 1. Inspired jointly by the GR-1 concept car and an active imagination, the team at Galpin Auto Sports, the custom division of the largest Ford dealership in the world in Los Angeles, have created their vision of what the Ford GT might look like if it was built today.
Using a standard GT as the base car, the team, working with concept car builder Metalcrafters, have created all-new aluminium bodywork that’s five inches wider than the stock GT. All the glass is new as are the knock off (that’s racing knock off, not poor copies) wheels, pure carbon brakes and interior. The engine has been breathed on by a set of twin turbochargers that see the GTR1 join the 1,000bhp+ club, with 1024bhp and 739lb-ft of torque.
It all looks very convincing, with nicely tight shut lines, reassuringly meaty door and rear hatch closing sounds and a general air of premium quality throughout. As it should because the asking price for the GTR-1, of which only a handful will ever be made, is a smidge over $1m including the donor car. And that’s for one made of carbon fibre. If you want one in ally, it’ll set you back another chunk of cash.
Away from the seven-figure cars on show, the more modest but no less focussed BMW M4 Concept got it’s first public outing. But that’s pretty much all that happened. No technical information other than ‘Yes, it is nice isn’t it?’ was available from the company, so we have to rely on what we already know about the two-door M3 Coupe’s successor.
The spokesperson’s smile got tighter when I suggested it would have the S55 450bhp twin-turbo in-line six engine, but there was no telling what the interior would look like as the car on show clearly didn’t have one. So we’ll have to wait for the Detroit show in January to see the entire finished car. If it stays like this though, I can’t see there being too many complaints. If ever a car said ‘thrash me hard’, this is it.
Rounding off the world firsts and this visit to the Quail was Porsche’s 918. While technically not in the showground - like every other show, this one has started to bulge into adjacent spaces - Weissach’s finest was on display in (almost) full production form for the first time. With all the technical details already confirmed it was all about thelook and feel of the production car.
I’ve seen expensive watches with less precise detailing than this so it passes that test easily. Which should help its sales. There have been some rumours that the cars haven’t been selling quite as fast as Porsche would have hoped, thanks to the McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari distracting buyers’ attention. But, having seen the looks on the crowds faces at the Quail, I can’t see that situation lasting long. Particularly as it’s ‘real good value at under $1m’, as one red-trousered, trophy-wifed punter claimed.
There aren’t many places in the world where an $875k car could be described as good value without irony, but at the Quail it’s probably true.