THE QUAIL, A MOTORSPORTS GATHERING
Co-written by Tim Lappen, Esq.
Twenty years ago, Peninsula Hotel Group Chairman and a car collector Sir Michael Kadoorie started The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, at his picturesque golf resort hotel The Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. This event, held on the Friday before the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, has become one of the most popular automotive events each year. It is nearly impossible to buy tickets and book hotels unless you start very early in the year, preferably just days after the current show ends. Nearly all car brands worldwide participated in 2023 as exhibitors at The Quail, as did FlexJet (aviation), Burgess (yachts), Rolex (for luxury timepieces), and the Peninsula Hotel Group (for the excellent culinary pavilions).
The Quail is an excellent venue for interviewing high-level executives, and especially designers, about their latest creations and the future plans. In years past, Tim and I were lucky enough to interview senior people from Bugatti, Lamborghini, Hispano Suiza, Ruf, Czinger, Pininfarina, CEO of Rolls-Royce and more. This year, Tim visited with Bugatti, Maserati, and Rimac’s executives, and I chatted with Bentley USA’s CEO, Christophe Georges, and Lamborghini’s CEO, Stephan Winkelmann.
Jascha Straub is the lead designer of Bugatti’s sur mesure (their bespoke group) and can assist buyers with tailoring a car to their specifications. Having him walk me through his process and show me the incredible detailing that he hand-applied to the exterior of a custom Bugatti Chiron was quite breathtaking.
Maserati Chief Commercial Officer Bernard Loire and Chief Communication Officer Maria Conti were enlightening with regard to the direction for the new MCXtrema track car and the new GranTurismos.
Rimac’s stand was a real whirlwind of activity, no doubt because Rimac now is a co-owner of Bugatti and is the supplier of the rolling chassis to Pininfarina for their Battista. I had a good visit with Marta Longin, head of marking and communications for Rimac Technology. She walked me through the design and performance aspects of the lightning-fast Nevera, which now is the fastest production car in the world (zero to 249 miles per hour in 29.93 seconds and zero to 60 mph in 1.74 seconds)!
Rolls-Royce presented the quiet, powerful and super-refined new electric car, Spectre. The result of 155 million miles of testing, coupled with 400 million simulated years of use, the 2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre appeared in all its glory at The Quail. The performance of this whisper-quiet masterpiece was a wonderfully impressive demonstration of the manufacturer’s tremendous ability as an EV maker, even more praise-worthy as this is the luxury brand’s first EV production car. My time with the car last month in Napa, where we experienced both cruising and canyon-carving, was a joy to experience.
Bentley Motors also had a major launch at The Quail, debuting the new Bentley Continental GT which redefines the language of the grand tourer design. Inspiration for this new design came from the original and iconic series of the early 1950s Bentley R-Type Continentals. Honoring both milestones on August 18, one of the highlighted feature classes pays tribute to this wonderful, original design, including the prototype 1952 R-Type Continental. Although 71 years separates these two amazing designs, both remain timeless.
The Quail this year presented 14 automotive classes competing for The Quail Rolex Award which went to Anne Brockinton Lee for her 1956 Ferrari 410 Superamerica “Superfast 1,” a singular example of Ferrari’s 1950s-era grand tourer with a 4.9-liter V12 engine and Pininfarina body. This special car was a great illustration of how the luxury cars of yesteryear frequently were prepared as a rolling chassis by the manufacturer, which the buyer then had delivered to a coachmaker to design and fabricate both the interior and the exterior of the finished car, creating a one-of-a- kind vehicle for the owner to enjoy.
THE PEBBLE BEACH CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE
There are several top-quality car shows around the world each year, including the Villa d’Estate in Italy and the Amelia Island show in Florida. For many, however, the annual show on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links each August is the best. This year, Monterey’s annual Car Week festivities concluded on Sunday, August 20, with the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® and the week’s most anticipated award, Best in Show.
The picturesque Pebble Beach Golf Links were a hive of activity with meticulously cared-for cars from 1906 to 1998 gracing the 18th fairway. Special classes recognized the world’s leading brands, with Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, and Porsche bringing some of their most iconic models to mark their respective milestones. Meanwhile, the next chapter in motoring history played out on the adjacent Concept Lawn, as Audi, Volkswagen, and more displayed their pioneering automobiles for all to appreciate.
The show is arranged with cars displayed on the lawn by categories, such as Figoni Centennial (in recognition of one of the premiere coachbuilders in the 1920s and 1930s); Mercedes-Benz S, SS, and SSK (from 1927-1933); Pegaso (which, in 1953, was the fastest touring car in the world at over 150 mph); Vanderbilt Cup-era race cars (from the early 1900s until about 1916); Porsche’s 75th anniversary; Lamborghini’s and McLaren’s 60th anniversaries; and postwar luxury and American dream cars of the 1950s.
Each class has a team of judges who look for authenticity and condition as well as how well everything works. I dare say most of us could not pass such a rigorous inspection! However, for the thousands of attendees, the ability to stroll past dozens and dozens of the best motor vehicles of each category, reunite with old “flames,” and often see other winners that they didn’t know about is an annual treat.
The Concours ended with the prestigious Best in Show awarded to the 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster belonging to Jim Patterson of The Patterson Collection based in Louisville, Kentucky. Olivia’s client Arturo Keller, world-renowned vintage car collector known for his collection of more than 65 rare Mercedes- Benz, entered five of his Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the show this year, including a rare 1908 Benz Grand Prix which was produced before Mercedes and Benz merged. Unfortunately, he did not win the Best in Show this year. His 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier won the Best in Show in 2021.
Especially for a day which began for some with the sunrise “Dawn Patrol”—a parade of these fine machines motoring under their own power and frequently piloted by a driver accompanied by guests, all of whom were attired in period-correct dress—then segued into hours with time to peruse the cars and visit (by invitation, of course) the luxury boxes of all of the major players, this was a long day, but one which will be remembered as another successful show created through the hard work and diligence by the professional staff of the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach.
DRIVING THROUGH LA VIE LA ROSE NOIR
The crown event of this year’s automotive week was the unveiling of the 2024 Rolls-Royce La Rose Noire. Many ultra-luxury car makers, as well as hypercar manufacturers, will personalize a car that truly reflects your interests and design senses, but Rolls-Royce went steps beyond.
In 2017, Rolls-Royce unveiled and delivered the first and only bespoke “Sweptail,” a 2-door coachbuild which reflected on the company’s mandate to create stunning cars which looked like nothing theretofore. The car was commissioned by one of Olivia’s car collector clients before 2013; it took over four years to create this one-of-a-kind car wanted by the client who participated in the design and building process. The design was intended to create an intimate and cosseting interior, wrapping occupants in the comfort and luxury the client wanted, while also providing a smooth and powerful ride. It also has a champagne ice bucket with owner’s favorite vintage and a pocket inside a door to store a briefcase for
owner’s secret documents. The car also thrills with its full-length glass roof resembling the 1920s and 1930s Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe the client wanted to recreate.
Fast forward to 2021, the boat tail continued that design language as the car of an extrovert, one who enjoys driving with what Rolls calls a “highly social open top.”
On August 19, the eve of the Pebble Beach Concours, Olivia and I were invited to the unveiling event at Rolls-Royce’s private event house in Pebble Beach to meet La Rose Noire, the first of four coachbuilt “droptails” built for a private client. The open 2-seater (it does have a roof which can be put in place by the owner or left on a trapeze in the garage) is the first roadster body style in Rolls-Royce’s modern history. This amazing car was inspired by the allure of the Black Baccara® rose, a flower grown in France, which has petals possessing a velvet-like quality and is beloved by the mother of the commissioning family.
At an elegant reception on the hill overlooking Pebble Beach Golf Links and the beautiful blue Monterrey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, La Rose Noire glided up the driveway and took its rightful place in the center of a wall of gorgeous, dark red roses with a gold “RR” emblem in the middle while Rolls-Royce’s CEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, proudly introduced this latest creation to a small selection of global journalists.
The contrast between the blood-red roses with the gleaming Rolls was stunning in its splendor. Photos do not do the color of this car justice. The incredibly luminescent and jewel-like red paint required some 150 iterations to perfect, a finish so dynamic that, while on display on a perfectly clear and sunny day, it shone with many shades of red depending upon angle from which one viewed it. The sumptuous red body was in lovely counterpoint to the black- mist chrome accoutrements adorning the body. That same metal hue was used in the bumpers and grille work as well as in creating the Spirit of Ecstasy adorning the top of the Pantheon grille.
Additionally, the spectacular woodwork in the car’s interior, especially along the rear section of the passenger compartment, was created by combining hundreds and hundreds of wooden shapes. The parquetry, comprised of extraordinary 1,602 pieces of wood, specially sourced from France, was the most complex such project which Rolls had ever undertaken. It provided the perfect canvas on which to illustrate the flow of red rose petals floating from fore to aft, even while the car is not in motion.
Rolls-Royce’s design director, Anders Warming, and head of coachbuild design, Alex Innes, both were in attendance. They pointed out the innumerable design touches which combined to make La Rose Noire a one-of-a-kind work of rolling art at once clearly identifiable as a Rolls-Royce. Being in the presence of such talent and having them personally show me, during a special one- on-one visit, the unusual features and designs of the car was an extremely unique experience in and of itself.
In yet one of many magnificent touches, the designers collaborated with Audemars Piguet to create a special, one-off timepiece which the owners may wear as a watch or which may place into the car’s dash receptacle to provide an in-car clock. The 43-millimeter Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date runs on a unique self-winding Calibre 4407 movement, with a flyback chronograph and a split-second mechanism. This beautiful timepiece has red counters and a red inner bezel in great contrast to the black “openworked” dial highlighted with rhodium- toned bevels. Who would create such an amazing car? Naturally, Rolls- Royce does not disclose its clients’ names, but they did mention that this couple started the design process four years ago, travelling to the Rolls-Royce design studio in Goodwood, England for numerous design meetings, even participating in the sculpting process of the clay model which was constructed to show a close approximation of the lines and sizes of the car being created. The rose motif was appropriate for the commissioning owners, as the car was designed to commemorate their upcoming 30th wedding anniversary. Never has a car been more symbolic of a life through rose-colored glasses, or la vie en rose, as La Rose Noire.