Reunions, by nature, can be emotionally complicated. After all, most are obligatory exercises based on common ties as faded and frayed as high school memories or questionable family dynamics. A longstanding exception to this inconvenient truth is the car community, which unites disparate characters based on a passion for the world’s premier automobiles.
On that count, Northern California’s Monterey Car Week is the benchmark, and the Quail, a Motorsports Gathering is fast becoming a favorite of the industry, collectors, and enthusiasts alike. And on August 18, the 2023 edition raised the automotive lovefest to the next level as it commemorated its 20th anniversary.
Unlike the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, still the most prestigious show-car competition in the world but with a focus on collectors, Quail’s confab adds a strong manufacturer presence and has become the epicenter for debuts of luxury and high-performance models, especially limited-edition exotics. Yet it also fields a traditional concours that divided the A-list assemblage this year into 11 categories.
At the end of the day, the confetti canons fired off for a 1956 Ferrari 410 Superamerica “Superfast 1” named Rolex Circle of Champions Best of Show out of the more than 200 entries. The one-of-a-kind example from Maranello, shared with the crowd by current steward Anne Brockington Lee of Nevada, checks many bespoke boxes, including singular body work by Pinin Farina that is evocative of the storied coachbuilder’s styling on the ionic Ferrari 250 GTO. Of the two “Superfast” examples built by Pinin Farina, chassis No. 0483SA premiered at the 1956 Paris Salon fit with a unique 4.9-liter Lampredi V-12 engine configuration.
Also garnering special merit was a 1949 Lancia Aprilia Supergioello, owned by Nigel Churcher of Costa Rica, that took home the Spirit of The Quail honor. Along with the seven annual categories, there were four additional ones specific to this year. Among them was the 50th Anniversary of the 1973 RS Carrera, won by a 2.7 RS Lightweight brought by Missouri’s Liz and Reid Vann; and the Porsche 959s, with Northern California’s Bruce Canepa claiming the top spot with his 1992 Porsche 959SC. No surprise there, as Canepa—a racer, restorer, and collector—has become renowned for his 959 restomod projects that can go for more than $2 million.
Equally narrow in scope was the Early Bentley 1950s R-Type Coupe division, which crowned a 1952 Bentley R-Type Continental Prototype, another entry belonging to Anne Brockington Lee. But perhaps the most visually arresting group on display came under the Eyes on Italian Design umbrella. Rolling onto the stage for the class win was Californian Michael Kerns’ 1967 Bizzarrini Strada 5300, a model that’s emblematic of il belle paese in its heyday of style and swagger.
Despite the Quail having a standalone Motorcycle Gathering in May, there was a very small but impressive pack of bikes comprising the Sports and Racing Motorcycles classification. Fittingly, champion rider Wayne Rainey’s 1991 Yamaha YZR500 came in first, much like Rainey himself often did.
The head-to-head judging continued with the 17 new model reveals, though done solely in each attendee’s mind as they could wander through a constant series of press conferences from marques like Bugatti, Lamborghini, McLaren, Rolls-Royce, Czinger, and Pininfarina (the company combined its name to one word in 1961). The latter broke cover on the all-electric, 1,900 hp Pininfarina B95—a truly roofless hypercar along the general lines of McLaren’s Elva. And Bugatti brought its Chiron Super Sport “Golden Era”, an extreme example of customization that features hand-done sketches, from Molsheim’s team of designers, drawn directly on the car. The passenger side features highlights of the marque’s prewar legacy, while the driver’s side portrays the contemporary story.
“We did about four to five layers of sketches, like Photoshop almost; you would lay down the outline, then the painter would come and spray another layer of Clear Coat, then sanding again, and then the next layer of pencil sketch, and so on” says Frank Heyl, newly appointed director of design for Bugatti. “It was super intensive and took weeks and weeks,” he adds, referring to that process alone.
At the stand immediately next to the French hypercar specialist was Maserati and its MCXtrema. The model takes elements of the MC20 and MC12 and gives them a decidedly menacing attitude adjustment in appearance and performance that finds the brand’s Nettuno 3.0-liter V-6 in its most aggressive tune.
“We are 109 years old, and come from racing,” says Klaus Busse, head of design at Maserati. “It was time to go back . . . this is now giving private racers an opportunity to take a Maserati back to the track.” Busse goes on to explain that “since it’s the spiritual successor to the MC12,” which was limited to 62 examples, the MCXtrema will comprise the same production run.
The most anticipated reveal was arguably the Lanzador concept from Lamborghini, the initial glimpse at what we can expect from Sant’Agata Bolognese’s foray into complete electrification—a lifted two-door GT with room for two passengers at the back. “As you can imagine, this is a big transformation for us . . . but from purely an engineering [standpoint], the difference is smaller than some people expect,” says Rouven Mohr, chief technical officer for Lamborghini, when asked how his team can make a paradigm shift in power-train development but still carry the Raging Bull’s DNA.
The battery-powered grand tourer has advanced and copious active aero and further improves on the super-processor-controlled predictive driving measures first introduced in the Huracán EVO; what Mohr calls the “3.0 [version], including the active aero and torque distribution.” And, importantly, Mohr points out that “it looks like a Lamborghini.”
When asked why Quail is the preferred venue for such a pivotal debut, Mohr makes it personal. “I’m a car guy, and if I see this combination—race cars, new cars, concept cars, old cars—I simply love it. Where else on the planet can you see this kind of mix.”
Bugatti’s head of design is on the same page. “It’s a group of car enthusiasts, no matter which brand,” says Heyl. It’s really casual but, at the same time, on such a high level—it’s a chance for camaraderie.” Also part of the program was an interview with Formula 1 and Indy champion Emerson Fittipaldi by Maurice Merrick of the Horsepower Heritage podcast.
This sense of community was best expressed in a poignant moment between Bugatti designer Jascha Straub and 14-year-old Carter Spinks, from Texas, who deftly navigated between the hypercars in his electric wheelchair. There through the Make a Wish Foundation, Carter had Straub do a personal drawing of the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse for him. “The Veyron is my favorite Bugatti,” says Carter, who cited “all the creativity” as being one of the elements that makes this event so special.
“This is heaven for him,” adds his father, “being able to get up close and see all of these cars in one spot—couldn’t ask for more.” Thank you, Carter, for reminding us all why these machines matter, and how automotive reunions like the Quail can be emotional—and remarkable.
Click here for more photos from the Quail, a Motorsports Gathering 2023.