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Pebble Beach: The Quail gives car collectors a best-in-show atmosphere

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"It's like a garden party!" says one participant of the Quail during Monterey Car Week
Not just the super-rich and the mega-rich, The Quail also attracts the plain old regular rich

Every year the super-rich and the mega-rich meet at the Monterey Car Week to show off their prize automobiles, to charge out of history in vintage races with antique race cars, and to compete with each other for awards on the fairways of Pebble Beach, Calif.

But it's not just the people with what one attendee called "cubic money." The average rich come here, too.

Some of them were out on Friday at the Quail, an invitation-only annual Monterey Car Week event where real car enthusiasts come to show each other their beautifully restored and preserved automobiles.

Held at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel Valley, the event brings the major luxury automakers out in force. Lavish tented areas play host to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Lincoln, Jaguar, BMW, Aston Martin, McLaren, Bentley, Bugatti, Maserati, Land Rover and even Tesla.

Women in spring frocks and picture hats, and men in brightly colored slacks and jackets, many adorned with peacocky pocket squares, sip Champagne, nibble caviar and chocolate, and stand in line for gelato and oysters from Marin County's Hog Island.

But on the lush fairways and immaculate greens of the Quail are the cars quietly in competition for Best in Show awards and prizes in a dozen individual classes.

Peter and Robin Briggs had brought their green 1933 MG sports coupe from Perth, Australia. Dressed in light plum overalls, bright striped socks and a white racing cap with period goggles, Peter Briggs said he'd tried to get the MG entered into the somewhat more prestigious, and stuffier, Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance -- but had been turned down.

"They had 1,000 entries for 150 spaces, and they couldn't make room for us," the veteran car collector said. "But I was coming anyway, so, what the hell? I decided to come to the Quail."

His attendance guaranteed him a shot at Best In Show and at winning his category, Pre-War Sport and Racing. He was guardedly hopeful.

"Here, the owners judge each other -- not like the professional judges at Pebble," he said. "So, at least you know you're being judged by people who know something about cars."

Across the fairway sat Monterey resident Monique Gardiner, dressed in a black Lotus track suit and showing off Lily, her 1966 Lotus Cortina Saloon. She bought the ivory-and-olive sports car, eligible for a Post-War Sport and Racing ribbon, two years ago, after its previous owner had put it in a barn and not driven it for 38 years.

"I love the Quail," Gardiner said. "It's not so serious. It's like a garden party! It's so much more relaxed than the Concours."

Showing several cars this year was Carmel resident Mike Boen, who had displayed a 1967 Ferrari 330 and a 1971 Ferrari Daytona earlier in the week, and had brought a 1957 Alfa Romeo to the Quail.

A longtime Monterey Car Week attendee, Boen said he'd attended 35 out of the past 36 historic races at nearby Laguna Seca -- 10 times as a driver. Why only 35 out of 36? His wife had booked a cruise, the cruise had been postponed and then rescheduled for the same time as the Pebble car-palooza.

"I sat on that boat, looking at my watch, figuring out the time difference and knowing exactly which class was racing," he said, shaking his face under a broad, khaki-colored straw hat. "That's the only one I've ever missed!"

Los Angeles resident Gary Wales was nearby, too. He'd brought "La Bestioni" to the Quail, and it was drawing a crowd.

The hand-built custom race car -- Wales has built and sold four over the last few years, and is building two more now -- started life as a 1917 American La France fire truck, built in Elmyra, N.Y. It had served as a San Francisco fire engine until the 1950s, then wound up rusted away in a Sausalito, Calif., barn.

Wales tore it apart, fabricated new body parts, cut some of the length from its 22-foot-long body, and rebuilt the engine -- a14-liter, 900 cubic-inch power plant.

"It's American made!" Wales shouted to a small crowd that had gathered around his car. "I'm preserving American history here!"  

Like many collectors and owners attending Monterey, Wales has been in the vintage auto game a while. Showing off old photos, he spun yarns about the Rolls-Royces he rebuilt, the Ferraris he sold, and the fantastic sums of money they're worth today.

And La Bestioni? Wales had high hopes for it, too. A similar model he showed at the Quail last year sold after the show for "several hundreds of thousand of dollars," he said.

"This one should go for half a million," he said. "And it's worth it."

Follow me on Twitter: @misterfleming 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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