This is the second time I have attended The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering and it did not disappoint. Held at The Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel, California, the event drew 5,000 attendees. Cars and motorsports are supposed to be the highlight of the event, but food, drink and people are even more interesting. The attendees were enthusiasts, collectors, owners and motorsports personalities. Some of the vehicles on display had their owners hovering nearby. Other vehicles had their attendants close to make sure spectators did not touch them. Some of the restorers had worked on the cars for years and were bringing them out in public for the first time since the restoration was complete. Getting more popular all the time are “barn finds”. These are vehicles that have not been restored to a level never even attained from the factory. They have their fifty, sixty, seventy or eighty year patina intact.
There were over 250 vehicles to gaze at. Most were luxury and sporting marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Bentley. One of the highlights was the new Bugatti Chiron in a deep French blue with a highly chromed character line sweeping up the A-Pillar along the door and then down and back forward towards the front fender. Very dramatic. Framing the Chiron was a “sea” of Bugatti Veyrons in a rainbow of colors.
While The Quail is an event for individuals to showcase their vehicles, corporate displays seem to be on the upswing as well. Bugatti showcased the Chiron. Bentley showed off the Bentayga and the new Mulsanne. Acura was there celebrating 30 years on the market. BMW was celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Cadillac was featuring its CTS-V. Alfa Romeo featured the 4C and upcoming Guilia sedan. Singer, the classic Porsche upfitter, had a small display and a large crowd.
My favorite display was the Bowlus travel trailer hitched to a Bentley Bentayga. This all-aluminum $219,000 travel trailer is reminiscent of an aluminum Airstream but is totally high tech. The Bowlus folks say you can live off the grid for two weeks in their travel trailer and be totally comfortable.
The Quail is a signature event for Peninsula Hotels. Six Peninsula hotels had a spectacular pavilion with gourmet food appropriate from their cities – Bangkok, Beijing, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Paris, and New York. Most people probably couldn’t get through all six pavilions. While all six of the Peninsula pavilions were outstanding, perhaps the best was Beijing with great food and music to set the ambiance for a truly luxurious experience.
There have been over 1,800 car brands in the United States auto industry since 1896. Entrepreneurs and enthusiasts saw the American auto industry as a way to make a name for themselves and, hopefully, a lot of money. This set off a wave of industrial Darwinism that continues today. Car brands came and went with startling regularity. Some brands launched and died quickly and are now just a faint memory if remembered at all. It would take a real automotive history buff to remember the Adria, or the Carhartt, or the Hackett. Some more recent brands are still fresh in our memory like Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury, Plymouth, Hummer and Saturn. Today, there are 40 car brands on sale in the United States. Some names are so strong that they keep coming back in one form or another.
Logo Credit: Stutz Motor Car of America
Stutz Sold 35,000 Cars Until Falling to the Great Depression
A once-storied name in the American luxury auto industry still exists – Stutz. Stutz would be 104 years old today if it were still producing cars. They were famous for the Stutz Bearcat and Stutz Blackhawk. Stutz made fast cars for racing and luxury cars for the wealthy. While they were known as “The King of Cars” in the late teens, the company could not make it through the Depression and stopped production at its Indianapolis, Indiana factory in 1935. While Stutz was in business it sold about 35,000 cars.
If you are a reader of Clive Cussler adventure novels, Isaac Bell one of Cussler’s protagonists frequently drives a Bearcat while working as an early 1900s private detective. Cussler, an avid car collector, usually features iconic cars from the past in his books.
Kings of Bling – Excalibur, Stutz, Clenet
In the 1960s and 1970s three of the most flamboyant personal cars were produced – the Excalibur from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the resurrected Stutz fabricated near Turin, Italy and the Clenet from Santa Barbara, California. These were highly styled and high priced personal cars sold to celebrities, royalty and the filthy rich. The word bling had not been coined the way we use it today, but these cars were over-the-top with bling.
Stutz Motor Car of America
Seeing the Excalibur have reasonable success in the late ‘60s (Excalibur sold 3,200 cars from 1965 through 1989), and wanting a strong American name from the past that still resonated among luxury car marques, Stutz Motor Car of America resurrected the name in 1968.
Photo Credit: Stutz Motor Car of America
Renowned Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner designed a new Blackhawk coupe in 1970 based on the Pontiac Grand Prix. In an age where styling excess was de rigeur, Exner’s flamboyant design attracted buyers like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Lucille Ball. At one point, a Stutz model was the highest priced car in the world. From 1970 through 1995 over 600 cars were produced.
Another flamboyant car that should not be ignored was the Clenet. Clenet made about 430 cars from 1977 through 1982.
Chrysler Group had its annual new product preview last week at its Chelsea, Michigan proving grounds. The highlight of that event was the introduction of the new 2015 Ram Promaster City a small van to compete with the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200. On the second day, the gaggle of automotive journalists and analysts was transported to Meadowbrook Hall north of Detroit and near Chrysler’s headquarters in Auburn Hills. This event was to celebrate the Dodge 100th Anniversary. We were given a brief history of the brand and description of ten historic concept Dodges on display from the first Viper concept to the Dodge Demon concept from 2007. Following the presentation of these concepts we were given the opportunity to drive and/or ride in 26 Dodges from the past ranging from 1915 through 2008.
When all the cars were cranked up there was probably more air pollution rising from Meadowbrook Hall’s auto court than was emanating from the Los Angeles freeway system. Ah, memories.
The first car I was drawn to was the 1956 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer powered by a HEMI V8 and dripping with chrome. This coupe was grey metallic over coral reminding us of a time when contrasting two-tone color schemes were very popular (remember the 1956 Ford Crown Victorias in black and yellow or black and red?). In any event, a brief lap of the Meadowbrook estate (now home to Oakland University) demonstrated how great the package was in the old cars, but also what a challenge they could be to drive. Even though “Power Steering” and “Power Brakes” were pressed into the horn ring and brake pedal respectively, the car steered like a truck without power steering and braking took forever. The package of the car was amazing probably because the interior was designed for when people wore hats – huge headroom in the rear seat. So, the 1956 Dodge was my favorite.
The most surprising vehicle was the 1984 Dodge Caravan – the first of the minivans. It was surprising how small it was. It even deserved the moniker “minivan” because, compared with today’s minivans, the original Caravan was very small. The seating position was great and visibility outstanding. No wonder they sold so well, but the driving dynamics were very reminiscent of cars from the ’70s and early ’80s. How quickly vehicles have evolved for the better.
As I was cranking up a 2003 Viper for the lap around the estate a woman approached and asked if she could ride along. Certainly! She mentioned “family” a couple of times and when I asked what she meant, she volunteered she was the great granddaughter of Horace Dodge – one of The Dodge Brothers – the founders of Dodge. She seemed to get a real thrill out of the sound and power of the Viper. It was her first chance to ride in one. Maybe later in the day she got to drive it.
Big Bronco to Compete With Chevy’s Popular Blazer In the late 1960s, Ford Motor Company was competing in the sport utility market with the first generation Bronco a small hardcore vehicle designed to go off road in a big way. The 1st Gen Bronco was to compete with the Jeep CJ and International Harvester Scout of its day – off-road. Today, these 1st Gen Broncos are coveted by off-roaders all across the nation. At the same time, General Motors was thumping Ford with its Chevrolet Blazer SUV. The Blazer was a two door derivative of the four door Chevrolet Suburban and sold in impressive numbers. Ford had nothing to match the Blazer, but in the early ’70s began a program to develop a strong competitor to the Blazer.
For this last Holiday Card, I included a non-holiday photo of an vehicle I worked on in my youth at Ford – the Ford Carrousel concept and asked who could identify the vehicle. A few who were working at Ford at the time correctly identified it, but all misspelled it. The prototype used an unusual spelling of Carrousel with two “Rs”. Many though it was Hal Sperlich’s MiniMax concept from the late ’70s at Ford, or a prototype of an early Chrysler minivan. Nope.
What better time to visit London than early September when the weather can be anything. The Owners’ Day of the Concours of Elegance (yes, Concours OF Elegance – it is England, after all) was held on a blisteringly hot day. Blazing sunshine. Temperatures near 90-degrees. The owners and their ladies or gents were hard put to keep a dry upper lip. This was a three day event and the weather was different on each day. Following the hot, hot, hot Thursday, it rained on Friday. Not downpours exactly, but enough to keep the car polishers busy keeping the 60 or so vehicles as pristine as possible. Saturday was the public day and the weather dried and was overcast. The cooler weather made the public day better without the blazing heat of the Owners’ Day.
Luckily or unluckily, AutoPacific attended the Owners’ Day reserved for Owners, guests, Owners’ Day Ticket Holders and Media. Luckily, because we could attend. Unluckily, because it was so, soooooo HOT.
Having just been to the Pebble Beach Coucours de Elegance in August, the contrast was striking. Pebble is so over the top that it overwhelms the senses. The St. James Coucours of Elegance is much less flamboyant, much less overwhelming, but still provides an opportunity to view outstanding vehicles and have a chat with their owners.
It was a day of Royalty. The owners were first feted at Buckingham Palace and then drove their cars down The Mall to Marlborough House located in St. James where the cars were displayed in the back garden. The royal patron was HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The vehicles on display varied widely from old Rolls-Royces to a modern Bentley GTZ Zagato custom coupe. Here are a few examples:
Hard to get an angle on this American 1934 Duesenberg Model J Willoughby Sedan Limousine
1930 Stutz SV16 Weyman Monte Carlo – a famed American marque
1939 Bugatti Type 57C Voll & Ruhrbeck Roadster
1925 Hispano-Suiza Boulogne
1928 Bugatti Type 35B – unrestored beauty
Bentley GTZ Zagato Custom Coupe – a late entry
Bentley GTZ Zagato – note the Roofline and Rear Styling
1937 Horch 853 Voll & Ruhrbech Sport Cabriolet, 1936 Mercedes 500K Streamline Roadster in background
Hollywood Design Cadillac’s Hollywood-designed deep blue Elmiraj coupe was dramatically unveiled at Clint Eastwood’s Tahama Golf Resort during the 2013 Pebble Beach automotive week. Cadillac and General Motors management is coy when asked if they will build the Cadillac Elmiraj concept coupe. To a person, journalists who were at the unveiling want to believe Cadillac can find the means to build this car. If Cadillac were given the green light to build Elmiraj, Cadillac management says they could have it in production in about two years.
I have to admit that I’m rooting for Lincoln. I used to work there and the Lincolns were “my” cars – Lincoln Continental Town Car, Lincoln Continental Town Coupe (yep, there was a Town Coupe in 1981), (eh hem, the Granada/Monarch-based Lincoln Versailles dubbed the “Mini Mark”), the Fox-based Lincoln Continental, and the Lincoln Continental Mark VI Coupe and Mark VI 4-door.
General Motors Company (formerly “Corporation”) today is a shadow of its former self. It sells fewer models through fewer brands since its bankruptcy in 2009. It is reconstructing itself and building itself into a competitive and profitable car company. That transformation appears to be going very well.
Over the years, however, General Motors has often tried to be a trailblazer (no pun intended) in new vehicle design and development. Many of these vehicles failed, but we believe GM deserves a tremendous amount of credit for trying where other companies did not have the creative thought or resources to make a “segment breaking” product. Here are some examples…