While the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance gets all the press during Monterey Speed Week, there’s another event that we’ve come to love even more. The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering (simply known as “The Quail” to those in the know) is a bit more rock ‘n’ roll where Pebble is a classic string quartet. Where Pebble doesn’t show any modern machinery, the Quail will allow it all, as long as it’s interesting and has history.
Getting into the Quail is even tougher than Pebble. The $1,000 ticket is offered via lottery or you can pay much much more for different packages. And if you’re not lucky enough to get chosen to buy that $1,000 ticket you’ll have to pay aftermarket prices which can be double.
Once you’re in the most important decision is what to drive. Quail parking lots are stuff of legend with almost as much rare metal there than in the actual show. We were lucky enough to have an entire fleet or MINIs and BMWs at our disposal but the choice was obvious. There’s no point in showing up in a BMW M8 when you’re next to a LaFerrari. So we decided to go classic. Deep in the temporary garage at BMW’s Speed Week headquarters were three classic Minis. But none more classic (and historically important) than brand’s own un-restored 1965 Classic Mini Cooper S.
This particular classic Mini Cooper S is an incredible example. Completely original with low miles and in un-restored condition, it feels like a time-capsule. The immediacy of the driving experience and simplicity of the design completely blew our minds as we left from Laguna Seca heading to the Quail. Our drive took us up and over the famed Laureles Grade where it took every last horse from the Mini’s 54 year old power plant to keep the pace as the altitude increased. By the time we got to the top we had to pull over as it was in danger of overheating.
Muscling this car up this twisting mountain road left the car and me pretty hot. No there’s no air conditioning in a classic Mini Cooper S, and yes it gets quite hot on a 90 degree day. However, more concerning was the temp gauge which made its way to the right as we got to the top. So a break was in order for both car and driver to cool down a bit.
After ten minutes I folded all 6’2” of me back into and cabin and around the upright steering column. I’ve always fit better in RHD classic Minis due to the peddle placement but who’s complaining with a car and a road like this.
Heading down was where the Mini came alive. The chassis dynamics of this car are unlike anything before or after.
For anyone who has never driven a classic Mini you’re probably assuming (like I did for years) that it’s a fun little car like today’s MINIs but smaller. That is wrong. The classic Mini is nothing short of joy on wheels and feels like a large go-kart in a way that no modern car ever will.
Once I hit the bottom it was time to turn right and head to the Quail Motorsports Gathering. But I turned left because this is a vintage Cooper S and I had the famous Carmel Valley Rd in front of me. The sound of the engine, the golden California hills and the winding road made for the kind of driving experience that seems impossible in our daily lives.
Pulling into the exotic Quail parking area the Mini had every bit the crowd draw that the McLaren Sennas and LaFerraris had. And that’s exactly why it’s been such an amazing car for all these years.
Finally onto the Quail itself. The parking lot, the welcome reception and the madness of what must be a billion dollars of metal on display. And then there’s the food, drink and people watching that is simply second to none. We’ll let the video do this justice but suffice it to say this event should be on every enthusiast’s bucket-list.