Saturday, August 14, 2010


The week of pure mechanical excess which possesses the Monterey peninsula in mid-August begins with the hardest of the core, those who risk their megamilliondollar cars at Laguna Seca during the Monterey Historic Races. This year one could watch 27 Bugattis in various states from gleaming perfection to 'old paint', hammering around a really beautiful and challenging track, really going at it and ensuring that skilled fabricators will remain in demand to replace all the bits which break.
But I wasn't there; I prefer the parties with Motorcyles.

Which begin on Wednesday night, at Gordon McCall's Motorworks Revival party, held at the Monterey Jet Center.  Considered by many to be the swankest gearhead party in the States, Revival certainly has the best props - the Jet Center becomes a parking lot for all the 'personal jet' makers to show their wares, plus a bunch of interesting older biplanes and fixed-wings, and of course, with a little military hardware to remind us all who defends our right to burn oil.  Thus, an F16 sat front and center, surrounded by various iterations of Shelby Mustangs, as Carrol Shelby himself was to be the honored guest at the Quail Motorsports Gathering on Friday.

The Revival is a study in transforming a patch of tarmac and a hangar into a champagne-and-diamonds party, and the mix is at once surreal and exhilarating.  Approaching the venue is strictly no-frills; parking is limited, and if you don't make it to the available lot early (as I didn't), there's no sidewalk or even pedestrian space on your hike to the Jet Center - as my party mate Richard Gauntlett noted, 'it's unlikely one walks to one's jet'.  Too true.  The entrance tent was graced by black chandeliers, red carpet, and three motorcycles on plinths, all Gordon's machines (Dunstall Atlas, Bultaco Metralla, and BMW R60/2), and special kudos to him for placing two-wheelers front and center, they looked terrific.

Each jet builder laid on a lounge with groovy furniture, champagne, hot rented femmes, and a chance to sit (and drink) inside their wares.  While many of the assembled were Actually shopping for their next plane, punters like me sat bemused with our free drink, while considering my recent trans-Atlantic hop in cattle class...

Walking through the fairly vast party area (bordered by wingtip-to-wingtip jets) meant slaloming between cars to be shown at the Quail, kiosks of ridiculously good food (sushi, Hawaiian barbecue, grilled steaks, etc) and small bars offering anything you'd like, sir or madam.  The motorcycles held their ground inside the hangar, with a duo of Falcons (Kestrel and Bullet), a Moto Guzzi Falcone Sport, a flat-track inspired new Triumph, and a pair of tricked-out modern BMW and Ducati racers.  The Falcons looked especially good beside a blue Maserati A6G/3000 replica and a phalanx of Bentleys.

When asked about my favorite plane of the evening,  I had to admit the Navy helicopter (complete with female crew) in discreet grey-on-grey finish looked very impressive amidst the ultra-slick new minijets.  Fave car was the 'Alligator', a fiberglass horror in original condition, looking filthy and also providing a serious contrast to Louboutin heels, Dior satin dresses, and Brioni suits.

The highlight of my evening was riding the Kestrel through the crowd of swells (with Ian Barry on the Bullet), noisily blatting out the hangar and onto the red carpet to all smiles, and darting under a jet wing at speed to make my exit.  More fun, in fact, than riding it on the world's most expensive golf course...