Old playmates gear up at flash car bash
PLAYBOY’S MISS April 2012 is wearing a tight black satin bodice, a white pompom on her derriere and a pair of rabbit ears. “This is the first time I’ve had the chance to wear my bunny suit,” explains Raquel Pomplun. “It’s been made specially for me.”
Miss Pomplun is one of the star turns at a party co-hosted by Jaguar and Playboy. It’s at a private mansion overlooking the Pacific ocean, and some of America’s richest folk are in attendance. These are the ultra-affluent enthusiasts who, since 1950, have made the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance the most exclusive event in the automotive calendar.
Playboy and Jaguar are hoping to cash in on the cache of their history, and revamp their faded images in the modern world. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, both were the epitome of cool. Clark Gable drove a Jaguar XK120 and Steve McQueen had an XKSS, while Hugh Hefner had nude portraits of Marilyn Monroe and was at the vanguard of the sexual revolution. More recently, both brands have been accused of being stuck in the past, but both are now seeking to bounce back.
The XKR Convertible I drove here from San Francisco was one of the first acts of Jaguar’s renaissance. Styled by the genial Scot Ian Callum, it looked forwards as well as back. Originally launched in 2006, the XK has grown a few slats and spoilers over the years, but on California’s west coast, there’s no such thing as excess.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance takes place on the third Sunday of August, and crowns a long weekend of automotive nirvana. The action begins with “The Quail” on Friday. Tickets cost $450 (€356) each and are strictly limited – rumour has it that some are changing hands on Ebay for $2,000 (€1,585). The clientele are absurdly wealthy: a man from Gulfstream Jets reckons 80 per cent of people here have access to a private jet. He’s displaying Gulfsteam’s latest must-have toy for the rich and famous; it does Mach 0.90, costs $64.5 million (€51m) and is sold out until 2017.
That’s only marginally more than the cost of the McLaren X1. A friend of McLaren supremo Ron Dennis wanted a supercar “he could turn up to the opera in”. Three years later, his bespoke creation is debuting at Quail. It’s based on the MP14-12C, but boasts an all-new carbon fibre body. Even the headlights are bespoke and cost several hundred thousand euro.
At least the X1 could claim to be genuinely exclusive, unlike the six Bugatti Veyrons that have turned up. Ferrari, Pagani and Koenigsegg are also here, but the real stars are the classics. A plethora of Cobras are paying homage to the great Carroll Shelby, but my favourite car here is an original Aston Martin DB4 Zagato.
A day later, the XKR and I head for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at the Laguna Seca circuit. Just driving around these parts is an adventure. After a dice with a lovely 1960s fastback Ford Mustang, I stumble across a gathering of Italian exotica that includes a pink Lamborghini Murcielago, proving that wealth does not always equal taste.