In the past, we’ve called The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, insanely opulent and “the fanciest.” It’s where supercar owners and their rich friends to come do what they already do at home, which is look at cars and drink champagne. That doesn’t change the fact that there are still many, many people milling around the event, getting in your way. Just like with avoiding all types of traffic, there are off-hours that you should definitely take advantage of if you ever go.

As our own Ken Saito has pointed out in the past, I’m not terribly jazzed about The Quail’s ticket prices, which usually extend into the hundreds. That steep cost of entry is just another gatekeeper between the masses and the cars that ought to be enjoyed by everyone. But I digress. It’s not like expensive fees ever deterred this crowd. The event is packed, which makes moving around and seeing the cars without someone taking a selfie in your way difficult.

You could go extremely early in the morning to duck the crowds, but late afternoon—just after the event officially ends—is the best. By then, the majority of the horde has thinned, the lighting is at its best for photography and most of the car owners are packing up and leaving for the night. That’s when you can get to chatting and learn things most people don’t.

The sun was going down fast, and with each passing minute, the air took on a mounting chill. Maybe this was what dissuaded people from staying. Maybe they had parties of their own to attend to. Whatever it was, they were all gone after a time and I got to look at the the cars—more Lamborghini Isleros and Espadas than I ever thought possible and unbothered by anyone—as long as I liked.

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In the field where all the Ferraris were parked, a few still remained. But no crowd surrounded the F40, no gaggle of Ferrari-philes encircled the F50. No loud debates to ignore about which was the best Ferrari. The man who caught me admiring the F40 was its caretaker and said that he always delayed his departure from The Quail to skip the traffic jam. He liked to leave the car for a bit and come back for it later. Personally, if I owned an F40, I would never let it out of my sight. I would probably sleep in the same room where it was parked.

As we spoke, the F40's owner pulled out of the field in his other car, the F50. I’d seen many videos of the thing doing flybys, but it was oddly quiet at low speeds. And also it was huge and imposing and wide.

Manufacturer booths, too, also got disassembled, which was a great opportunity to see and hear the display cars move. I discovered this year that the Bugatti Divo shown on stage is deathly quiet when being maneuvered off the stage. Why was that? Why no idle sound? It was a mystery.

I walked by a caramel-colored poodle, which looked so fluffy that I couldn’t help but want to pet it. But I asked the owner for permission out of politeness, first.

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“Of course,” she said. “But not on the head.”

These were instructions I’d never been given about a dog before, but I abided.

The poodle’s fur was spun sugar, fluffy and airy. It looked off into the distance, a loopy grin lighting its features. The owner told me all about the dog, explaining its purebred heritage and how these kinds of dogs in this color can go for over $20,000 in China. I couldn’t help but think about how utterly inbred the poor creature was.

Wandering up the road a bit more on the walk back to the Lodge, which took about 10 minutes, I found a red Ford GT Roadster just sitting on the side of the street, its owners standing nearby, chatting. I hadn’t know that the GT40 was ever made into a roadster, but apparently it was, and this one had the 7.0-liter V8 of the Mk. IIs. Easily my favorite GT40.

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Further, where all the Lancia race cars were parked, decked out in their famous Martini livery, a man asked us to help give the Delta Stradale a push. Raphael Orlove obliged, because it was natural to want to help out, and also because it was a freaking Delta Stradale—a car I’d only ever seen on TV and in video games.

Most of the time, when you see an extremely rare, old rally car, you think that it’s probably some kind of replica. Most of the time, you’d be right. But this was Monterey Car Week, and this was The Quail. There cannot be any doubt in your mind that this was the real thing. And just as suddenly, your butt can be against its front bumper and you could be feeling its weight as you help push it along.

Nearing the Lodge now, I passed all sorts of cars parked in the parking lot. Some that had just finished being on display at The Quail, like this pair of RUFs, that were surrounded by adoring fans. I’ve seen countless press photos of RUFs, and now here they were, parked tail-in in a parking space like every other SUV I’d come across.

At the very front of the building, a lone Ferrari Enzo waited in the driveway. No owner was in sight. It had gotten a little colder still, so I wrapped my jacket more tightly around myself, happy that I thought to bring it, and moved in for a closer look. It was smaller than I expected. Bedroom posters almost never give a true sense of scale.

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Eventually, it was time to go, but this nearly private tour of The Quail was the highlight of my weekend. It can be yours, too, if you just pick the right time of day to visit.

Plus, you don’t need to buy a ticket to sit on the road and watch the cars drive out and get loaded into trailers. That’s free.

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