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“Check your egos at the door, put your pedals to the floor.”
“There are the guys who buy these cars and hoard them and keep them locked up. And then there are the guys who actually drive them.”
Clearly we are among the latter, at the first-ever Porsche Carrera GT event of its kind, in Napa Valley, California. Staged by the Luxury Rally Club, one of the world’s top players in the ultra-exclusive experiential automotive space, the inaugural CGT Rally saw around $15 million worth of the rare and highly collectible Porsche supercars, of which only around 1,200 examples were built starting in 2003, gather together—along with some equally impressive 911s along for the ride— this past May.
The event began at the impeccably-designed Alila Napa Valley resort in St. Helena, and included stops for open-air oysters by the ocean and an exclusive dinner at Michelin-starred The French Laundry, before finishing up in Sonoma with an awards dinner at Aperture Cellars, the label started by wunderkind winemaker Jesse Katz—famous for making a record-breaking $1 million bottle of Cabernet.
Despite all these impressive elements, LRC’s unofficial motto might well be “check your egos at the door, put your pedals to the floor.”
The club was started by Trevor Johnson, an affable former professional hockey player from Canada who once had a gig organizing private hockey games for Justin Bieber wherever the pop star happened to be touring around the world.
This later transitioned into a job as a brand ambassador for a luxury travel company; which eventually paved the way to his being asked by Craig Ekberg to help organize a high-end rally for collectors of classic Bentleys, in 2019.
Ekberg is a former construction mogul with an eye-popping car collection that includes a 1928 Bentley 4 1/2-Litre Le Mans, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing,” and a Ferrari 250 GT, which he stores in hangers along with an assemblage of vintage aircraft in Long Beach, California. When the Bentley event proved to be arousing success, Johnson and Ekberg got together to form the Luxury Rally Club.
Regarding car collecting, “It’s technically the best investment out there,” as Ekberg told Terrenea Life. “It has outpaced real estate and artwork. You can park money in something that makes you happy, instead of a bank account or a building, and these are a lot more fun.”
But beyond collecting, it’s driving the automotive works of art which is the real thrill. “When you’re out racing [in a car tour], you can envision what it was like back in the day to own one of these beauties,” he notes. It’s almost akin to time travel.
The event for likeminded owners of the Carrera GT, a two-door, targa-top roadster with a 603 hp V10 engine that blasts it from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 205 mph—and, most importantly, a manual transmission—is the latest evolution of LRC’s anything-goes ethos.
“If our members and collectors want to do it, we can make it happen, anywhere, anytime,” Johnson declares. Johnson is something of a miracle worker who can make complicated events—luxury rallies, he says, are like “weddings on wheels”—run smoothly with a minimum of staff, finding solutions on the go.
During the CGT rally, we kept pace in a custom Rolls-Royce Cullinan painted St. Tropez Orange—and carried both a Porsche mechanic and tools in case of any mishaps (there were none). “The challenge for the guys who own these cars is, where can they drive them?” Johnson posits.
“There are a lot of collectors who would never dream of taking a multimillion-dollar classic on the road. But the ones who do are a lot more fun to be around.” The relatively small but enthusiastic crowd at the Carrera GT rally— only CGT owners were invited, along with a few special guests— was certainly more ebullient than at any other event of its kind that we’ve attended.
A lot of it is down to the infectious bonhomie of Johnson and his team members, including LRC’s chief technical officer Jesse Teindl, Barrett Mitchell of McLaren Beverly Hills, Ben Keegan of DandyLion Entertainment, and shoe designer Brent James.
In order to make the dinner for 40 people at The French Laundry happen, Johnson had to not only buy out the entire restaurant at a cost well north of $100,000, but convince superstar chef Thomas Keller and his staff to come in on their day off.
It helped that Keller, who personally oversaw the marvelous multi-course meal, is a Porsche owner and automotive enthusiast; but the fact that one of LRC’s billionaire members, and CGT owners, is a regular at the world-famous restaurant helped to seal the deal; photographer Drake O’Konski was also on hand to record everything for posterity.
Amongst its wider membership and event attendees, LRC counts about 20 billionaires in total, with plenty of high-net-worth individuals making up the rest of the crew. The club now stages 10- 12 events a year, which in the past several months have included a 50th Anniversary Lamborghini Countach rally which was a veritable orgy of ’80s automotive excess; a Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” rally where about 50 of the highly-coveted cars convened; and the Santa Lucia Preserve Concours, an ultra-exclusive event held during Monterey Car Week in the run-up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Along the way they have amassed an impressive portfolio of partners and sponsors, including RM Sotheby’s, The Macallan, Jet Edge, Hagerty, V-Moda, Merit Partners, and Liht Organics, talented entrepreneur Nerissa Low’s brand that is changing the way we thing about cosmetics.
LRC’s members and guests skew on the younger side than one would imagine given the sums of money involved, but at barely 40 years old, Johnson notes his peers tend to come from the more youthful car collector ranks.
For example, Jimmy Prountzos of Junipero Serra Porsche & Mercedes-Benz in San Francisco, a Carrera GT owner and Porsche collector who originally conceived of the CGT event. With his elaborate tattoos, t-shirts from Nashville’s Imogine + Willie, gold Rolex Daytona customized by Blaken, and black belt in jiu-jitsu, Prountzos is living proof that collecting multimillion-dollar cars doesn’t have to be a stuffy pastime pursued only by senior citizens.
“I wanted to honor the Carrera GT in a way that had not been done yet, to bring together owners and celebrate by driving some of the best Northern California roads, eating and drinking amazing food and wine and spending a few days just admiring the car,” he tells us. “When I spoke to Trevor about my idea and he was immediately on board. LRC could not have done a better job.”
Perhaps the key to it all is that at LRC’s extremely cool events, the prime directive is simply to have a hell of a lot of fun, and there are markedly very few rules—except, of course, when behind the wheel, “always keep the shiny side up.”
This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Maxim magazine.
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