A lot of the time, I read the words “country club” and my jaw clenches. I start thinking it’s time for a short ride in the tumbril and a date with The National Razor. And honestly, in this case, I thought the same, briefly. Then I realized, well, I’m a car guy, albeit one of limited means.
That does not take away from the fact that as a gearhead, I, like all gearheads, are always, pretty much as random background noise, thinking “what if, what if?”
And by “what if,” I mean, “what if I had an “extra” 20-thousand dollars? What kind of car would I buy?” or “what if I had an “extra” 200-thousand dollars? What kind of car would I buy?” or “what if I won the Powerball Lotto? What kind of cars would I buy?” See, for a gearhead, it’s never “would you” but “could you.” And, in the back of my mind, smooth and febrile as it may be, the equation is always one of “get a warehouse, and fill it with all the cars I can afford.”
Motorsports Country Club
Suppose that you’re already in that position. Suppose you’re richer than Croesus. Now suppose you are really into the track and racing cars. So much into them that you have, let’s say, a dozen or so of the beasts carefully stored and waiting. Now, where do you drive the things? It’s not like having a bunch of old Packards and De Sotos. Even if they’re old, you can still take them out for a drive, early on a warm Sunday morning. But you have ten or a dozen racers – a Porsche 908, a fully prepped 911 RSR, an older Devin, that sort of thing – what do you do?
Enter the motorsports country club.
As the name implies, it’s a country club minus the golf links and tennis courts, with garages, storage facilities, and most importantly, a track. And, like a country club, you pay your (idiotically exorbitant (but who cares, you own a dozen racing cars!)) fee and you get your own, semi private (or at least exclusive) playground to use. And, besides having access to mechanics and tools, you’re also around other like-minded and like-enriched car people to go out on the track and play with.
These things, country clubs for rich gearheads, have been cropping up for a while now. There’s a couple in Colorado, and a slew in the desert southwest, where the weather is much more amenable to this sort of thing. Also much more amenable is the land, which there is plenty of, and is cheap like the budgie. For example, The Thermal Club, which is located in Palm Desert, California, right next to Palm Springs.
The Thermal Club is a private motorsports country club that offers up a whole bunch of well healed conveniences for its members. It sits on 344 acres of land in the California desert, about half the size of Central Park in New York. About half an hour from Palm Springs, The Thermal Club offers luxurious villa accommodations, 5.1 miles of private pavement, and three different tracks. There’s also a club house, a fueling station (no mention on kinds and qualities, but I’m guessing/hoping all the way up to and including AvGas), and a tuning shop for repair and maintenance. No mention if you can wrench on your car yourself, or if there are available dogsbodies to be ordered around and abused just like great-grand-papa did when he was working for the East India Company.
The Thermal Club just expanded, adding a third track, The Desert Track, that joins the North and South tracks. The Thermal Club says the new course is its most technical road course to date. They also say that “since monotony is not an option, all three tracks can be combined, allowing for 22 different configurations, giving drivers a new experience each time they take to the tarmac.” Yes, that monotony can be such a bother in your daily life. I mean, how many times can you take dives into your Scrooge McDuck vault of gold doubloons or waste more hours looking through catalogues for your fifth trophy wife? Life can be such a struggle, can’t it?
All of the circuits were developed by track designer Alan Wilson, the brains behind the revamped Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Barber Motorsports Park, and The Utah Motorsports Complex. The Thermal Club also has a karting track, skid pad, and autocross course.
The Thermal Club just finished work on an all-new Tower Clubhouse that features gourmet cuisine served by executive chef, Armando Rivera for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All the chow, er, cuisine is prepared by the on-site gourmet chefs in a state-of-the-art kitchen. The Tower Clubhouse also has a full bar, comfortable seating, and a premium wine selection.
You want more, you say? But of course! The Thermal Club gives its members their own custom designed luxurious villas, all the aforementioned dining and drinking and such as well as activities for all members of the family. An athletic center, spa, and kids club is planned for the near future. It’s located close enough to L.A. that if you’re one of the cities richer denizens with a serious car Jones, then it’s a convenient drive away for the weekend. If not, you can always take the G 650 into PSP and take the short drive from there.
Before Graham Hill became a triple world driving champion, he used to sell cars for Colin Chapman. At one point, he was showing a prospective buyer around the Lotus showroom when the client asked, “this car is much more expensive than that one, why is that?” To which Graham replied, “speed equals money sir, how fast would you care to go?”
The Thermal Club, in its own, unassuming and humble way, is also here to help answer that question.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.
Photos & Source: The Thermal Club