C California Style

A fleet of Aston Martins on the track at The Thermal Club.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

by C California Style

Gearheads get their fix in the desert at the new members-only Thermal Club.

A new petrol-powered nirvana is taking shape in the heat of the aptly named west Coachella Valley town of Thermal, and for enthusiasts of every stripe, it’s set to be North America’s premier motor-sports organization. The Thermal Club is an unprecedented model where pedal-to-metal aficionados with deep pockets can express their need for speed and passion for high-performance vehicles: Bring in a classic from your personal collection or hop in one of the club’s just-delivered exotic models and let ’er rip on the private racetrack complex.

“What motivated me,” explains club founder and financer Tim Rogers, the president of Torrance-based Tower Energy who, not surprisingly, made his fortune from gas stations and fuel distribution, “was the compelling fact there really is nothing like it in the entire world.”

To realize his vision, Rogers partnered with Mike Meldman, who founded real estate development entity Discovery Land Company in 1994 and has subsequently developed a roster of 17 gilded-and-gated enclaves in the United States, Mexico and the Bahamas. Resort communities with a full menu of amenities and round-the-clock five-star service, they all, Meldman underscores, were custom designed to reflect their uniquely picturesque locations, as well as to buttress a “family lifestyle” through shared memories that more often than not revolve around an activity, be it skiing, hiking, golfing, surfing or fly-fishing. “My boys were tying their own fishing flies by age 12,” Meldman says, adding that his business credo derives from his own experiences bonding with his sons.

Regarding this recent venture, Meldman cites the high-octane “adrenaline pump” that comes from vehicular speed, as well as the less sensory law of supply and demand. “Most people I know who have expensive cars and car collections can’t find a convenient place to drive—really drive—them,” says Meldman, a Stanford alum who got his start as a commercial real estate broker working in Fremont before graduating to residential property development in Portola Valley. “They end up just looking at their cars like objects and not experiencing them. ” No longer. Fully loaded, The Thermal Club—which spreads over 350 acres—will comprise hundreds of private trackside “garage villas,” each designed to house a car collection on the ground floor with sybaritic great rooms, kitchens and viewing terraces above; a clubhouse topped by a three-story observation tower; a parts center for both modern and vintage cars; a 24-7 fueling and performance station; a trackside garage building for washing, detailing, and car storage; and a state-of-the-art, supersized shop for tuning and restorations. There’s also a full-service spa to relax behind-the-wheel muscle tension, a fine dining restaurant, a fitness center, a pool, and tennis and sport courts.

But the club’s engine is the racetrack: 4.5 miles of concrete curves and straightaways formed by three independent courses, which cumulatively yield up to 22 route variations. “The track has a large variety of different corner configurations, elevation changes and several straights that will ensure speeds in excess of 150 mph,” says the designer behind it, Alan Wilson, who emphasizes Thermal has been engineered “to maximize safety and minimize potential negative consequences of driver inexperience or mistakes, while still [ensuring] a challenging course.”

The Thermal Club’s first racing course is finished—and already being used by early members—and the second is scheduled to be up and running “any day now,” says Meldman, adding that construction on the garages and amenity building began last summer. The only thing that couldn’t be accelerated? “Entitlements for something like this are always hardest. This is California after all.”

Club membership is contingent upon the purchase of a garage lot or finished garage. There are 300 lots in total, ranging in price from approximately $460,000 to $800,000. The one-time individual membership fee is $85,000, annual dues are $19,200, and membership is capped at 500.

Of course, for a certain ilk of motorists who have been longing for an all-in-one destination such as this one, the allure of a speed-friendly Shangri-la in the desert transcends monetary appraisal; rather than dollar signs they’re likely to see one big green light rising above their dashboards. And that means go. 86030 62nd Ave., Thermal, 760-674-0088; thethermalclub.com.

By Andrew Myers.