Steeped in decades of tradition, even the annual Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este has not been insusceptible to outside influences; the growing importance of the motor show in Shanghai have forced the organisers to switch to a later date in order to attract sufficient prototypes and concept cars. Believed to be another benefit was the chances for better weather at the end of May than in April. The date change was only partly successful as a big thunder storm ended proceedings prematurely at Villa d'Este on Saturday afternoon. Another notable change compared to earlier editions was a strong focus on post-War machinery, particularly those from the 1960s. This was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the legendary Jaguar E-Type. New additions to the program were a motorcycle show and RM auction at the nearby Villa Erba on Saturday. What did not change was the familiar private Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este on Saturday followed by a public event with the same cars at Villa Erba.
As always we travelled to shores of the fabulous Lake Como to capture every aspect of what is undoubtedly one of the finest classic car events in the world. This has resulted in three galleries with over 250 shots of the Concorsos at Villa d'Este
and Villa Erba
and the RM Auction
Class A: Closed for Comfort
Due to the strong focus on more recent periods, there were only two pre-War classes this year compared to four in 2010. The first is dedicated to closed cars and featured a wide variety of machinery ranging from a lavish 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II to a striking Bertone bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS of 1942. Built to special order, the former was most likely the most expensive car built that year with a price of over $30,000. It has survived in highly original condition, which was awarded with the 'Trofeo FIVA' for the best preserved pre-War car. Also included in Class A was another very special Rolls-Royce Phantom II. Clothed by Pinin Farina, it was one of only very few British built Phantoms clothed on mainland Europe. Further entries of note in this first class were the Delage D8 120 S with a beautiful coachwork by Pourtout and a Talbot Lago T23 with the ever spectacular 'Teardrop' coupe body by Figoni & Falaschi.
Class B: Open Sky
The class for open pre-War cars was equally colourful and also starred two Rolls-Royces. The earliest was a 20/25 with custom coachwork by Graber while the second was a Phantom II in the high performance 'Continental' specification with a Drophead Coupe body by Barker. Also included were two fine examples of the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300; one bodied by Figoni and the other by Pinin Farina. Finished in black, the most inconspicuous car in Class B was no doubt the Mercedes-Benz 380K. As is often the case, looks deceive as this Roadster was a high performance test-bed that was first owned and raced by one of the legendary Silver Arrow racers Manfred von Brauchitsch. A removable hard-top was part of the coachwork designed and built in-house at Mercedes' Sindelfingen factory and gave this 380K the nickname 'Kombinationswagen' (Combination Car). Also entered in this class was a fine example of the SS 100 sports car, which was the first model to use the Jaguar model name, which after the War was adopted as the brand name.
Class C: Fifties Chic - Cars for the Jet Set
While luxury manufacturers struggled in the immediate post-War years for obvious reasons, Class C showed that lavish machinery was produced in this period. Our eye was immediately caught by Friedhelm Loh's Talbot Lago T26 GS Saoutchik Coupe. Built in 1948, it was finished in a combination of Talbot blue and Lago blue. Later in its life, the car was repainted white but the original colours re-emerged after hundreds of hours of careful sanding. The areas that could not be preserved were filled in with the correct paint. Other than that the Grand Sport has survived in completely original condition. Even rare was a sister car clothed by Stabilimenti Farina a few years later. The original owner insisted on personally witnessing the wooden body bucks being burned upon completion of the Cabriolet to ensure the car would remain a one-off. Also included was the actual Lancia Aurelia Spider used for the movie 'Et dieu ... Crea la Femme' that made a star out of actress Brigitte Bardot. From hospital the original owners, a young husband and wife at the time, expressed their love for the Aurelia with a fax sent to the car on the eve of the Concorso.
Class D: A New Dawn - Small Car, Big Performance
As illustrated by the previous class, big, luxury cars were still manufactured in the 1950s but at the same time a new breed of high performance cars emerged. Using the latest technologies and lightweight materials these small machines could achieve speeds previously only attained by much bigger and more expensive cars. A great example was the Abarth 205 of 1950, which managed to complete that year's Mille Miglia with an average of over 100 km/h despite sporting an engine that barely displaced over 1,000 cc. In Italy these smaller cars were catered for by a hugely popular competition class with a 2-litre displacement limit. The Fiat 8V and similarly engined derivatives were very successful in this class. Class D featured no fewer than three of these machines; one Fiat 8V with the factory 'Rapi' coachwork, and an open and closed Siata 208. One of these cars' fiercest rivals was the Zagato bodied Alfa Romeo 1900 of which a fine example was displayed at Villa d'Este. Originally sold to a Swedish owner through Jo Bonnier, the car covered over 100,000 km in the Scandinavian country. It was eventually returned to Italy but, Milan bound, would make it no further than Como, where the current, Swiss owner spotted it on a truck. He made a deal with the owner and the Alfa was unloaded on the spot.
Class E: Swinging Sixties Style
A new sense of optimism dominated the 1960s and allowed manufacturers and designers to reach new heights. This was one of the main themes of the 2011 Concorso and is highlighted by this class. Underlined by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, this process already started in the second half of the 1950s. The example entered in this class is a very late, 1962 model that has seen so little use during its lifetime that it still sports its original tyres. Great examples of the great 1960s style also included the Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider, the Lamborghini 400 GT and the Maserati 3500 GT. In this period the Aston Martin DB5 became stuff of legends due as the daily driver of James Bond. The British manufacturer also offered a drop top version, which was the last to use the 'Convertible' designation before the 'Volante' name was introduced. The example on display was one of just 25 of these Convertibles built with left hand drive. Built in 1969, the Ferrari 365 GTS brought over from the United States very much represents the end of an era. Much sharper 'wedge' shapes, and worries about safety, the environment and resource shortages would take over from the swinging sixties.
Class F: The Birth of the Supercar
The 1960s also saw the emergence of a new category of sports car; the supercar. In the first half of the decade some of the greatest front-engined Grand Tourers laid the foundation for this development. Among them is certainly the Jaguar E-Type, which made its world debut fifty years ago in Geneva. The great Swiss Jaguar collector Christian Jenny brought one of the actual show cars, which was revealed from a big wooden box at a press preview in the garden of a restaurant in Geneva. Also celebrating its fiftieth anniversary is the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato of which the last example produced was displayed as well as a brand new interpretation but more about that later. This class would not be complete without what is generally considered the first modern supercar; the Lamborghini Miura. Considering its advanced design and mid-engined layout, it is still hard to imagine it was launched just five years after the E-Type. The example on display at Villa d'Este was a second generation 'S' model. Short for 'Spinto' or 'improved', it came with the promise of a more powerful engine, although according to the cynics, Ferruccio Lamborghini added horsepower to his engines by reprinting the sales brochures. Arguably the most beautiful car of the era, or perhaps ever, was the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale. It combined the race-bred Tipo 33 chassis with exquisite lines penned by Franco Scaglione. Less than a dozen were built and the example brought by Clive Joy, amazingly, was the first ever shown at Villa d'Este.
Class G: Masters of Creativity
Modern, mass-production manufacturing methods did not make life any easier for the custom coachbuilding firms in the 1960s. Instead of creating bespoke bodies for the world's rich and famous, they increasingly switched to the construction of show cars with the hope of securing a production deal. A great example is the Touring built Alfa Romeo 2000 'Praho' entered by Giovanni Anderloni, the son of its designer Carlo Felice Anderloni. It remained a one-off as a Bertone design was chosen for Alfa Romeo's new coupe. After its show duties, it was displayed for many years by an Alfa Romeo dealer and eventually disappeared from sight until this year's Concorso. Another prolific designer of this era was Giovanni Michelotti. He was one of the first to experiment with the wedge shapes that would dominate the 1970s. A great example is the DAF 55 'Siluro' brought to Villa d'Este by Paul van Doorne, the grandson of DAF founder Hub van Doorne. He retrieved the unique show car from the Michelotti family collection a few years ago and had it carefully restored. Usually on display in the DAF museum, this was a very rare, international outing for the Siluro. One of the last companies to keep the tradition of old was Chapron. Among its final creations is the Citroen SM 'Opera'. Just twelve examples of this four-door SM were produced.
Class H: Colour and Speed - Post-War Racing Icons
Following last year's pre-War racing class, we were now treated to a class dedicated to racers from the 1950s and 1960s. Class H offered great variety with machinery ranging from a very original Ferrari 375 MM, the V12-engined Maserati Tipo 63 and the Ford GT40 Mk II that finished third behind two sister cars at Le Mans in 1966. There was also a reunion of two Alfa Romeo racing cars that spent most of its life together; the final TZ2 constructed and a 33/2 Spider of 1968. Both were raced extensively by Aldo Bardelli and later in life were displayed for several decades in the now defunct and much missed Rosso Bianco museum. The TZ2 is today owned by American Zagato enthusiast David Sydorick, who proudly presented books full of period racing photographs of the car, which were all collected by Bardelli. Like Sydorick, the Italian owner Alessandro Carrara of the 33/2 had a copy of a picture of both cars side by side in period. Unfortunately Bardelli was not able to make it to Villa d'Este to complete the reunion. Another car from the Rosso Bianco collection on display was Peter Neumark's Low Drag E-Type Lightweight. The car had been part of a horrific, fatal accident in period and its wreck remained untouched for decades. Using a spare tub a replica was constructed during the 1970s. The wreck and the replica eventually passed into Neumark's hands and he embarked on a most ambitious project to reconstruct the car. It took 5,200 hours to return the mangled wreck back into shape. Amazingly around 90% of the original body could be retained. The result of the 7,000 hours of work was certainly very impressive.
Concept Cars and Prototypes
The change in dates resulted in a full entry of nine modern concept cars and prototypes, up from five last year. Among them were various machines already seen at major shows in the previous months but there were also two world premieres. The first was the Ferrari Superamerica 45 that, in the great tradition of old, had been commissioned by American collector Peter Kalikow. Inspired by his 1961 400 SuperAmerica Cabriolet, the one-off combines the 599 Aperta chassis with a 599 GTO drivetrain and the rotating roof previously used on the 575M SuperAmerica. The other was the Aston Martin V12 Zagato Coupe, built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the aforementioned DB4 GT Zagato. It is based on the highly competent V12 Vantage platform and features a thoroughly modern design that was created by Zagato in conjunction with Aston Martin's own designers. The first example was finished as a racing car and will be raced in the Nurburgring 24 Hours. It will most likely be followed by a limited production run of just 19 cars. At the 'Ring, the V12 Zagato will encounter Jim Glickenhaus' Ferrari F430 Scuderia P4/5 Competizione, which was also displayed at Villa d'Este. BMW celebrated the 75th anniversary of the 328 with the 'Hommage' concept car but it was not officially entered in the Concorso.
RM Auctions at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este
As mentioned earlier, a new addition to this year's program was the sale organised by Canadian auctioneer RM Auctions. In the spirit of the Concorso d'Eleganza, only a limited number of very high quality cars were accepted into the auction. The pre-sale estimates of the forty lots averaged around a surreal one million Euro. Many of these were familiar machines that had toured the world's events recently. Notable exceptions were the six one-off show cars offered by Bertone's liquidators. Among them were some of the company's most iconic creations like the Stratos Zero and the Lamborghini Marzal. The latter sold for a hefty 1.5 Million Euro, while the Stratos was more modestly priced at 761,600 Euro. The top seller was another one-off; the Ferrari 375 MM Pinin Farina Special Sport Berlinetta that found a new owner for just under 3.4 million Euro. Perhaps the large BMW presence provided some additional inspiration but a late example of the company's fabled 507 model sold for well over the high estimate at 728,000 Euro. There were also a relatively large number of lots that did not reach the reserve set, most notably the 1976 Pebble winning Bugatti Type 57 SC Atalante and the Ford GT Roadster, which both received a high bid of 2.1 million Euro.
Concorso d'Eleganza Villa Erba
Supporting Saturday's auction, the public Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa Erba was expanded to two days. On the first day the visitors were treated to a fine display of classic motorcycles in front of the Villa Erba buildings. One of the highlights of the second day is the trip of the classic road and racing cars from the parking garage at Villa d'Este to Villa Erba over a public road through the town of Cernobbio. Jim Glickenhaus used the opportunity to clear the throat of his fully road legal but still very loud P4/5 Competizione, which undoubtedly brought a premature (and glorious) end to the sleep of many locals. Just as at Villa d'Este a day earlier, the cars were paraded past the crowd in the afternoon, each introduced by familiar speaker Simon Kidston. The torrential rain on Saturday had brought an abrupt halt to the parade before the 'Coppa d'Oro' (best of show by public vote) could be awarded to Corrado Lopresto for his fantastic Bertone bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS. The Trofeo BMW Group for the best of show by jury vote was awarded to Clive Joy for another Alfa Romeo; the Tipo 33 Stradale. Of the modern show cars and prototypes the all-new Aston Martin V12 Zagato Coupe was picked as the winner by the people at Villa Erba.
The change of dates or the additions to the program have not had an effect on the essentials that have made the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este such a fabulous event. Many of the participants and visitors remarked that this year's edition had one of the strongest fields yet. It was indeed an eclectic mix of the unusual, the rare and the beautiful. Long time patron BMW have recently announced an extension of their deal with Villa d'Este for another five years, so it looks like the event will go from strength to strength. As a final note, we would once again like to refer to our three galleries from the Concorsos at Villa d'Este
and Villa Erba
and the RM Auction