When it comes to automotive events it doesn't get much more exclusive than the annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. Organized by BMW and hosted by the exquisite Grand Hotel Villa d’Este in Como, Italy, it is only open to invited guests, the media and of course the entrants. While BMW is the only sponsor, its presence is not felt through the usual big signs or flags, but rather by a display of historically important BMW vehicles. This is typical for the understated nature of the event. To give the general public a look at what was on show at Villa d’Este there is a concours the next day in the nearby Villa Erba park with the same cars and some additional displays. In this report we will concentrate on the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este.
Good, very good or the best?
Determining this was up to the six judges, who in two groups gradually worked their way through the 49 cars in the morning to pick the various winners. The attending public could also cast their vote for their favourite car. Complementing the eight class awards was a series of special prizes awarded by the jury. In the afternoon the entrants drove along in a parade in front of the hotel with every car being introduced to the audience by speaker Simon Kidston in fluent English, Italian and French, assisted by Roberto Rasia dal Polo. Combining British humour with interesting insights, Kidston made it a very pleasant two hours.
One of the more interesting awards and the only real objective one was the award for the car that was driven the furthest to get to Italy. Concours cars are often described as ‘trailer queens’ and this was the perfect opportunity to proove the critics wrong. Andre Binda drove his wedge shaped Maserati Boomerang show car up to Italy from the south of France despite suffering four flat tires. He also had problems at the toll booths where the passenger had to get out to get the ticket because the windows do not open and there was no room to open the driver’s door. In another remarkable feat Frans van Haren drove his 1930 Mercedes Benz down from the Netherlands without a passenger or a back-up car. Averaging at around 110 km/h he covered the 1000 km in two days without any technical difficulties. His effort was not enough to pick up the ‘Trofeo Automobile Club de Como’ as Frans was just beaten by Toni Badenoch. He drove his ex-Hans Stuck BMW 3.0 CSL all the way down from London, England. With little sound proofing and a race-bred engine, it was not a straightforward affair.
A hot topic in the classic car world is restoration and to what level it should be carried through. Particularly in the United States cars are restored to a near perfect condition; frequently better condition than when the cars were delivered new. In Europe this is sometimes frowned upon, but we were told that the original constructors and coachbuilders of the restored cars are usually flattered by the level of attention their work receives in the U.S. There were several examples of these top-notch restorations present such as Peter Kalikow’s Ferrari 410 SuperAmerica and Peter McCoy’s Ferrari 400 SuperAmerica. On the other end of the spectrum are the fully original cars that have aged like fine wine. For both restored and original cars there was a special award. Adolfo Orsi’s recent restoration of a Maserati A6G 2000 Frua Spyder earned him the ‘Trofeo Ruoteclassiche’ for the most sensitive restoration. The ‘Trofeo FIVA’ for best preserved car went to Fred Kriz for his stunningly original Bentley R-Type Continental.
In addition to the eight classes were two ‘super classes’ for the most elegant Rolls Royce and most elegant Pininfarina bodied car that included cars from a number of those classes. Introduced as Mr Spyker and ‘Big Vic the Entertainer’ by Simon Kidston, Victor Muller received the ‘Trofeo Rolls Royce’ for his 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom I 17EX. The day did not however begin favourably with his flooding the garage with coolant. Fortunately this did not take anything away from the beautifully flowing lines of the special Jarvis torpedo coachwork. Peter McCoy clinched the ‘Trofeo Pininfarina’ with his 400 SuperAmerica that is as beautiful inside as out.
Kidston attributed Brandon Wang receiving the ‘Trofeo Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni’ mainly to his striking blue driving gloves matching the colour of his car. The jury presumably used other criteria to select Wang’s Ferrari 250 GTO, which is still in remarkable original condition and is one of the few cars of its type that sees regular action on the street.
Concept cars, paving the way to the future
Quite contrasting with the historic cars on the concours were the modern concept cars and prototypes displayed on the other side of the Grand Hotel. Included were show cars launched at motorshows in the past year and also two genuine world premiers. Zagato finally presented their long-awaited version of the Ferrari 575. It was supposed to debut in Geneva, but urged by Ferrari to delay the release due to fears it would draw attention away from the 599 GTB launch, Zagato postponed the introduction. Consequently Villa d’Este proved to be a much better location; the first 250 GT Zagato, which served as an inspiration for the new 575 GTZ was launched at the same location fifty years earlier. Believe it or not, the other novelty came from Russia. Using Mercedes Benz mechanicals the Russians created the lavish Russo Baltique Impression concept. Making only its second public appearance and its first in Europe, the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider Concept took the ‘Design Award’, which was selected by public referendum.
Best of show
As explained earlier there are two best of show awards; the Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este selected by public voting and the Trofeo BMW Group picked by the members of the jury. First awarded in 1929 to an Isotta Fraschini 8A, the Coppa d’Oro returned to the hands of Corrado Lopresto for his Isotta Fraschini 8A SS Torpedo Sport bodied by Castagna. The meticulous restoration was timely completed the night before the Concorso and the years of labour were promptly awarded by the knowledgeable crowd.
The Tropheo BMW selected by the jury was handed to Peter Kalikow for his Ferrari 410 SuperAmerica. It was already a good weekend for Kalikow, who had taken delivery of his highly customized Ferrari 612 ‘Kappa’ two days earlier at the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este. As can be seen in our slideshow the two complement each other very well.
After last year’s overcast and drizzly Concorso d’Eleganza, this year we were treated to a clear blue sky and the lovely Italian sunshine. Partly due to the exclusive nature of the event, there was a very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere in and around the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este. Apparently the Concorso d’Elganza not only brings out the best cars, but also the best in people. We have selected 200 shots
for our extensive slideshow
, which includes shots of all cars entered and gives you the opportunity to experience the Concorso’s unique atmosphere. Click here
for the full list of winners.