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2018 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este
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Introduction
First held 89 years ago, the annual Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este is steeped in tradition. Under the stewardship of BMW, the event has cherished that rich tradition but over the years subtle changes have been made. At this year's edition there were classes for unrestored and Formula 1 cars for the first time. Among the other themes in 2018 were Hollywood related cars, early racers and the emergence of the GT car. What remains unchanged is the stellar backdrop of the Grand Hotel Villa d'Este, located on the shore of the Italian Lake Como and the highly exclusive nature of the event with an entry list of just 50 cars. These are not only judged by a specialist jury but upholding a longstanding tradition the prestigious best of show award, the Coppa d'Oro Villa d'Este, is chosen by public referendum.
Enjoying the beautiful May weather, we spent the weekend at Villa d'Este, resulting in this 170-shot gallery, which features all cars entered in the 2018 Concorso d'Eleganza.

Great GTs
During the 1950s a new bread of road car appeared; the Gran Turismo or GT. These were effectively, thinly disguised racing cars for the street. These high performance machines were often entrusted to specialist companies for fabulous coachwork. This era was celebrated in Class D, which featured seven GTs that covered the entire era. Among the earliest was the Ferrari 212 Export Vignale Cabriolet brought by Peter Kalikow. In true GT fashion, it combined a racing car chassis with a stunning custom body built by Vignale following a Giovanni Michelotti design. Undoubtedly rarely seen in Europe was the Scaglietti bodied 1959 Corvette. The brainchild of none other than Carroll Shelby, the striking machine was intended to be raced in the SCCA Championship. Unfortunately, the project was halted when General Motors realised it was not a good idea when a custom bodied Corvette would proof superior to their own version. No GT class is complete without a Ferrari 250 GT and the SWB example on display was a particularly interesting example, combining a steel body with numerous features from the competition cars.

Mighty racers
Making less compromises for road use were the cars featured in Class E for pure competition cars. Spanning almost two decades, this class showcased just how quickly competition cars evolved during the 1950s and 1960s. The earliest of the seven cars entered was the Jaguar C-Type, which was the very first racing car of the great American gentleman racer Masten Gregory. Built just 17 years later was the Abarth Sport 2000, which was the newest car in the group but looked world's apart from the earlier rivals. Particularly difficult to miss was the ex-Ulf Norinder Ferrari 250 GTO, finished in the Swedish racing colours of blue with a yellow stripe. It was brought by its longtime American owner fresh from a complete restoration at the hands of Ferrari Classiche. Altogether more subtly liveried was the Ferrari 335 S displayed alongside. There was certainly nothing subtle about its mighty 4.1-litre, twin overhead camshaft, twin spark V12 engine. Over the last couple of years it had been meticulously restored for its Austrian owner by Paul Russell, who spent a particularly long time getting the unusual colour scheme right, by tracing down all several living witnesses, who had seen the car in period.

80 Years of Automotive Archaeology
For many years, collectors really only saw one option of what to do with their cars: restore them to as-new condition. Often the work was done so thoroughly that they in fact were better than new and in the process all of the traces of the individual car's history was lost. Fortunately, and undoubtedly as a result, preserved, original cars are now also highly sought after. This originality was celebrated in Class F. The oldest example entered was a 1913 SCAT entered by one of the key advocates of preservation Corrado Lopresto. Although he added the car to his collection only recently, Lopresto is only the second owner; the majestic machine was owned by the same family for 100 years. A lengthy ownership also helped preserve the Fiat 8V with a factory body brought by marque enthusiast Jan de Reu. This car was acquired during the 1950s by an American soldier stationed in Germany and shortly thereafter brought to the United States. He used the car in races early in its life and would go on to own it until 2013 when De Reu added it to his formidable stable. Italian enthusiast Luca Bertolero presented one of two Fiat 500 beach cars built for Gianni Agnelli. Many of the world's rich and famous were driven around in the small machine while visiting Agnelli's formidable La Leopalda villa on the French Cote d'Azur.

Hollywood on the Lake
One of the main themes of this year's Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este was Hollywood on the Lake, for which Class G was reserved. This featured six cars that had either been owned by famous Hollywood stars or starred in movies themselves. Arguably the single most famous movie car is the Aston Martin DB5 that was used by James Bond in Goldfinger. The sole surviving example of the pair used during the movie was brought over from the United States especially by owner Harry Yeaggy. It still boasted all the gadgets like the bullet-proof shield, the extending spinners and the removable roof panel for the ejector seat. Also on show was the very BMW 507 that was gifted by Elvis Presley to his Fun in Acapulco co-star Ursula Andress. It has another Hollywood connection as it was later modified with the unusual bumper it still wears to this day by the legendary George Barris, who also created the original Batmobile. A legend in its own right, the right history of the spectacular Lancia Stratos Zero also includes an appearance in the music video for Michael Jackson's song Moonwalker. Now in American hands, it was shown by the new owner most appropriately with singer Avril Lavigne in the passenger seat.

Grand Prix Cars
During its rich history, the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este has seen many unusual and spectacular creations on display in the Grand Hotel's fabulous gardens. Until this year, however, Formula 1 Grand Prix cars were not among them. Not only were they shown as part of the concours d'elegance, each of the seven cars was also paraded under their own power in front of the hotel. Three decades of F1 racing was represented with the ever fabulous Maserati 250F as the earliest and the Alain Prost's 1985 World Championship winning McLaren MP4/2B TAG Porsche as the most recent. The eclectic mix of F1 cars also featured a Tyrrell P34 six-wheeler, which famously became the only car to win a Grand Prix with more than four wheels. It was presented by former Italian F1 driver Pier Luigi Martini. Although each of the Grand Prix cars on display was interesting in its own right, it was somewhat strange that the line-up did not include a single Ferrari.

Best of Show
Not only the Formula 1 cars but all entered vehicles were paraded in front of the Grand hotel on Saturday afternoon. The only entrant making a second appearance was the roaring Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale brought by Swiss collector Albert Spiess. The reason for this was simple: to collect the Coppa d'Oro Villa d'Este for the event's best of show by public referendum. Designed by the brilliant Franco Scaglione, the Tipo 33 Stradale is generally considered one of the best looking cars ever built. What made Spies' example even more special was that it had survived in completely original condition. It was far from a close vote as the Stradale reportedly received twice as many votes as the runner up.
On Sunday, it was announced that the Trofeo BMW Group Classic for the best of show by the jury was awarded to the Ferrari 335 S of Andreas Mohringer. Again it was hard to argue against the decision as the mighty Ferrari combined a beautiful design with fabulous underpinnings and was finished to a remarkable level by Paul Russel & Company.

Final thoughts
With the addition of Grand Prix cars and also the class for unrestored cars, the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este offered seasoned visitors something different to enjoy. Fortunately none of the event's rich tradition was lost in the process. The only let down and perhaps a sign of the times was that there were only four new concept cars entered. All of the aforementioned highlights and much, much more can be found in our all-encompassing 170-shot gallery.

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Report by Wouter Melissen and images by Wouter Melissen and Pieter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com