Building on a rich heritage that dates back to 1927, few things change at the annual Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este. One major change for the 2017 tradition was the absence of the majestic tree that for many decades had been the centerpiece of Villa d'Este's garden but sadly had died some years ago. As he has done in the past in other functions, Max Girardo took over the baton or better microphone from Simon Kidston to commentate the parade on Saturday afternoon. The main ingredients of the show did remain the same in the prestigious and exclusive that was organized under BMW patronage once more. Spread over eight classes there were 51 classic cars on display, while the concept car class only featured two entries. Slightly down the shore of the Lago di Como, in the Villa Erba park, RM Sotheby's staged a sale in the evening after the Concorso d'Eleganza.
Under scorching conditions, our photographers have captured all the highlights in this class-by-class 180-shot gallery that includes all entered cars.
RM Sotheby’s Sale
Matching the exclusive character of the main event, only a limited number of exclusive cars and motorcycles were consigned to the RM Sotheby's Villa Erba auction. Headlining the sale was the striking Saoutchik bodied Mercedes-Benz S-Type that had won 'Best of Show' at Pebble Beach a few years ago. Having changed hands several times during the last decade, it, not surprisingly perhaps, did not find a new owner this time. Having created quite a buzz before the sale and living up to the expectations was the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 3.8 that had just 10 km from new on the odometer. The time-warp machine was acquired by what is only its second owner for just over Euro 2 million. The most remarkable sale of the evening was that of a Jaguar E-Type Roadster that sold for twice the top estimate at Euro 580,000. Topping the sale however was the Teardrop bodied Talbot Lago T150C SS, which, owing to sporting non original coachwork, was a relative bargain at Euro 3.4 million. At the end of the evening, which saw several other major cars return to their owners, the sale totaled just over Euro 25 million with a 64 percent sell through rate. The sale's highlights are found in this 40-shot gallery.
On a field where elegance and grace is judged, purebred racing cars may not be what you expect. However, as Enzo Ferrari already explained many years ago: "The most beautiful car is the winning car." This was underlined at Villa d'Este this year with two of the eight classes dedicated to racing cars. In the class for early competition cars, we were particularly taken by a highly original Ballot 3/8 LC brought by Austrian collector Alexander Schauffler. Hidden away for many years in England, the car only recently emerged and turned out to be the winner of the first ever Italian Grand Prix. As such, it is the only one of the hugely influential Ballot Grand Prix cars to win a race. Also on hand was the first Bentley to race at Le Mans and a great example of the Bugatti Type 51 that has been in the same ownership for the last 57 years. Among the modern cars were mighty Ferrari Daytonas and Porsche 911 Carrera RSR. Also on display was one of the very last 300S Maseratis. Driven to victory in period by Sir Stirling Moss, this example was the ultimately development of the type and featured larger, 450S derived brakes and a five-speed gearbox. It has recently been carefully restored by Egon Zweimuller Jr., who explained that he had removed no less than 30kg of filler while doing the bodywork. The end-result was breathtaking for sure.
Great Grand Tourers
Equally at home on the concours field and the winding public roads are the Grand Tourers or GTs. One class was dedicated to these machines but fine examples of the type could also be found in the other class. True to this dual purpose was definitely the Lagonda Rapide driven by its enthusiastic owner on the road to Villa d'Este. Even more so was the mighty, 'narrow-hip' Shelby Cobra 427 that was shown by American Brendon M. Finn. Immediately after the weekend he took the car for a romantic journey with his wife through Italy, Austria, Switzerland and then back to Italy. Arguably the ultimate GT car is Ferrari's 250 GT of which several great examples were on display including the very first California Spyder and a great example of the SWB Competizione, recently refinished in its original gold finish by specialists Cremonini. Their most recent work was also on display; the Lamborghini Miura that had been ordered new by the son of author Arthur Conan Doyle and finished with unique green and gold racing stripes.
To even be considered for the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este a car has to be impeccable with a great provenance, so each of the cars present this year has a great backstory, which would take too long for the purpose of this report. A car that certainly could not go unmentioned was the lovely Lancia 12 hp brought by Villa d'Este stalwart Corrado Lopresto. Not only is this the only one of the three surviving examples in private hands, it is also the oldest surviving Lancia in the world. Of a completely different order and dimension for that matter was the Ghia L 6.4 presented by Jack Braam-Ruben. Combining an Italian body with solid Detroit underpinnings this massive machine was ordered new by Dean Martin. Among the bespoke features is a gun holster mounted under the driver's seat. Better known for his love of pre-War Bugattis, Braam-Ruben sought out to acquire the Ghia because he had a Dinky Toy of this very car when he was a kid. Also on hand was a striking Fiat 1100 Special that sported the first ever body designed and built by Pietro Frua.
Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este
One of the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este's unique tradition is that the Coppa d'Oro, or best of show trophy, is picked by public referendum. This year, the public awarded the Coppa d'Oro to the most sympathetic of entries; the tiny Lurani Nibbio. This car was built by the great Giovanni 'Johnny' Lurani around a Moto Guzzi motorcycle engine in 1935. Clothed in a bullet-shaped body, it became the first 500cc car to break the 100mph barrier. What made the Villa d'Este entry so special was that the car was presented by Lurani's grandson Frederico Gottsche Bebert. He recalled how his grandfather would lock him in the car when he misbehaved as a kid. Also on hand to receive the trophy was Lurani's daughter and Frederico's mother, who was visibly touched to see her son take top honors in her father's old record breaker.
The specialist jury awarded their best of show the following day to the equally striking Alfa Romeo Giulietta SS Prototipo, which also resides in Corrado Lopresto's collection.
While a casual glance at the 51 cars on the entry list may suggest that 2017 was not a vintage year for Villa d'Este but we beg to differ. The selection committee managed to get together an eclectic mix of machinery that were both great to admire but also had great backstories to really bring them to life. None more so than the lovely Lurani Nibbio that grabbed Coppa d'Oro. All 51 entrants can be found in great detail in our exclusive 180-shot gallery.