The annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este counts as one of the absolute highlights among its kind. Held in the gardens of one of the most beautiful hotels in the world, it always attracts the kind of cars that one would expect to see in these surroundings but also a number of oddities. This mix turns the garden into a colorful and exclusive parking lot, rarely seen anywhere else.
To answer one of the most important questions always hanging over the Concorso, yes, the weather was nice for almost the whole day last Saturday and even better during the public day at Villa Erba on Sunday. As usual the proceedings were led by Master of Ceremonies Simon Kidston, who received a thunderous applause from the grandstand at Villa Erba when he opened the Sunday afternoon parade.
Held for the third time now, the RM Sotheby’s auction on the premises of Villa Erba, offered a nice selection of about 40 cars and two Rivas. While total revenues ($29.3M) exceeded the edition from two ago there were nevertheless mixed feelings as the two absolute highlights, a Ferrari 250 GT SWB and a 250 GT SWB California Spider had bids fall short of reserve and failed to sell. Notwithstanding this, there were several highlights, such as the 212 Touring Barchetta, which realized a world record price of $7.4M (incl. premiums). Ten more cars exceeded the 1 million barrier, whereby a Ferrari 288 GTO came already very close to 2 million, reflecting the increasing popularity of this model. Several other modern "Super" Ferraris changed hands for well over a million while a Porsche 911 RS 2.7 Lightweight tipped the scales at just over one million.
Class A: Flamboyance in motion:
Farman A6B Million Guiet Coupe de Ville
This class was used to bring together the oldest cars in the field, ranging from the very rare Farman A6B to the ex-Bernie Ecclestone Mercedes 540K Spezial Roadster, entered by Austrian Michael Kaufman. After the Great War, the brothers Farman, famous for their waterplanes, embarked on producing top-level motorcars. Apparently it was quality that counted, because only an estimated 120 cars left the factory over a 10-year period. Very few have survived, 4-6 according to different sources, two of which are in the Mulhouse museum.
Petr Turek from Czechia entered a 1925 Coupé de Ville, clothed by Million Guiet. In terms of flamboyance it had to give way to the Spezial Roadster which duly won its class, the Farman coming second and also winning the prize for the best preserved pre-war car. The ex William Randolph Hurst Isotta Fraschini 8A, entered by Karol Pavlu from Slowakia, won the reward for the car driven from farthest away.
Class B: Antidepressants:
Delahaye 135M Figoni & Falaschi Cabriolet
Aptly named because of the cars representing an up-beat approach to fight the depression of the thirties, this class contained some of the finest sports cars in combination with the elegance of a Delahaye Figoni and Falaschi 135M Cabriolet. The class winner was the unique Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Zagato, owned by American David Sydorick. His greatest reward though came on Sunday night when he was announced Best of Show by the Jury. Second came the beautiful Mercedes 380 Erdmann & Rossi Roadster, entered by Saulias Karosas from Lithuania. A rare sight was also the 1931 Castagna bodied OM Superba cabriolet.
Class C: The Phantom Story:
Rolls-Royce Phantom I Murphy Roadster
To celebrate the 90th birthday of the Rolls Royce Phantom, this class brought together a representative of all the six Phantom versions produced. The oldest one was a striking yellow Springfield Phantom 1, entered by American Robert Matteuchi. This car won a mention of honor by the jury. The Phantom VI in the line-up came all the way from South Africa, entered by Brett Gage. The not so surprising Class winner was last years Pebble Beach runner up, the Van Vooren bodied Phantom III, owned by Sir Anthony Bamford. The rarest is all Phantoms is the Phantom IV, entered by Norbert Seeger from Liechtenstein, of which only 18 were produced. The example on the field was formerly owned by the British Royal Family and, according to the always well-informed Simon Kidston, this car was used when young princesses Margaret and Elisabeth wanted to visit places in London incognito. The car has a large crest on the roof…
Class D: Made to measure:
Chrysler SS Ghia Coupe
This class represented a selection of Italian coach built cars during the fifties. The interloper was the striking Pegaso Cupola, which was designed by students in the Barcelona University (ENASA) in order to show how future cars could look like. The car presented by Dutchman Evert Louwman reappeared after a seven-year restoration back to its original guise as it was shown during the New York Auto Show in 1952. Afterwards it was sold to the president of the Dominican Republic Rafael Trujillo. After a long spell in the former Rosso Bianco collection it came to Holland. It did receive the prize for the most exciting design, and was later awarded the Trofeo BMW Group Ragazzi, by Young People’s Referendum (until the age of 16). Class winner was the ex Princess Liliane de Rethy Vignale bodied Ferrari 250 GT Europa, of Mexican Jaime Muldoon. American Bradley Caulkins won the prize for the most sensible restoration (by Paul Russell) for his Ferrari 212 Europa Vignale.
Class E: Gentlemen’s Racers:
Fiat 8V Vignale Berlinetta
Celebrating the motorsport options for the wealthy privateers, this class ranged from a Maserati A6 1500 from 1946 all the way up to a Ferrari 250 GT SWB from 1963. The car unanimously chosen by the public, both at Villa d’Este and Villa Erba was the ex Agnelli Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta, long-term owned by the late Jacques Swaters. It is now owned by Clive Beecham, and the striking two-tone colored body in combination with the beige, unrestored interior was good enough to be rewarded with the Coppa D’Oro last Saturday. Interestingly, the Jury placed the car second, which top honors going to American Jim Utaski with his single bubble Maserati A6G/2000 Zagato.
Class F: Hollywood on the Lake:
Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Pinin Farina Cabriolet
This theme was used to group a number of open cars, suitably for boulevard cruising and a bit more if required. The BMW 507 brought by German collector Peter Mülder was the only ever 507 to have participated in the Mille Miglia (1957) and proudly sported its starting time. Class winner was the striking Lancia Aurelia B52 Pinin Farina, of American Orin Smith, with the runner up being the 1958 Ferrari California of Staffan Wittmark from Sweden. The Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Pinin Farina gained the award for the best interior design.
Class G: GT Man has arrived:
Travelling in style over long distances and at elevated speed is probably what a GT Man desires and hence five cars capable of doing so were brought together. The most striking no doubt was the Panther Six, owned by Austrian Albert Fellner. It features the four front wheel layout as found on the Tyrell P34 F1 car, and is fitted with a 600-horsepower twin turbo Cadillac engine in the rear.
As the car suffered severe overheating problems, it could only be driven with great care and over short distances, yet it managed to make the trip between the Hotel and Villa Erba. Two of these contraptions were made and this is the only one left. Class winner was the beautifully restraint Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider of German Detlev Hübner. Second was the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II four door Cabriolet entered by Monegasque Fred Kriz, who also received the prize for the most elegant Rolls Royce.
Class H: How fast is fast enough:
As the name suggests, this class comprised of a number of high-speed sports cars from the seventies, underlining the motto of the Concorso, Seventies Style, the Jet Set is back.
Lamborghini Miura SV
Rarest of the entrants was the AMC AMX/3 entered by Jürgen M. Wilms from Germany, This effort by AMC to produce a mid-engined sports car, designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, was short lived and apparently only five examples were produced. This car had a tag indicating that it could be number one, but apparently nobody knows for sure. The class was won by the striking Lamborghini Miura SV of Graham Robertson from the UK. Last year’s overall winner, Albert Spiess, came second with his Lamborghini LP400 Periscopio, which also ran away with the prize for the best-preserved post-war car. A Fiat orange Porsche 911 RS entered by Marco Bertocchi was declared the most iconic car by the jury.
Class I: Two seats against the stopwatch:
(From left) Lancia Stratos HF Group 4 and a Ferrari 206 Dino S
Four two-seater sports cars were lined up here, and the prototype Maserati Birdcage Longtail of Andreas Mohringer from Austria, duly won the class. The second place was for Egon Zweimuller, from Austria who managed to arrive in the McLaren M1A, once driven by his alter ego Elvis Presley for movie purposes. The two other cars both sported the Ferrari V6 but their outward appearances could not be more different. The svelte 206 Dino S, entered by German Andreas Schlaewicke was put beside the brutish Lancia Stratos, an ex-works machine in its original Alitalia livery, entered by Italian Stefano Macaluso. What a contrast. Zweimuller also stole the show at Villa Erba by pulling some long black stripes on the red carpet, which before had been so carefully kept free from pebbles…
Concept cars and prototypes:
For the first time as we can remember the requirement for concept cars to be able to be driven along the grandstands was lifted and the class included two stationary cars, the Magna Mila Plus and the all electric Aston Martin DBX, of which the platform will also be used for future petrol cars. The Bentley EXP10, which was a surprise at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year gained the design award for concept cars, determined by the tifosi at Villa Erba. Zagato choose the occasion to present the new interpretation of the Costin bodied Maserati 450S. The car apparently has a double function as a rear wing can be attached if serious track options arise. This concept was already introduced by James Glickenhaus in his SCG 003, which was raced at the Nürburgring 24 Hours a week earlier and was driven over public roads from Turin (the SGC base) to Como by its owner. BMW took the opportunity to pay homage to the venerable 3.0 CSL Batmobile by presenting a new interpretation of the car. BMW also presented several of the Le Mans art cars in the exhibition hall at Villa Erba.
This year’s edition of the Concorso, helped by the favorable weather conditions, provided us once again with a great selection of important, many interesting and some outstanding cars. Our 240-shot gallery will provide you with a first look at all of them, and more them will be subject of more detailed presentations later in the year. We already look forward to next year’s event and its unique atmosphere.