GALLERY: Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2017
Photography by Ted Gushue
The Classic Car world is littered with “revival” events that exploit tenuous connections to the past. Not that we’d ever complain about an excuse to spend time with vintage metal anywhere in the world, but it can often feel like anyone with access to a golf course and a couple of cars gets to have an event. There are of course “crown jewel” events in the classic car world, Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and so on. But for me, the shining star in the annual calendar would have to be Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, in Lake Como.
When researching the history of the event, it is often easiest to speak to the organizers – those who are expert in the history of all things automotive:
The “Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este”, the international Concours d’élégance for motor cars, was held for the first time on the 1st of September 1929 following a joint initiative undertaken by the Automobile Club of Como, the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and the Comitato di Cura di Como. The fame of the venues, the logistically impeccable choices that brought into play the inimitable backcloth provided by the gardens of Villa Olmo and Villa d’Este, immediately raised this event head and shoulders above numerous similar shows held at other well-known venues.
With over eighty entries and cars of the highest quality right from the first event, the Concorso di Villa d’Este was on a par with prestigious concours events held in Paris and Monte Carlo. In what was soon to prove the marque’s swan song, the top prize was awarded to an Isotta Fraschini bodied by Sala.
This was a mere two months before the Wall Street Crash: it was to be the beginning of a three-year crisis that was to lead to a reassessment of values, and an acceleration of the rationalisation of car production that was to result – in continental Europe at least – in the demise of automotive gigantism. Despite this, however, the coachbuilding business managed to stay afloat and coachbuilders enjoyed a twenty-year reprieve during which they reached heights of creative expression that have perhaps remained unmatched ever since.
The event as we know it today is a remarkably intimate affair, punctuated by some of the most incredible and unusual cars of the 20th, and occasionally the 21st century. Organized to a level of German precision heretofore unseen by our friends at BMW and A. Lange & Söhne, the event has a touch of magic that you just don’t get in Pebble Beach or at Amelia Island.
So much of that has to do with the size of the entrant list. Under 60 cars are on display, traveling from around the world. Scanning through the owner column on the entrant roster reveals some of the biggest names in classic collecting, Corrado Lopresto, Martin Gruss, Richard Collier to name a few. In Short, this event represents the creme de la creme of the classic world, but it also invites quirky newcomers to into the fold. Below we’ll call out some of the cars that really did it for us this year.
1952 OSCA MT4
The three Maserati Brothers Ernesto, Ettore, and Bindoformed Officine Specializzate Construzione Automobili, or OSCA for short in 1947. The MT4 pictured above represents the pinnacle of their engineering pro
The 1962 Maserati 5000GT
Entered by Roland D’leteren, the 5000GT represents the pinnacle of Maserati’s high performance grand tourers, which when produced could reach speeds of 168MPH. Only 34 units of the Allemano Coupé were produced. 5000GTs were sold primarily to industrialists and playboys like Gianni Agnelli, and the Shah of Iran. This particular coachwork was designed by Michelotti, before undergoing construction by Allemano.
The 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400
Entered by Jean-Pierre Slavic of Switzerland, and originally commissioned from Lamborghini by the rakish son of Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame. The fast living playboy enjoyed the car for only two years before passing away at 59. The car then sat dormant under wraps until completing its restoration only just before the Concorso.
The 1929 ‘Birkin’ Bentley Blower 4 1/2 Litre, entered by Jürgen Ernst of Germany
Sir Henry Ralph Stanley Birkin, 3rd Baronet, known to his friends and teammates simply as Tim was a proud member of the iconic “Bentley Boys”, and took overall victory with Woolf Barnato in 1929. This of course is not that car, however it was equipped with a Roots Supercharger before shaving the car down into the Monoposto shape you see above.
The 1931 Bugatti 51
It’s incredible to me that one of the most successful racing cars of all time had a run of merely 40 examples constructed in France between 1931 and 1935. This one is owned by our good friend Richard T. Collier, of the Collier Collection (and The Revs Institute).
The 1976 Ferrari 365 GT/4 Berlinetta Boxer
The first mid-engined super car to ever roll out of the factory in Maranello. This particular example is in an only known car in Verde Germoglio, a color which was quickly replaced by Rosso Corsa by the first owner. The entrant, Gert Purkert returned the car to its original color way after an extensive restoration.
The 1935 Lurani Nibbio
Entered by Federico Göttsche Bebert, grandson of Giovanni Lurani Cernuschi, VIIIth Count of Calvenzano. Having competed in over 160 races, the Count (Johnny as he was known) had earned a reputation for setting, and then again breaking world records in cars of his own creation. The Nibbio was the first car to pass 100mph powered by .5 litre engine, a 1 cylinder supercharged 250CC 43HP motorcycle engine on loan from Moto Guzzi.
The 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
What would a Concorso be without a DB4 GT Zagato? XUT is owned by Peter Goodwin, an American friend of Petrolicious, but the real story lies with Roy Salvador who drove the car to class victory and a second place overall at Brands Hatch in May 1962.
Pictured above, just a few toys from the carpark – including an incredible RUF Turbo R in Irish Green, being delivered to its new owner, an undisclosed entrant in the Concorso.
The 1934 Tatra 77
Entered by a fittingly Czech owner, Tomás Hoferek, the Tatra 77 is a fascinating design that redifines the modern interpretation of Luftgekühlt. Paired with an incredible aerodynamic shape the 65HP air cooled V8 was capable of pushing the car to a blisteringly luxurious 95mph at the time.
The 1970 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Competizione
Helping Ferrari take home a five fold victory in the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans, this Comp Daytona has been owned by Swiss collector Max Lustenberger for over 20 years.
The 1951 Salmson G-72 Coupé
Bodied by Carrozzeria Sautchik, the lesser known Salmson stacked well against the Bugattis and Delages of the day, however has largely been lost to time in the grand scheme of things. This particular one is owned by Daniel Marachin, a fittingly French owner of the 2200 CC French Coupé.
The 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR
Entered by Sabino Ventura, this might be one of the most “normal” cars at the show, but as any fan of air-cooled flat sixes will tell you, it is anything but. Pushing 300 horses out of that 2808CC engine is no small feat as we all know.
1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic
What could be more exciting than a car that looked as if it was breaking the sound barrier whilst standing still? Very little if you ask Dutch entrant Lennart Schowenburg.
The 1960 Fiat Abarth 1000 Bialbero Record “La Principesa”
Powered by a 982CC inline 4 cylinder engine, the Bialbero Record car achieved eight class records in endurance testing at Monza, averaging 10,000km at an average speed of 118.916mph. Owned by Luca Bertolero.
The 1965 Lamborghini 350GT
This was Ferrucio’s personal car, chassis 0265. What more do you need to know other than how much fun Bénédicte & Véronique Laureys are having with it?
The 1958 Maserati 300S
Described by Sir Stirling Moss as one of the “nicest of all maseratis”, the 1958 300S, styled by Fantuzzi and owned by Andreas Mohringer of Austria, the 300S went on to become one of the most successful race cars of its era.