GALLERY: Peek Into The Underground Garage Where The World’s Top Concours Autos Sleep
Photography by Patrice Minol
The grounds of Villa d’Este, host of the world-famous Concorso d’Eleganza, make up what is perhaps the ultimate backdrop for beautiful automobiles and the well-dressed folks who’ve come to look at them. With a wide view of Lake Como, there are Rivas and hydroplanes slicing through the deep blue of the water and the lighter shade of the sky, with the occasional helicopter adding to the vehicular display. In short, it’s a remarkable place to hold a “car show.” Even the parking area outside the main space reveals treasures, as can be seen below.
But with that said, the almost literally hidden side of the event can be even more interesting. Because the cars are surrounded by other works of mechanical and architectural art during the main show, their individual specialness is diluted. Set them somewhere comparatively mundane though, and we get a little bit of the so-called “in the wild” factor that returns some of that otherworldly status back them. I’m talking about the parking garage where most of the contestants’ cars spend the night before the big show. Populated with Concorso autos, the underground-cave-like space makes for the perfect minimalistic contrast to the villa above. There are also some cars not in the running for the trophies, but regardless, there is no lack of drool-producers here.
Without the throngs of people and their cameras and phones held high, it is almost eerily empty in comparison to the event that the cars are waiting for. They seem more alive down here, like hibernating predators or stashed treasure, depending on which one we’re looking at. Some, like the jaw-dropping Herb Adams-designed Pontiac Vivant and Pininfarina-penned Ferrari Modulo, fall squarely into both camps. They look radical regardless of what’s around them, but the stark concrete and stone tableau allow one to picture the impossible scenario of stumbling upon them in an office parking structure—even though this is among the most exclusive garages on the planet, it still offers a similar kind of juxtaposition between ultra-rare cars and banality that makes something like a Miura more fun to spot sitting in traffic than neatly arranged on a golf course lawn.
The 1953 O.S.C.A MT4 Spider was my favorite to spend time with though. A car company founded by the Maserati brothers when they returned to Bologna in 1947, O.S.C.A.s are always a treat to take in in person. There is said to be only 72 MT4s built in period, and as is the fate of many of its contemporaries, far fewer have survived.
Among the exceptional group of cars parked underneath Villa d’Este for the 2019 event, there was also the Concorso’s 2018 winner: a Ferrari 355 Sport, which looks every bit as beautiful as a 250 TR, but goes a bit further by the tune of some 430hp from its V12. It is said that only three such cars remain in existence, so I felt of course very lucky to have the chance to admire this one, and the same can be said for everything it shared this lovely staging area with.