Lake Como is famous enough that the name is immediately evocative, of George Clooney, James Bond, holidaying oligarchs, la dolce vita. But the lake, shaped like an upside down “y”, is also home to one of the world’s greatest classic car contests, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.
Dedicated to cars from the 1920s till the 1980s, the Villa d’Este concours is one of the highlights of the automotive calendar, taking place on the carefully manicured lawn of the Villa d’Este hotel. The event has a long history, having been first put on in 1929, with a postwar hiatus before being revived in 1995.
Unlike auto shows that focus on new automobiles – think lime green supercars and car show girls in cavernous halls – events like the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este offer a carefully curated selection of remarkable classic cars competing for the top prize.
While the vintage automobiles on show at Villa d’Este are immensely valuable, many are worth millions, the event isn’t garish or preening. Rather, it is nuanced and refined; cars are judged on originality, condition, restoration, and provenance – qualities a watch collector can immediately appreciate. One of the prizes given out at the event is “For the most sensitive restoration”.
The winner of the event’s top prize, the “Best in Show”, went to a 1954 Maserati A6 GCS with coachwork by Pininfarina and a participant in the 1955 Mille Miglia. Its remarkable lines were the work of Aldo Brovarone, then the chief designer at Pininfarina. Interestingly, however, the design was originally intended for a company that went bust before the car made it into production. Subsequently Brovarone’s boss, Battista “Pinin” Farina, put the design on a Maserati.
Alongside a trophy, the “Best in Show” winner also received a one of a kind Lange 1 Time Zone in white gold, with “Como replacing Berlin on the cities disc, as well as a thoroughly unusual hunter back engraved with the coat of arms of the Villa d’Este.
“Cars of the stars”
Some of the classic cars on show had glittering past owners, including a pair of Ferraris once owned by Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. Also on show was a one-off silver Testarossa Spider (the only one actually made by Ferrari and not a coach builder) originally constructed for Gianni Agnelli, the industrialist whose family controlled Ferrari.
And the winner of the event’s public prize, the Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este, went to a dirty green 1933 Lancia Astura II Serie Berlinetta that was first owned by Vittorio Mussolini, the Fascist dictator’s second son.
Alongside the classic cars were a half dozen concept cars, including the Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo that was inspired by the video game of the same name, as well as the gorgeous styled and deliciously named Alfa Romeo Disco Volante.
Your correspondent was a guest at the 2016 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este thanks to A. Lange & Söhne, one of the event’s sponsors (the title sponsor is BMW). Here’s a pictorial report on the proceedings.
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