Report and photos by Dirk de Jager
The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2012 was held on the weekend of 25-27 May on the grounds of the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and neighbouring Villa Erba on Lake Como in Cernobbio, Italy.
Concours are all about tradition, and BMW realized the full potential of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este when in they took over the organisation of one of the grandest Concours in 1999 after being absent for nearly three decades. Located at Lake Como in the north of Italy at one the Leading Hotels of the World: the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este. This former summer residence for the cardinal of Como with its 25 acres of gardens became the backdrop in 1929 to one of Europe’s leading Concours.
It is recognized again as Europe’s premier event with only 51 hand-picked classic cars on show. Spread out over nine classes, not counting the concept and prototype class, with often general topics and only a select clearly defined themes, the quality of cars is mind-blowing. Every car here is present for a special reason, whether it’s a rare one-off, a gorgeous unrestored car or due to its history. Either way, all the owners are very fortunate and proud to show off their prized possessions in this exclusive setting.
The 2012 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este starts with Graceful Open Air Style and delivers convertibles from the roaring twenties and thirties. Examples included a 1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Picadelly Roadster where the owners opted to dress up in period or the only 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster build on a short chassis.
Sometimes the class names can be revealing or in this case pretty widespread. Interpretations of Elegance is the title to the second group and stands for the timeless aesthetics in any form of the automobile from the ’30s. You cannot find a wider spread selection then this group, starting out with a Talbot AV105 James Young Sports Tourer to an Alfa Romeo 6C2300 Pescara Spider down to the elegant Delahaye 145 Chapron Coupe to finish with a Chrysler Town & Country. This eclectic mix of cars shows of perfectly the variety of automobiles present at Villa d’Este.
As in class C: The Art of Streamling you can only expect coupes. The kickoff is with a Figoni-bodied Alfa Romeo 6C1750 GS that was the 1933 Paris salon car and even finished 6th overall in the 1935 Le Mans 24 Hours race, although for that brief racing stint the car received an open body luckily to be swapped back afterwards to this graceful coupe body. Other entrants include a Voisin C25 similar to last year’s Pebble Beach winner and a Tatra of course not be omitted from this category. Yet the surprise to everybody was the 1947 Volkhart V2 Sagitta. A car that was unknown to most. This one-off streamlined design was build Kurt C Volkhart on a commission by the German government during the war to build a fast and fuel efficient car, yet he continued to work on his own car even after the war had already ended. In the end he only made one car that with it’s 24.5HP engine managed a top speed of 150km/h.
The next category was for Little Jewels or small interesting cars. Mostly this refers to the “typical” Etceterinis and you would be right, the entire class is filled with little Italian sports cars bar one: a Porsche 550! Present are two Abarth, an experimental OSCA intended for Le Mans and a 750cc Moretti.
The group Stars of the Rock’n’Roll era clearly states the cars for the rich and famous or the playboy’s from the ’50s. It is no surprise to find two Ferrari’s here, although to see 212’s is pretty rare. Its competitors are the sleek BMW 507, Maserati A6G 2000, the unavoidable but oh so popular Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and the most “normal” of the group – Porsche 365 A Cabriolet.
Next up we have a Ferrari only field, reserved only for the 250 GT Dynasty. The 250 GT is probably the series that might be Ferrari’s biggest and best known. Models that cannot be missed here are of course a SWB, Lusso, Europa and a California Spider. No matter how beautiful and loved these models are, they where all overshadowed by the two final contestants in the categorie. A one-off Vignale bodied 250GT and David Sydorick’s 0515GT, Zagato’s masterpiece created in 1956. It was no surprise to anyone that this car was first in class.
La Dolce Vita group shows of the famous sports and luxury cars that were available to the businessman with the extravagant lifestyle. All top-end Italian sports cars with a Maserati 5000GT that boasted the engine of a pure racing machine and a Ferrari 400 Superamerica that was reserved for the company’s most exclusive and wealthy clientele. A Lancia Flaminia prototype and the Ferrari Daytona Prototype fill up the range before two raging bulls fill up the rankings. It is hard to get more extravagant then the most ultimate Miura: SV Jota or the one car that was almost standard in every teenage boy’s bedroom wall – the wildy kick-ass Countach!
After such “violence” it is a bit shocking to go back to the Gentlemen’s Sports Cars. Predominantly filled with luxurious grand touring Bentleys and Alfas and a rare Alvis, you will be quickly drawn towards the cars parked across from them – the Heroes of Le Mans.
Kicking off the Le Mans class is the Jaguar D-type, one of Jags most famous designs and revered cars, only to be flanked by in this writer’s modest opinion one of the most beautiful racing cars every designed – the Aston Martin DBR1. This chassis came in 2nd OA in the 1959 behind its sister car. A further two more Ferrari’s head this group, bringing the total of Prancing Horse to twelve this year! You can never go wrong with showing up with a 250 GTO and a 250 LM next to it. Officially two evolutions from each other, yet the FIA didn’t fall for this rouse and denied the LM to race under the GT category. As the second to last car a Ford can’t of course be missing from the roll call. A GT40 Mk III, one of the seven road going versions and finally back on the open road after being locked away in a museum for 30 years. The final car was immortalized by Steve McQueen in his most famous movie role: Le Mans. Naturally we are talking about the 917K in its iconic Gulf livery! The best part about this car that it is still with its first owner and unrestored, a pretty hard combination to beat.
BMW also brought over from the Petersen Collection the Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe. Yet since this car was re-bodied in 1935 means that the car is not eligible for a FIVA passport and can’t participate in the Concours. Perhaps luckily for the other contenders since this car with its extravagant looks, the special features and the round door would be the biggest showstopper.
Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is always a bit special compared to other events since they have three Best of Shows, one given by the Jury and two more by public referendum. The first on Saturday selected by the invitees and on Sunday by the general public at Villa Erba about 1km down the road. This year a rare hat trick was scored by the Figoni-bodied Alfa Romeo. This car, fresh from its restoration, was last on a Concours field in 1933 and has since never been shown at any event, walked away with all three top honours. The last time that anybody managed this was when Ralph Lauren showed his Mercedes-Benz Trossi Roadster. The next outing for this Alfa will be this summer at the famed 18th hole at Pebble Beach.
source: Sports Car Digest