Sandy on Assignment: Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este…

July 31, 2014 Comments (2)

…It’s the Arrival that Counts

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Corrado Lopresto with his Alfa, hands off the Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este in front of Villa Erba.

Corrado Lopresto with his Alfa, hands off the Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este in front of Villa Erba.

Before starting to write this article, something sparked my curiosity. I began scrolling down past Sandy on Assignments and there they were… images of the very same cars I had just seen in Italy! It got me thinking. Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is not so much about winning… it’s about having arrived.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este from Lake Como.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este from Lake Como.

Going into this event, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Although hovering at the top of many enthusiasts bucket list, this event is private… a tribute to the world’s most celebrated automobiles and their owners and guests. I am speaking of Saturday at Villa d’Este, the ultimate motorsports garden party… an elegant affair for Concours level collectors, many of whom have already defined their success at Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Cavallino, and other European Concours, prior to gathering on the luxurious grounds of the Hotel Villa d’Este located in the quaint city of Cernobbio, northern Italy, on the shores of Lake Como. It is a weekend to enjoy themselves with their guests and mingle among their motorsports peers.

Friday afternoon scrutineering check-in at Villa d’Este.

Friday afternoon scrutineering check-in at Villa d’Este.

Friday check-in. The Trofeo Auto & Design prize for the most exciting design will go to this 1953 Maserati, A6GCS, Berlinetta, Pinin Farina.

Friday check-in. The Trofeo Auto & Design prize for the most exciting design will go to this 1953 Maserati, A6GCS, Berlinetta, Pinin Farina.

We wandered the grounds of Villa d’Este Friday afternoon, as the 51 exceptional and historic automobiles were arriving for the weekend and going through their initial check-in, a sort of scrutineering before heading down into the Hotel’s parking garage. We were excited to see several of the cars from this year’s Mille Miglia. So where were we on Saturday when this beauty pageant of automobiles, as the organizers define it, was taking place? On the ferry crisscrossing Lake Como, soaking in the breathtaking scenery of this beautiful lake with its seaside Villas… getting a glimpse of the event from a different vantage point!

The cars leave Villa d’Este early Sunday morning to line up here, on the lawn at Villa Erba.

The cars leave Villa d’Este early Sunday morning to line up here, on the lawn at Villa Erba.

Sunday, we attended the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, same name and same cars but the ‘sister’ event as I call it, which is open to the general public, on the grounds of neighboring Villa Erba. Also referred to as the Concours of Historic Cars, Sunday’s event, still lovely, is definitely not to be confused with… the real thing.

Open to the general public, Sunday’s Concorso at Villa Erba.

Open to the general public, Sunday’s Concorso at Villa Erba.

The Concorso was the other bookend to our two week stay in Italy and a wonderful opportunity to tie in a car event if you are anywhere in Italy the fourth weekend in May. After the start of the Mille Miglia, we headed out of Brescia to Sirmione on Lake Garda then down to Portofino and on to the Cinque Terra villages for several days, before visiting friends outside of Torino, another motorsports mecca and home to the Museo Nazionale Dell’Automobile in Turin. Going into our trip, I knew we would not be able to attend the private Concorso on Saturday, so it wasn’t a surprise, yet it may be to others heading off to this adventure. Plan accordingly.

The Concorso is steeped in Italian history. It was back on September 1, 1929 that over eighty entries from Italian and foreign car and coach builders and private owners were invited to Villa d’Este to take part in a contest to judge the beauty of what had become the most common means of transportation and leisure of the time. The publication, La Gazzetta dello Sport best described that first event in 1929, which is pretty much the same today. “All of motoring aristocracy will be required to parade before a cosmopolitan aristocratic audience gathered at Villa d’Este – a public that knows how to appreciate beauty – in this artistic contest of which the victor stands to win an exceptional prize: a solid Gold Cup, which in addition to its actual material worth in gold, will also have an enormous moral value.” The Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este still coveted today, and selected by Saturday’s invited public , was awarded this year to Italian collector Corrado Lopresto and his stunning open car entered in the Gone with the Wind category – his 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider, Zagato/Aprile. It was one of my favorites at Pebble Beach in 2012 and was Best in Show at the Boca Raton Concours in 2013!

For the best overall appearance of car, driver and passenger by the Jury, the Trofeo Roeckl prize went to the 1922 Hispano Suiza, H6 B, Sedanca Landaulette, Chapron and owner Alexandre Schaufler.

For the best overall appearance of car, driver and passenger by the Jury, the Trofeo Roeckl prize went to the 1922 Hispano Suiza, H6 B, Sedanca Landaulette, Chapron and owner Alexandre Schaufler.

From the Mille Miglia two weeks prior to the Concorso, the 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC, Spider, Scaglietti is stunning, in front of Villa d’Este.

From the Mille Miglia two weeks prior to the Concorso, the 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC, Spider, Scaglietti is stunning, in front of Villa d’Este.

Harking back to the roaring twenties and the roots of the event 85 years ago, this year’s theme was The Great Gatsby. In true Concours d’Elegance fashion, entrants in The Great Gatsby, Gone with the Wind and Gentleman Driver classes were dressed the part! After the first four years of the original event, venue and organizational changes began to occur, even the name of the event changed over the next eight years. Like the Mille Miglia, the event was suspended over the war years. It was the Italian coach builders who re-initiated the event in 1947. Unfortunately, after the last Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este was held with the new post-war vehicles in 1949, the industrialization affecting the coach building industry reached a crisis level, becoming so economically severe that the Concorso never took place again, in its original form. The event was basically forgotten for 40 years. Numerous attempts, with some success, were made to revive it between 1986 and 1997. At the end of the 1990s, the event attracted the attention of the BMW Group, which took sole responsibility as the patron of the Concorso between1990 to 2001. Since then, the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and the BMW Group have jointly supported the event.

The Trofeo FIVA award went to the best preserved pre-war car, the 1908 Rolls-Royce, Silver Ghost, Roi des Belges, Barker.

The Trofeo FIVA award went to the best preserved pre-war car, the 1908 Rolls-Royce, Silver Ghost, Roi des Belges, Barker.

Maserati Class winner, the 1929 Maserati, V4Sport, Spider Zagato.

Maserati Class winner, the 1929 Maserati, V4Sport, Spider Zagato.

This year, the Concorso was also paying tribute to the 110-year anniversary of Rolls-Royce, which debuted its models at the Paris Auto Salon in December 1904 and the anniversary of the legendary victory of the Mini in the Monte Carlo Rally 40 years ago. Another highlight was the centenary of Italian sports car maker Maserati. A relatively new addition to the Concorso Villa d’Este is the Concorso di Motociclette, with an array of 35 historically significant motorcycles. Also on display at Villa Erba were six concept cars and prototypes… quite the eye-candy.

For the most sensitive restoration, the Trofeo BMW Classic prize went to the 1936 Lancia, Astura Type 233, Cabriolet, Pinin Farina and owner Orin Smith with restorer Richard Gorman at his side.

For the most sensitive restoration, the Trofeo BMW Classic prize went to the 1936 Lancia, Astura Type 233, Cabriolet, Pinin Farina and owner Orin Smith with restorer Richard Gorman at his side.

As you can imagine, this is a who’s who of motorsports, so it wasn’t surprising to see several familiar faces. Collector and vintage race driver Andreas Mohringer from Austria, ever gracious and always willing to share anything you would like to know about his cars, was there with his 1957 Maserati 150 GT Prototype, which I had seen drive onto the fairway at Amelia to make its debut in 2013! Collector Orin Smith from Florida brought his 1936 Lancia, Astura Type 233, Cabriolet, Pinin Farina, which I had witnessed make its debut at Pebble Beach in 2012. Norman Dewis was front and center during the tech check-in next to the 1952 Jaguar XK 120, in which he had made the famous high speed run (172.412 MPH) on the Jabbeke/Ostend Route in Belgium in October 1953. A small select group of vendors were invited to Sunday’s event. Friend to MMR, the Suixtil historic clothing line was very popular.

The Concorso de Motociclette had its own award program in the same spirit of a Concorso d’Eleganza.

The Concorso de Motociclette had its own award program in the same spirit of a Concorso d’Eleganza.

If you are thinking of checking this event off your bucket list, I would suggest making Lake Como and all it has to offer your destination. Attending Sunday’s event at Villa Erba will be the icing on the cake! If you have a historic, concours ready vehicle, treat yourself and apply for an exclusive entry to Saturday and the weekend’s events! Getting to Cernobbio from anywhere around Lake Como, or northern Italy for that matter, is very easy. Entrants are guests at the Hotel Villa d’Este. For everyone else, available lodging anywhere in the immediate vicinity to Villa d’Este is booked months in advance and the rates inflated during this week. I would suggest doing your homework and staying at one of the quaint B&B style homes on the water, within an hour’s drive. We stayed on the eastern side of the Lake and the early Sunday morning drive was about 45 minutes. Once in Cernobbio, we followed the signs to P1 and P4 for parking, as there is none on the grounds of Villa Erba. Parking is a mere six euros and entry to Sunday’s Concours another 14 euros, a bargain for this prestigious event!

Spectators at Villa Erba enjoyed both a parade of automobiles and fashion models, all in the spirit of this magnificent Concorso d’Eleganza weekend!

Spectators at Villa Erba enjoyed both a parade of automobiles and fashion models, all in the spirit of this magnificent Concorso d’Eleganza weekend!

Once on the grounds of Villa Erba we walked between the show field, with glistening Lake Como as its backdrop and the staging area with open seating, to watch the car parade and awards presentation taking place early afternoon. Pictures speak louder than words, so I hope you get a feel for this magnificent weekend.

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Comments (2)

  1. Greg Sarni:
    Aug 01, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Great stuff Sandy!

  2. Bud Clauer:
    Nov 21, 2014 at 07:14 AM

    All that fuss going on @ Lake Como and no time to think 'Moto Guzzi'?
    Good fortune, B~


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