When talking Italy with foreign friends, many are those who’ll tell you of their trip to Rome, Florence or Venice. Fewer will come up with memories of a visit to Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast or Sicily. But only a selected few, generally the most discerning and elegant, will mention Lake Como as their go-to destination when paying a visit to the Bel Paese.
Author: Alvise Mori
Pictures by: Alvise Mori and Chris Leustean for Milano16V
Organizers: Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este and BMW GROUP
It is, indeed, a place where elegance, beauty and easy life - blend together effortlessly. Ever since the 17th century, lake Como has been the preferred location for the milanese nobility to spend off-duty days; countless are the beautiful villas that stipple the lakeside, most of which are now owned by actors, politicians or millionaires.
It comes as no surprise, then, that this heavenly setting has been chosen, in 1929, to home the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, one of the major events held yearly around the globe to celebrate elegance on wheels.
Initially meant to award contemporary cars - the first winner was an Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A - and interrupted in 1947, it was then relaunched in 1986 with a focus on historical cars (funnily enough, the winner in 1986 was again an Isotta Fraschini 8A, this time with a slightly different “Super Sport” coachwork). However, a “Design Concept Award” is given each year to the most beautiful contemporary car, generally a one-off, a concept, or a limited production car (picture by Concorso d'Eleganza).
We attended the Concorso on Sunday, when all the action is set in Villa Erba: the amount of rare and beautiful classics was simply hard to believe.
Many of the most elusive cars ever produced were represented, and of course by either perfectly preserved or restored exemplaries. A Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta? Check. A Mercedes 300SL Gullwing? There. Not one, but two Miuras (including a SV)? Both present. The list could go on, but it would be a shame to just mention the names without a focus on some of the most attractive four wheelers seen there.
So let’s start with the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato. It is worth quoting what Simon Kidston - heart and soul of the Concorso, as well as one of the most celebrated classic cars dealer in the world - once said: “Isn’t it typical that probably the best looking British car ever is actually half Italian?”. The one parked in the sublime setting of Villa Erba’s garden was number 0178, the only one originally finished in Range Rosso and one of only eight with left drive side.
Even though the uncommon color can be upsetting for some, as it’s not as understated as the R.S.W. Green chosen by most, it’s still undeniably one of the most beautiful, elegant and well proportioned cars ever to come out of both Aston Martin and Zagato. Add to that the fact that Ercole Spada was only 23, at the time when he designed it, and you’ll truly understand how special this car is.
Step just a few meters aside, and a Ferrari 275 GTB (this too in an uncommon color, a burnt metallic orange) would show up to your eye. But it was the other Ferrari 275 GTB gracing the lawns of Villa Erba the one which commanded more attention: it was, indeed, number 09051, one of only twelve GTB/C’s ever built, which some of you might remember from its record sale at Goodings in 2017, when the hammer fell at an astonishing $14.520.000. Already awarded for Best Restoration at Pebble Beach, the car has been a show stopper the whole day. At a certain point the owner, who sat smiling beside it from morning until afternoon, opened the bonnet, gathering an even larger crowd in contemplation of the engine, the ultimate single-cam Colombo 275cc.
The runner-ups for the Design Concept Awards were also a source of amusement for many. Aside from the impressive, yet arguably attractive Bugatti Voiture Noire, at the time already sold for that whopping €11m yet not fully operative, there were several more discreet cars, such as the Austro Daimler Bergmeister ADR 630 Shooting Grand (try to say that faster), the charming Peugeot e-Legend and the aggressive Ares Design Panther.
If the name and the pictures make you think about the De Tomaso Pantera, you’re definitely right: it is, indeed, a sort of hommage to the glorious Italian supercar from the Seventies, artisanally built in Italy (most specifically in Emilia Romagna) by a small team of engineers and designers. Based on the Lamborghini Huracan, it basically only retains the original chassis and engine, both heavily modified. Everything else has been designed from scratch, and the results, both in terms of aesthetics and sound, are plain stunning.
As the day was bringing to a close, all the cars lined up to parade on the red carpet in front of the public, ready to find out who the winner would be (spoiler: it was the 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900/B, which brought home both the jury and the public Coppa d’Oro).
It was also the moment for the public debut of the rebuilt BMW Garmisch, a long lost futuristic concept designed by Marcello Gandini for the 1970 Geneva Salon, and later dismantled.
We took some moments to admire its lines - still contemporary to these days - but it was time for us to leave: we were awaited at Fuoriconcorso, the first in a series of exclusive parties by Larusmiani, held just a few villas away.