There was a time, in the early days of the automobile industry, when car designers let their imaginations fly, unencumbered by the burdens of safety regulation, road-worthiness tests or even the now all-important ‘comfort factor’. It was an era when looks and speed were the primary considerations when making a car when the distinction between race cars and road cars was very ambiguous, and fuel efficiency was not a barrier when designing a vehicle. That period lasted roughly 50 years, beginning in the 1920s and ending in the 1970s. The era produced some of the most magnificently designed cars ever. Some were designed only for flamboyance, some for speed, some for speed and elegance and yet others for luxurious opulence. In an era characterised by self-parking and driverless cars, the nostalgia for these classic cars is now at an all-time high around the world, as can be seen from the thousands that throng classic car shows globally
For the connoisseur, the classic car show circuit consists of three by-invite-only shows, the most prestigious of which is the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, held in late May on the stunning grounds of the historic Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and the nearby Villa Erba, on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy.
The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is the most prestigious by invite only event in the classic car show circuit. It is held in May every year on the shores of Lake Como, in northern Italy
Literally meaning ‘Competion of Elegance on Villa d’Este’, the Italian show has a history that goes back to 1929, when it was first started as an exhibition of newly launched cars of that era. Now organized by the BMW group along with Villa d’Este, the show still retains its exclusivity, allowing only a few dozen special chosen cars and bikes to exhibit every year.
This year’s show was held under the slogan of `Hollywood on the Lake’ and saw the participation of 51 cars and 30 motorcycles from 53 manufacturers, spread over a period between 1907 and 1985, covering all eras of vehicle and film history. In keeping with the theme of the show, the BMW group also put up a parallel exhibition titled ‘Movie Cars and Bikes’, which showcased iconic vehicles that played a leading role in famous movies, including the classic Mini driven by Mister Bean and the original cars used in James Bond films and the Mission Impossible series. An added attraction was the participation of concept cars and bikes, machines that showcased what the future of automobiles will look like.
The three-day show culminates in a competition judged by some of the world’s best-known experts on classic cars and bikes. This year, the cars and bikes were divided into eight classes, with names like The Titans: Dirt, Dust and Danger, From Manhattan to Mayfair: The Golden Age of Motoring Opulence and Shaped by the Wind: Grandes Routières of the Art Deco Era, covering the entire spectrum of automotive history. Three special classes honoured cars from famous Hollywood films, collector owned Formula One cars and the best-preserved cars. The Concorso di Motociclette was held for the eighth time this year, featuring motorcycles and sidecar combinations produced by 25 different manufacturers between 1907 and 1969.
A look through the winning machines from the competition captures the sheer visual delight of being at Villa d’Este.
Trofeo BMW Group, Best of Show: 1958 Ferrari 335 Sport Spider by Scaglietti.
Owned by Austrian entrepreneur Andreas Mohringer, it is the world’s most coveted Ferrari and among the most expensive cars in the world. Made in the late 1950s, it was, for a long time, the most powerful car on the planet, the 4-litre, V12 engine capable of 430 hp and a top speed of 200 mph. Only four were made, of which one was destroyed in the famous Mille Miglia crash of 1957, which famously lead to sweeping reforms in racing. The last one that came up for auction two years ago saw a furious bidding war between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, with the Argentinian emerging the victor, plonking down $37.5 million for the car. This car also triumphed in Class E, Speed Meets Style: The Flowering of the Sports and Racing Car category.
Coppa D’oro Villa D’este and Trofeo BMW Group Italia: 1968 Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale Coupé.
Voted the Best of Show by the public, this beauty, with dihedral doors, is just 39-inches high. Only 18 of these cars were produced by Alfa Romeo in the late 1960s, of which 13 had this design. Because the car body was designed and made by various companies like Bertone and Pininfarina, no two cars look the same. Its 2.0-litre V8 engine puts out 230 hp and it has a top speed of 160 mph. Creature comforts inside the car are minimal, and on a hot May day at the show, the Swiss owner Albert Spiess drove it around with the doors raised.
Trofeo BMW Group Ragazzi: 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero by Bertone.
This strikingly futuristic looking car from 1970, with a front-opening door, was chosen for a prize that is based on a poll of youngsters under the age of 16. Powered by a 1.6-litre V4 engine, the car had its most famous moment in Michael Jackson’s movie Moonwalker. At the parade, American billionaire owner Phillip Sarofim created a stir when he opened the front-opening door of the car to reveal him sitting with his current girlfriend, the singer Avril Lavigne. For its appearance in the Michael Jackson movie, this car was also the winner in the Class G, Hollywood On The Lake: Stars Of The Silver Screen category.
Concorso d’Eleganza Design Award for Concept Cars & Prototypes: 2018 Ferrari SP38 Coupé.
This amazing looking one-off Ferrari, with a prominent tapered nose, designed by the legendary Flavio Manzoni, is based on the supercar maker’s famous 488 GTB. Ferrari fans also see a resemblance to another famous Ferrari, the F40. Ferrari has revealed nothing about the engine, but the speculation is that it is a 492 kW 3.9-litre turbocharged V8.
Class A, The Titans, Dirt, Dust And Danger: 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix.
The last of the famous Grand Prix racing cars designed and made by the legendary Ettore Bugatti, whose factory at Molsheim in northeastern France was destroyed during World War II, (he died in 1947 and with that, so did the company). Only six of these were made. It is now owned by the famous product designer Marc Newsom, whose many creations include the Apple Watch. Ralph Lauren owns one of the other five.
Class B, From Manhattan To Mayfair, The Golden Age Of Motoring Opulence: 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom Brougham deVille.
This Phantom, whose body was made by American coach maker Brewster to suit the extravagant demands of rich buyers in the US in that era, personifies the opulence of the jazz age. Every exposed metal part is gold plated, and the faux wicker basket at the back is gold varnished. The driver was exposed to the elements, and so his seat was in leather, while the rich occupants at the back travelled in luxurious comfort. Now owned by French collector Frederic Leroux, it was once personally driven by Nelson Rockefeller.
Class C, Shaped By The Wind, Grandes Routières Of The Art Deco Era: 1936 Lancia Astura Serie III Cabriolet by Pinin Farina.
An 18-foot long, four-seat cabriolet, this one is among the most famous early cars designed by the legendary Pinin Farina, who at that time was still known by his original name of Battista Farina. Only six of these cars were made. Despite its massive size, the car, with its 3-litre V8 engine, did quite well in pre-war road races, including the Mille Miglia and Giro d’Italia, averaging a top speed of 53.6 mph. It is owned by the British-born Swiss lawyer and Lancia collector, Anthony MacLean.
Class D, New World, New Ideas, The Story of the GT: 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta by Pinin Farina.
The 3-litre, V12 engine of this Ferrari, which generates 260 hp, made it one of the fastest cars of the early 1960s, winning the GT Class of the 1961 Constructor Championship, the Paris 1000 km, the Tour de France Automobile and finishing 3rd in the 1961 Le Mans 24 hours. Only 158 of these cars were built between 1959 and 1962. One of them was recently sold for $13.5 million.
Class F, 80 Years Of Automotive Archaeology: 1913 SCAT 25/35 HP Landaulet.
SCAT (Società Ceirano Automobili Torino), a name now forgotten, was one of the pioneers of the Italian automobile industry. One of the brands they created and sold went on to become the modern-day Fiat. This beautifully restored beauty is owned by one of the world’s most respected vintage car collectors, a Milanese architect turned entrepreneur Corrado Lopresto.
Class H, When Sex Was Safe And Racing Was Dangerous, Formula One: 1985 McLaren MP4/2B Monoposto.
This Grand Prix car is from McLaren’s most successful era in racing, between 1984 and 1986, when it won three driver’s titles and two constructor’s title. Alain Prost drove this car in 9 out of the 16 races in the 1985 season, of which he won four and was in third place thrice. It is now owned by Gerhard Berger, the Austrian F1 driver from the same era.
Trofeo BMW Group Best of Show by the Jury & Class C, New Ideas for The 1950s: Moto Major, 1948, owned by Deutsches Zweiradund NSU-Museum, Germany
Trofeo Villa Erba Best of Show by Public Poll & Class B, Luxury On 3 Wheels: Brough Superior SS80, 1939, owned by Daniel Kessler, Switzerland
Special Prize by the Jury: Indian Twin-Cylinder, 1907, Frank Grahl, Germany
Class A, Golden Years for American Motorcycles: Thor Model U, 1913, Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum, Austria
Class E, New clothes on British and German Motorcycles: Indian Clymer Italjet Enfield, 1969, Pasquale Mesto, Italy
Class D, Winning Italian Singles, 250 CC Grand Prix Motorcycles: Moto Guzzi Bialbero, 1953, Antonio Frigerio, Italy
Two World Premiers
BMW, the main sponsor and organiser of the Concorso d’Eleganza, used the opening of the show to premiere its much talked about Rolls-Royce SUV Cullinan and launch the BMW Motorrad Concept bike.
The Cullinan, named after the world’s biggest diamond, is by all counts the most important launch by Rolls-Royce in over a century. The storied brand’s first SUV lived up to all the hype that has surrounded it over the last few months and is being metaphorically hailed as the Rolls- Royce of SUVs. As Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls- Royce said at the event “ Our Rolls-Royce Cullinan defines the possibilities and the scale of luxury anew. It embodies luxury in its purest form, combined with perfect utility and the highest possible off-road capabilities.” Besides the uber-plush interiors, along the lines of any Rolls-Royce, among the things that one gets for Rs 5 crore (the rumoured price in India) is all-wheel drive with all-wheel steering, electronically controlled air suspension, night vision, active cruise control, multi-camera surround-view system, high-resolution head-up display etc. Under the hood sits a 6.75-litre, 563 horsepower, twin-turbocharged V12 engine that can do a top speed of 155 mph. SUVs are guaranteed to be never the same again.
The BMW Motorrad Concept 9cento, on the other hand, is less flashy and more about functionality and riding pleasure. “It doesn’t always have to be about ‘bolder, bigger, brighter’ nowadays: this concept bike focusses on achieving a sense of balance,” says Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design, BMW Motorrad. “We’ve created a bike that combines the appropriate power with reliable sports touring properties and, above all, lots of riding fun, so it’s an attractive overall package. It brings together the best of the sports, adventure and touring segments to produce an exciting concept – in a class which has not seen this kind of model from BMW before. The BMW Motorrad Concept 9cento is our interpretation of a modern all-rounder for the new midrange segment.” Conceived largely as a touring bike, its compact look encompasses stand out properties like the striking styling of the fairing, fuel tank and frame, distinctive headlights, rear lights (which are integrated underneath the seat) and, most importantly, an innovative storage space concept comprising a clip-on case element that extends the seating area for the passenger. It can be hooked into the rear carrier from above if required, attached securely to the lower section of the rear carrier with a powerful electromagnet.