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Cernobbio 25th-26th of May

Last weekend saw this year's Concorso d´Eleganza in the famous gardens of the Villa d´Este and the nearby Villa Erba at the Lake Como. First held in 1929 the original Concours was one of the most important shows for the designers in an era when most of the premium manufacturers delivered rolling chassis to be bodied to the taste of the owner at various independent coachbuilder. Especially the Italian and French names of Touring, Pinin Farina, Zagato, Castagna, Figoni & Falaschi, Franay or Saoutchik but also the in-house design of Mercedes-Benz or Erdmann & Rossi from Berlin could be found in the entry lists of the time showing their latest creations at the glamorous five-star hotel at Como.

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When the monocoque revolutionized the automobile design the variety of the pre-war years came to an end as just a few manufacturers like Ferrari or Maserati offered different body design on the same chassis whereas most of the new models had a fixed design either from the own design department or the few surviving styling houses. This meant that the amount of one- offs was reduced to the various Concept Cars or special orders from wealthy individualists leading to the end of the classic concours as most of the new models were shown on the big sale shows in Paris, Geneva, London or Frankfurt on this side of the Atlantic or in New York on the other side.

In the mid 1980s the Concorso d´Eleganza was revived as an classic car event building up a superb reputation attracting some of the most important cars from all over the world over the next years. When BMW took over the event in 1999 this secured the financial future of the Concorso as this is a rather small show compared to the big American Concours making it impossible to raise the needed funds just by the tickets sales. More than just a main sponsor the BMW group also delivers the needed logistic and press work for an event of this prestige. Today the concours features a private day on invitation in the garden of the Villa d´Este and a public day at the nearby Villa Erba attracting more than 6000 visitors this year.

The Days of Elegance officially started on Friday when the entered cars arrived at the grounds of the Villa d´Este to get their final inspection from the FIA representatives and the entrants checked in at the hotel. Unfortunately the weather on Friday was just as indicated the days before in the weather forecast so the cars just disappeared in the underground parking to avoid the rain showers instead of being set up on the various locations in the gardens to take some pictures to remember.

In the late afternoon the sun was out for a few hours giving the needed conditions for the evening reception in front of the hotel with the unveiling of the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe, a new premium coupé based on the 7-series.

Unfortunately the weather did not really improve over the night and big clouds were hanging over the Lake Como when the cars left the parking lot early in the morning to be set up an the historic grounds. Among the first cars entering the field where the two absolute stars of this event, the two Pebble Beach winning entrants from the US. Being used to the very early beginning of the American events where the cars are set up even before sunrise the 2012 winning Mercedes 680S Saoutchik was driving in by restorer Paul Russell before all the other cars just followed by the long awaited Bugatti T57 SC Atlantic. Owned by American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren the Bugatti was a rumoured entrant several times over the last years before finally finding its way to Como this year. Restored by Paul Russell as well this gem gave Ralph Lauren his first Best of Show at Pebble Beach back in 1990 and now, 23 years later the car is still in immaculate condition. Six years ago his Trossi Mercedes SSK already made a sensational debut at the Villa d´Este but with his personal appearance this year Ralph Lauren caused even more interest, the car was surrounded on both days by the spectators and as soon as the famous owner was around things went well over the top causing a crowd never seen before as everyone was keen on taking a picture of him in front of his car.

The Bugatti T57 SC Atlantic is one of just four build to this design (including the prototype called “Electron”) and one of just two surviving original examples. The sister car was in all media when sold in 2010 for a record price in a private sale, this example (Chassis 57591) might be even worth more as it is considered even more original although it is painted in Mr. Lauren's favourite black colour scheme rather than the original blue. All four examples feature some special design elements, this car for example is the only one with external chromed head lamps rather than integrated in the front fenders and it has uncovered rear wheels making the rear a little less heavy compared to the low front with the typical v-formed radiator of the SC-chassis.

Unsurprisingly this car was not just the favourite of the public giving it both the Coppa d´Oro Villa d´Este (public vote at the Villa d´Este) and the Public Referendum at the Villa Erba but also the Trofeo BMW Group by the international Jury. This is just the third time that one entrant could take home all three top honours after the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta in 2009 and last year's winning Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Figoni Coupé.

Unfortunately this left the sensational Mercedes-Benz 680 S Saoutchik Torpedo Roadster just with the Best in Class award although this would have been a certain contender for the top prizes in every other year. Chassis 35949 was ordered by Charles Levine in 1928 but he never took delivery of the car. It was repainted from the original grey to a more stylish yellow to sell the car on the 1929 New York Motor Show. The car remained in the first owners family for almost 8 decades before it was first sold in 2006 prior ending up in the current ownership just recently. The car was brought back to its original specification with a pigeon grey exterior and a very extravagant red lizard-skin interior (made of 760 lizards) by the skilled hands of Paul Russell's restoration team and took the top honours at last year's Pebble Beach Concours in its post-restoration debut. Compared with the Bugatti it is easy to see that the design of the 1930s is a little bit more pleasing as the longer wheelbase and the higher radiator of the 1920s Supercharged Straight Six Mercedes-Benz chassis gave the designer a bigger challenge to create a sportive two-seater. Even with low windscreen of the Saoutchik design the Mercedes looks much more massive than the design of Jean Bugatti on the later Atlantic.

The other cars beside the Mercedes in the class A (Kings of the Road) included the big Hispano-Suiza Cabriolet de Ville, an elegant Isotto Fraschini 8A Torpedo Castagna and a duo of Rolls- Royce. Whereas the Continental II was a more common Sedanca by Gurney Nutting the Wraith was coach build by Erdmann & Rossi, back in 1939 this was very uncommon to bring a British car to a German design house due to the tensions between the two countries just before the war. Last but not least one of two Mercedes-Benz of the Straight Eight era with in-house Sindelfingen design was the 540 K Cabriolet A (the very same car that was sold at the RM auction at the same venue two years earlier), the other one leading directly to the next class.

Class B (Thoroughbreds) included beside the already mentioned Bugatti Atlantic a fantastic Mercedes-Benz 500 K Special Roadster. For many this is the best design on this model range with the floating lines on the back. Today many of the less attractive Cabriolet B and C are converted to this body style but the few remaining original Special Roadsters are amongst the most valuable pre-war cars in today´s market as can be seen by the last example sold by Gooding&Company last year in Monterey for more than 11,7 million $. The car in Como is known as the “Butcher´s Car” due to its remarkable history as the car was bought by a butcher in the 1950s. He drove the car as long as he could afford it but increasing petrol prices in this era took the car of the road and into storage where it was rediscovered three decades later when a wall was taken down behind the butcher shop for reconstruction work. Since then the car was restored to concours winning condition and was part of the Rosso Bianco collection in Aschaffenburg (Germany) before it found its way into the superb Louwman Collection in the Netherlands. Other entrants were the Rolls-Royce Phantom I, an experimental chassis with Boat tail body by Javis, a small BMW 328 as a rare Wendler Cabriolet and a classic Zagato design, the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Grand Sport that just completed the Mille Miglia the week before. Just as the MG in a later class a good polish made forget the gruelling tour through the bad weather of the MM. The class was rounded off by a Lagonda LG45 Rapide.

Class C was dedicated to the years of transition after the war. As mentioned above the time of the coachbuilders came to an end and just a few of them survived the transition to the monocoque era just as some manufacturers did not survive that change. A duo of Talbot-Lago designed by Franay and Letourneur et Marchard are good examples for this era, or the Stabilimenti Farina designed Jaguar MKVII. Others like H-J.Mulliner or Park Ward became the coachbuilders for the standard design of Bentley and Rolls-Royce. The last of the cars in this class was the Ferrari 500 Superfast prototype (s/n 5951SF) representing the time when Pininfarina became the favoured designer for the whole Ferrari range in the early 1960s. This car featured some unique details not found on the later cars including the bulge on the bonnet or different side vents.

The first of this year's anniversary classes featured the centenary of Aston Martin in class D. Aston Martin was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. Starting to built cars for small races and hill climbs the company was named after its founder and the local Aston hill climb. Before the war the company changed hands a few times with its most successful era in the early 1930s when the 1.5 litre model had some success in the international racing with class wins at Le Mans or the Ulster TT. Unfortunately this part of the history was not honoured in Como as the earliest car already dated from the David Brown era after the war. The “Spa Replica” is one of the first cars built after the war based on the Atom-Prototype and a 2-litre engine and won outright the 1948 Spa 24 hours. This was the base for the DB race program that led to the Le Mans victory in 1959 with the DBR1 and this car already features the three-piece grill of the later DB2 that was the first proper car with the David Brown signet in the name.

The second car in the class is one of the most famous Aston Martin of all time, the DB4 GT Zagato lightweight with the famous registration number “2VEV”. After David Brown achieved his goal of winning Le Mans in an own car and after the unfortunate excursion into formula 1 Aston Martin had no official race program any more. Nevertheless there was a “semi-works” Essex Racing Stable by John Ogier who entered two special commissioned DB4 GT Zagato in the hands of such famous drivers as Jim Clark and Roy Salvadori in Le Mans and Goodwood. At the end of its active racing (a replacement was already ordered by Ogier) “2VEV” was driven by the Equipe National Belge with Lucien Bianchi in Spa 1962 where the car was badly crashed. For tax reasons the ordered new lightweight car was numbered to the Chassis number of the crashed car and took over its place in the future (this is why just 19 and not 20 Zagatos exist). The “new 2VEV” was later driven by Jim Clark in the Tourist Trophy were it collided with John Surtees´ Ferrari 250 GTO. This lightweight design features a lowered roof line and front to reduce drag and a very thin aluminium racing body and might be the best looking DB4 GT Zagato.

Two of the other three cars in this class have one thing in common: they both appeared on TV. The DB4 Cabriolet was the car that was intended to be driven over the cliffs in the original “The Italian Job” and was reunited in Como with one of the Mini drivers in the movie who was also responsible for the acquisition of the film cars including a Lancia Flaminia Cabriolet to “double” the Aston in its ride over the edge.

The orange DBS is more known due to its typical colour: it was the transport of Lord Sinclair (Roger Moore) in the 1970s TV- series “The Persuaders” wearing its famous registration “BS1”.

Class E was dedicated to the two famous companies from Modena, Ferrari and Maserati. Just as the previous special exhibition in the Casa Enzo Ferrari (Enzo Ferrari´s birth house) this class was named “Prancing Horse vs. Trident” in a time when Ferrari and Maserati were main rivals on the track and the road. Three cars each from the early 1950s and 1960s displayed some of the best designs on the twelve and six cylinder cars. The earliest one was the 212 Ferrari Export Barchetta by Touring (0136E) brought over from the US. The pendant at this time was the Maserati A6G 2000 built in two series in 1950 and later in 1954. Three cars were shown in Como with a Frua Cabriolet (s/n 2030) representing the first series and a unique Zagato Spider (s/n 2101) and another Frua Spider (2182) representing the second series. The Zagato Spider is a very unique car displayed recently in Modena but not few had the opinion that the Zagato design suits better in the coupé version. The two Frua designs were very different with a vertical radiator mask on the older version and the later horizontal design on the later one giving it a lower elegant appearance.

The class was rounded off by two representatives of the Ferrari 250 series, an open headlight SWB California Spider (2505GT) and a Street SWB Berlinetta (2649GT). The later one had some exclusive features for its first owner including chromed vents and a special leather covered dashboard.

Class F was called California Dreaming and was dedicated to the small roadsters and spiders that were very popular in the sunny climate of California. With small or even without weather protection they were specially designed for this important market just as the Porsche 356 Speedster. As the normal Cabriolet featured a padded hood, side windows and a massive windscreen frame the Speedster had a unpadded hood and a spartan interior. Maybe the most elegant and open air possibility to drive a Fiat 8V engine was the Siata 208S. Although not specially designed for the American Market most of these cars were sold to the sunshine state, the car in Como was in immaculate condition in an elegant dark blue colour.

Best in class went to a car that was born by chance. At the end of its active racing career with a lot of international victories the Jaguar D-Type finally was not up to date anymore and some cars remained unsold. But what was not good enough for the race track any more was more than welcome for the road so the remaining chassis were converted for street use with bumpers, a top and a luggage rack to be called XKSS. This might have been the first Supercar before this name was invented years later for the Lamborghini Miura.

The first car in class G (Speed and Style) had something in common with the XKSS, it was converted from a race car, but the history of the Ferrari 250 LM Stradale is a different one as it was built one the peak of the 250 LM race career.

After the GTO was dated in 1965 Ferrari introduced the all new 250 LM but unlike with the GTO a homologation in the GT class was refused as the car was more similar to the prototypes 250 P than to any of the road cars. Some say that to show that the 250 LM could be a road car as well this one-off road legal version was built for the Geneva and New York Auto show by Pininfarina. It features small bumpers and a plexiglas rear window, a red leather interior and electric side windows. The frame of the side windows made a new door layout necessary so the door is not containing parts of the roof like the “normal” 250 LM but a separate part to fold up to ease entrance. As the car has an all American history this was the first time in years that this car was seen in Europe to win its class.

Another Ferrari in the class was the 250 GT TdF (0903GT), the last version with 1 louvre behind the doors. This car was seen before at Pebble Beach and at this year´s Cavallino Classic.
Two years ago the Bertone Collection was sold at the RM Auction at the Villa d´Este and part of this collection was the Lancia Sibilo. This concept car was bought by Corrado Lopresto who is a regular entrant at the Concorso and known for his preference for one-offs. It was very funny when during the winners parade Lopresto's small dogs was looking out of the small round windows very much to the enjoyment of the public giving the ceremony a funny and personal moment.

Class H featured the 50th anniversary of Lamborghini. The story of Lamborghini is well known to begin with a visit of Ferruccio Lamborghini in the Ferrari factory where Enzo Ferrari told him that the unreliability of Ferruccio's personal Ferrari was not a problem of the car but of the owner who is used to drive tractors (as Lamborghini produced tractors) rather than sports cars. This lead Ferruccio to built his own sport car and the first 350 GTV was introduced in 1963. According to Simon Kidston (who led through the parade as usual in fluent English and Italian telling a lot of entertaining stories), who has an own passion for the cars with the bull in the signet the first car was displayed without engine (but some bricks inside simulate the engine load) as the engine did not fit in the compartment of the prototype. Certainly this was corrected after the show and the 350 GT (with revised front) went into production in 1964. The Concorso featured a very early 350 GT (with the tractor badge rather than the sports car badge) and the very first open Lamborghini, a 350 GTS that also won the class.

On the following 400 GT Touring built a shooting break one-off the Flying Star II named after the famous one-off design on a Alfa Romeo and Isotto-Fraschini before the war.

Certainly there is no display of Lamborghini without the legendary Miura, maybe to most famous of all Lamborghini models. The extravagant Miura was ordered very often in very bright colours underlining the advanced design of the early 1970s, most popular was an orange and yellow but the French blue suits as well.

The last of the classic car classes (Class I) was dedicated to the race cars and featured the already mentioned MG K3, a Fiat 508 CS MM, the smallest car of the concours (Bandini 750 Siluro), and a duo of Ferrari. The 250 GT TdF (0563GT) was one of the first series TdF and was also entered at the Mille Miglia the week before were it finished.

Last but not least the Ferrari Dino 166P/206P (0834) was shown again at the Villa D´Este. Last year the current owner bought this prototype of the 206P after a very active racing career in historic racing and have shown this multiple Targa Florio entrant at numerous events. On all outings the small Dino won its class and at the Schloß Bensberg Classic it was even awarded Best of Show. In Como it was again Best in Class and joined the winners circle lined up in front of the hotel on Sunday evening when the Best of Show was announced after the Gala Dinner.

Since BMW took over the event a special class for modern concept cars was established. As the previous date early in April collided with the Shanghai Motor Show that attracts most of these prototypes the Concorso was even rescheduled to today´s May date.

The new concept cars included a design study of Aston Martin to honour the centenary including design elements of the famous DBR1. Other cars of interest were the Pininfarina “Sergio” Barchetta in memory of the late Sergio Pininfarina, the all new McLaren P1 (both cars not in drivable condition), a Subaru Crossover and a electric Infinity Coupé. Zagato brought the TZ3 Stradale and Touring the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante that won the concept car prize.

This year Concorso was again superb. Whereas the ever increasing value of the top cars tends to keep them away from the driving events the international concours become even more important to see these cars. Many events on both sides of the Atlantic are competing for the best cars and few can match the selection of the Concorso d´Eleganza. Compared to the American shows at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island this is a rather small event as the space in the historic gardens limits the number of entrants. On the other side this generates an ambience that is superior to the usual golf course concours, a characteristic that attracts cars from all over the world. Although the Best of Show at Pebble might be still of more importance also the American owners love to show their cars in a historic surrounding that cannot be found in the US.

With a two day program in the Villa d´Este and the public day this gives everyone the opportunity to admire the cars on the field and a day of bad weather could be compensated. On Sunday the weather was as expected in Italy with sun all day after a rainy and very cold Saturday.

The weather also led to a funny moment on Saturday during the parade: new this year in the jury was Swiss concept artist, entrepreneur and former singer of 1980s cult band Yello. Dieter Meier. When feeling cold during the parade Meier helped himself and this might have been the first time a honoree judge was sitting in an additional bathrobe on the podium.

For the moment we have put together a preview including all the cars on show that weekend, the galleries will be updated next week after the Gaisbergrennen in Salzburg (Austria)
that is on the program this weekend.

Report & images ... Peter Singhof www.ClassicCarPhotography.de


002 Mercedes-Benz 680S (1928) Torpedo Roadster by Saoutchik - Paul Andrews
004 Hispano-Suiza (1929) Cabriolet de Ville by Hibbard & Darrin - Hans Hulsbergen
006 Isotta-Fraschini 8A (1930) Torpedo by Castagna - Jorge Fernandez
008 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental (1933) Sedanca (3- Position) Drophead Coupe by Gurney Nutting - Jay Moore
010 Mercedes-Benz 540K (1937) Cabriolet A by Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen - Kriton Lendoudis
012 Rolls-Royce Wraith (1938) 2-Door Saloon by Erdmann & Rossi - Saulius Karosas

014 Rolls-Royce Phantom I (1928) Open Tourer Boattail by Jarvis - Alexander Schaufler
016 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport (1931) Spider by Zagato - Steve Adler
018 Mercedes-Benz 500K (1936) Spezial Roadster by Mercedes- Benz Sindelfingen - Evert Louwman
020 BMW 328 (1937) Sport Cabriolet by Wendler - Daniel Pfirter
022 Lagonda LG45 Rapide (1937) Open Tourer by Lagonda - Ron Rezek
024 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic (1938) Coupe by Jean Bugatti s/n 57591 - Ralph Lauren

026 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport (1949) Cabriolet by Franay - Michael Kaufmann
028 Jaguar Mk VII (1951) Coupe by Stabilimenti Farina - Daniel Marachin
030 Bentley R-Type Continental (1952) Sports Saloon Fastback by H.J. Mulliner - Barry Fitzgerald
032 Talbot-Lago T14 LS (1956) Coupe by Letourneur et Marchand - David Buchanan
034 Bentley S1 Continental (1959) Drophead Coupe by Park Ward - Dean Kronsbein
036 Ferrari 500 Superfast (1964) Berlinetta by Pininfarina s/n 5951SF - Luc Laureys

038 Aston Martin 2-Litre Sports "Spa Replica" (1948) Roadster by Aston Martin - Daniel A. Waltenberg
040 Aston Martin DB4 GT (1961) Coupe by Zagato - David Eyles
042 Aston Martin DB4 SS (1962) Saloon by Touring - Jean-Pierre Slavic
044 Aston Martin DB4 (1962) Cabriolet by Aston Martin - Brian Morrison
046 Aston Martin DBS (1970) Saloon by Aston Martin - Edward Stratton

048 Ferrari 212 Export (1951) Barchetta by Touring s/n 0136E - Jack Croul
050 Maserati A6G 2000 (1952) Cabriolet by Frua - GĂĽnther Krumpl
052 Maserati A6G/54 (1955) Spider by Zagato s/n 2101 - Brandon Wang
054 Maserati A6G/54 GT (1956) Spider by Frua - Roland D'Ieteren
056 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California (1961) Spider by Scaglietti s/n 2505GT - Claudio Caggiati
058 Ferrari 250 GT SWB (1961) Berlinetta by Scaglietti s/n 2649GT - Destriero Collection

060 Jaguar XK120 (1949) Roadster by Jaguar - Christian Jenny
062 Siata 208S (1954) Spider by Motto - James Utaski
064 Jaguar XKSS (1956) Spider by Jaguar s/n 769 - Peter Neumark
066 Porsche 356 A (1957) Speedster by Reutter - Ni Peng Loh
068 AC Cars Cobra 289 (1965) Roadster by AC Cars - Kurt Engelhorn

070 Fiat 8 V (1953) Coupe by Rapi - Bruce Vanyo
072 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France (1958) Berlinetta by Scaglietti s/n 0903GT - Peter McCoy
074 Ferrari 250 LM (1964) Berlinetta by Pininfarina s/n 6025 - Lionshead West Collection
076 Lancia Sibilo (1978) Coupe by Bertone s/n 12201 - Corrado Lopresto
078 BMW M1 (1980) Coupe by Giugiaro - Detlef HĂĽbner (BMW Classic)

080 Lamborghini 350 GTV (1963) Coupe by Scaglione s/n 00001 - Albert Spiess
082 Lamborghini 350 GT (1964) Coupe by Touring - Georg Gebhard
084 Lamborghini 350 GTS (1965) Spider by Touring - Emanuel Reich
086 Lamborghini 400 GT (1966) Shooting Brake by Touring "Flying Star II" s/n 0904 - Jean-Claude Paturau
088 Lamborghini Miura SV (1972) Coupe by Bertone - Mario Rossi

090 MG Magnette K3 (1933) Sports Roadster by MG - Peter Briggs
092 Fiat 508 CS MM (1938) Coupe by Savio - Giuseppe Boscarino
094 Bandini 750 Siluro (1955) Barchetta by Bandini - Alex Vazeos
096 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France (1956) Berlinetta by Scaglietti s/n 0563GT - Martin Gruss
098 Ferrari Dino 166P/206P (1965) Spider by Ferrari s/n 0834 - Andreas Mohringer

C02 Fuij Heavy Industries Subaru Viziv Concept (2013) Crossover - Tateo Uchida
C04 Zagato Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale (2011) Carbon Coupe - Andrea Zagato
C06 Touring Superleggera Alfa Romeo Disco Volante by Touring (2013) Coupe - Melvin Goh
C08 Nissan Motor Company Infiniti Emerg-E (2012) Mid-ship 2- seater sports - Shiro Nakamura
C10 McLaren Automotive McLaren P1 (2012) Coupe - Patrik Nilsson
C12 Pininfarina "Sergio" Barchetta - Fabio Filippini
C14 Aston Martin Lagonda Aston Martin CC100 Carbon Fibre - Ulrich Bez