CONCORSO D’ELEGANZA VILLA D’ESTE

High­lights of the 2018 edi­tion pay trib­ute to au­to­mo­tive bril­liance and the sil­ver screen

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The Concorso d’Eleganza, hosted ev­ery year by grand ho­tel, Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, was first held in 1929. This year it cel­e­brated per­haps two of the 20th cen­tury’s most im­por­tant so­cio-his­toric events: the ar­rival of the au­to­mo­bile and its re­la­tion­ship with the cin­ema. Eighty-nine years af­ter the first Concorso, when the movie in­dus­try was still in its in­fancy, the 2018 edi­tion was themed ‘Hol­ly­wood on the Lake’.

His­toric cars on show

The 50 cars fea­tured in the Concorso were di­vided into a va­ri­ety of classes ac­cord­ing to their style and pur­pose: pi­o­neer­ing rac­ing cars (‘The Ti­tans’), in­clud­ing ven­er­a­ble Alfa Romeos and Bu­gat­tis; op­u­lent au­to­mo­biles (‘From Man­hat­tan to May­fair’), of which surely none was more lux­u­ri­ous than the gold-plated 1929 Rolls-Royce Phan­tom seem­ingly touched by the hand of King Mi­das; stun­ning Art Deco gran­des

routières, ex­em­pli­fied by the 5.4-me­tre­long 1936 Lancia As­tura Serie III, or the beau­ti­ful Bu­gatti 57 Ata­lante of 1937, named af­ter the Ama­zon hunter from Greek mythol­ogy.

GT cars were in abun­dance with won­der­ful spec­i­mens from the great mar­ques – Fer­rari, Bent­ley, Jaguar and As­ton Martin – and from the pens of the great coach­builders: Mulliner, Vig­nale, Pinin Fa­rina, Scagli­etti.

For the first time, For­mula One was a fea­tured class, des­ig­nated with the risqué clas­si­fi­ca­tion, ‘When Sex Was Safe and Rac­ing Dan­ger­ous’. Here were sin­gle-seaters, or mono­posti as they are known in Italy, driven by those who hold a place in the pan­theon of pi­loti.

Some of the most in­ter­est­ing cars, though, were in a class en­ti­tled, ‘80 Years of Au­to­mo­tive Ar­chae­ol­ogy’. Here were cars that have amaz­ingly avoided the rav­ages of time without need of restora­tion. Fore­most among these were the in­cred­i­ble 1913 SCAT (So­cièta Ceirano Au­to­mo­bili Torino), which was in the fam­ily of its first owner for 104 years! Other wor­thy ‘relics’ were the 1954 Fiat 8V still sport­ing its lus­trous turquoise paint­work, and the cute 1958 Fiat 500 Spi­ag­gia of which only two were made by coach­builder Boano.

The orig­i­nal rai­son d’être of this Concorso d’Eleganza was to show­case the lat­est new cars and this still ex­ists to­day with the Con­cept and Pro­to­type class. Flavio Man­zoni’s Fer­rari SP38 Coupé drew lots of at­ten­tion, as one might ex­pect in Italy, and Fer­rari’s Head of De­sign told me he had cre­ated this one-off for a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional art col­lec­tor who wanted his car to rep­re­sent his life in art.

Au­to­mo­biles at the movies

It was the ‘Stars of the Sil­ver Screen’ class, though, that truly en­cap­su­lated the 2018 theme. The 1939 De­lage D8-120 ap­peared in the 1951 movie,

An Amer­i­can in Paris, with Gene Kelly be­hind the wheel. Rita Hay­worth’s 1953 present from her ex-hus­band, Prince Aly Khan, was a Cadil­lac Se­ries 62, the first car to fea­ture twin head­lights. Also a gift was the 1958 BMW 507 pre­sented by Elvis Pres­ley to his co-star, Ur­sula An­dress, in 1963’s Fun in Aca­pulco.

There were six As­ton Martin DB5s used in the mak­ing of the early James Bond films, but only one of them, the one on dis­play here, was driven by Sean Con­nery in Goldfin­ger and Thun­der­ball.

Also in this group of ‘film stars’ was the jet age-look­ing Lancia Stratos Zero; at its high­est point the car stands at just 83.8 cen­time­tres. It did not ap­pear in film, but a replica was made es­pe­cially to ap­pear in Michael Jackson’s Moon­walker.

One of my favourites was the gold 1965 Fer­rari Su­per­fast. This five-litre beauty ca­pa­ble of 280 km/h was first owned by none other than Peter Sell­ers.

Great fun was had by all at this BMW Group Clas­sic event, topped off by boat rides on clas­sic Ri­vas, and a fancy-dress ball. The theme was of course, Hol­ly­wood on the Lake, with the in­spi­ra­tion be­ing Casino Royale, and Star Wars: Episode II – At­tack of the

Clones. Both were filmed in part at the nearby Villa Bal­bianello. A third film theme for the ball was Ocean’s Twelve, which utilised Villa Erba. Let us not for­get too, that the pro­tag­o­nist of the Danny Ocean se­ries, Ge­orge Clooney, also has his own villa close by on the shores of this, the most glam­orous and deep­est of all of Europe’s lakes. con­cor­sodel­e­gan­zav­il­ladeste.com

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