2011 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este

It may not be the world’s best known concours d’elegance, nor the biggest.  But when it comes to premium cachet, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este that is held each May in Italy is widely recognized to be the act to beat.  And good luck on that one.  Even Pebble Beach and the ultra-exclusive Quail Gathering can barely hold a candle to Villa d’Este’s magnificent backdrop, the Grand Hotel that sits on the waterfront of the picturesque Lake Como.  And for historic authenticity, the Concorso d’Eleganza claims an unrivaled pedigree, tracing its roots back to sporadic shows as early as 1929, before being revived as an annual event in the mid-90s.

As usual for such events, though, it’s the quality of cars taking center stage that really indicates the stratospheric level of Villa d’Este.  Roughly 50 collector cars produced between the 1920s and 1970s, most of them highly unusual European models rarely seen on these shores, competed within eight different classes.  The Best in Show award, dubbed the Trofeo BMW Group for BMW’s sponsorship of the event, went to a scintillating 1968 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale (above) owned by Clive Joy of the United Kingdom.  With a body designed by noted onetime Bertone stylist Franco Scaglione, the racecar-based 33 Stradale is one of just 18 roadcars, and probably closer to one of 14 that wear Scaglione’s outstanding coachwork.

The Coppa d’Oro prize, a people’s choice award, went to the 1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS (below) owned by Corrado Lopresto of Italy.  In the past year, the unusual 6C 2500 SS has also won awards at Pebble Beach and the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

Like Pebble Beach, Villa d’Este uses the occasion to also display new concept cars, a tactic that thematically unites innovative design from past and present, as well as actively integrating current manufacturers into the proceedings.  Aston Martin beat out eight other competitors for the Design Award for Concept Cars & Prototypes with its newly revealed Zagato collaboration, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the lauded DB4GT Zagato.  The V12 Zagato (below) is based on the V12 Vantage platform, but features a signature aluminum body designed in concert with Italian coachbuilder Zagato.  For now, Aston says the car will be further used to compete in the Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race in late June, and that presentation at Villa d’Este was partially intended to gauge customer interest.  If past such exercises are any indication, then it is reasonable to expect that a limited edition of these coachbuilt Astons will find their way to market in the coming year or so, furthering the on-again/off-again nature of the two companies’ long relationship.

Ferrari also utilized the spotlight to publicly debut another one-off Special Projects division customer car, this one titled the Superamerica 45 (below).  The car was commissioned by Peter Kalikow, a well known Ferrari collector also renowned for his New York City real estate dealings and former tenure as the commissioner of the Big Apple’s Port Authority.  The Superamerica 45 celebrates the 45th anniversary of Kalikow’s first Ferrari purchase, and is finished in the same Blu Antille finish as his Pebble Beach-awarded 1961 Ferrari 400 Superamerica cabriolet.

Not to be left out of the action at their own event, BMW presented the 328 Hommage, an appropriately titled homage that celebrates the 75th birthday of their great prewar racecar, the original 328 (pictured together, below).  More of a body and interior design exercise than anything, the 328 Hommage boasts significant use of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, dropping weight to a paltry 1,720 lbs.  Though the car is undeniably attractive, BMW has not clarified any powertrain details other than the use of a 3.0 liter 6-cylinder engine.  At such low weight, though, it’s safe to assume the car will really fly if that motor is one of Beemer’s recent twin-turbocharged straight sixes.

Other concept lookers included:

Renault’s 2010 DeZir, owned by Laurens van den Acker of France

The Ferrari 430 Scuderia-based 2011 P4/5 owned by B-movie producer James Glickenhaus of the United States, and raced by his Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus