Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este & RM-Sotheby's Villa Erba auction preview

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With the USD-EUR exchange rate hovering around 1.1, American enthusiasts are sure to be salivating over the offerings at this weekend's Villa Erba sale by RM Sotheby's. Held every second year since 2011, the auction is part of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este which takes place annually on the shores of Lake Como. The event, which takes place this year in Cernobbio from 22-24 May 2015 is one of the world’s most exclusive and tradition-steeped stages for historic cars and motorcycles, having been first held in 1929 as an exhibition for new vehicles from the Italian auto industry.

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With the USD-EUR exchange rate hovering around 1.1, American enthusiasts are sure to be salivating over the offerings at this weekend's Villa Erba sale by RM Sotheby's. Held every second year since 2011, the auction is part of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este which takes place annually on the shores of Lake Como.

The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este which takes place this year in Cernobbio from 22-24 May 2015 is one of the world’s most exclusive and traditional events for historic cars and motorcycles, having been first held in 1929 as an exhibition for new vehicles from the Italian auto industry.

As with the Concorso, exclusivity is the theme of the auction, with just 40 handpicked, significant, blue-chip cars (and one motorcycle) included in the RM Sotheby’s sale, with a focus on exceptional European sports and racing cars.

The traditional focus of the Villa D'Este event at Lake Como is the beauty contest in which select historic automobiles compete in categories which as are sculpted with a creative bent. This year we have classes such as "Flamboyance in Motion" (Pre-war coach built luxury), "Antidepressants" (Pre-war sports cars which defied the Great Depression), “Phantom Story” (The Rolls-Royce Phantom through the ages), "Made to Measure" (The final flowering of the coach built coupe), "Gentleman’s Racers" (Speed meets post-war style), "Hollywood on the Lake" (Convertibles for a grand entrance at Villa d’Este), "GT Man Has Arrived" (Interpretations of opulence), "How Fast is Fast Enough" (Mid and rear-engined supercars from the disco era) and "Two seats against the stopwatch" (Classic sports racers). Just as with Amelia Island a few months ago, these eccentric groupings create a show like no other for auto aficionados.

There's also a Concorso di Motociclette for classic motorcycles, and another category for modern concept cars and prototypes. The introduction of the Design Award for Concept Cars and Prototypes means that contemporary concept cars complement the range of vintage and veteran vehicles on display and take the Concorso back to its origins.

In recent years the Concorso has secured BMW Group as its major patron and with the full creative support of the BMW press service, the profile of the event has been further raised.

Under this year’s slogan "Seventies Style - The Jet Set is back," automotive fans from around the world will gather in the grounds of the Villa d’Este luxury hotel and neighboring Villa Erba, to witness a cavalcade of historic models.

Some of the highlights of this year's event include a Pegaso Z-102 Berlineta, a 1950s two-seater coupé often referred to as the "Spanish Ferrari." Only 90 of these 2.5-litre V8 engine beauties were made, and the car to be shown at Villa D'este was the show car at the 1953 World Motor Show in New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was subsequently owned by the then President of the Dominican Republic, Hector Bienvenido Trujilio Molina, and has been part of the Black Hawk Collection in California since 1975. We won't have images of the car until after the event but the above image of a Saoutchik-bodied 1954 Pegaso Z-102 Series II Berlinetta will give you an idea of what to expect. That particular car sold for US$797,000 at RM-Sotheby's "Art of the Automobile" auction in November 2013.

There's also a Maserati Tipo 60/61 "Birdcage" racing machine, one of just 22 examples built between 1959 and 1961. Developed as a racing prototype, the Maserati Tipo 61 dominated the racing scene in the early 1960s, particularly in the USA. The Birdcage nickname derives from its unusual, intricately constructed tubular space frame designed by Giulio Alfieri.

Weighing just 30 kilograms (66 lbs), it consisted of over 200 thin steel tubes while boasting similar rigidity to far more expensive monocoques. The Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage weighed in at 600 kilos (1320 lbs) and was driven by an in-line four-cylinder that nestled under its extremely flat bonnet and delivered 250 hp to take the car to a top speed of just over 300 km/h (186 mph).

The Birdcage images above were taken of a 1960 Maserati Tipo 60/61 re-creation built by Crosthwaite & Gardiner which was auctioned by Bonhams earlier this year.

Two more cars which will appear at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este are worthy of particular mention, with one being a extremely rare Panther 6. Just two Panther 6 cars were ever built and they are one of just a handful of vehicles ever to run on six wheels, at least in that four of the six wheels were "steering wheels."

An unusual vehicle in every way, it drew on the design principle of the famous 1976 Tyrrell P34 Formula One car. The 600 hp, 200 mph Panther 6 used an 8.2-litre eight-cylinder Cadillac engine with twin turbochargers that was mounted above the rear axle. The car pictured is one of the two Panther 6s which was sold by Bonhams at its 2011 Les Grandes Marques a Monaco sale.

Several cars of note with six wheels have featured in Gizmag, such as the Covini's six-wheeled sportscar (pictured above) and the Ford Seattle-ite (pictured below), unquestionably one of history's most significant concept cars.

To mark the anniversary of 90 years of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, this year’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este features a Rolls-Royce Phantom 1-6 Concours class, the so-called "Phantom Story." One of the absolute gems of this class is the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV, which is the most exclusive vehicle that Rolls-Royce ever built with just 18 examples produced for a client list comprising royalty, the nobility and heads of state. Of the 16 extant, the model on show at Lake Como will the model that Queen Elizabeth ordered in 1954 for her sister Margaret. The car belonged to the British Royal Family for more than 30 years.

The car above is quite similar to the car which will be on show at Lake Como on the weekend, though this one was owned by the Aga Khan, and auctioned by Gooding & Co at Pebble Beach in 2011.

Finally, for those who aspire to own a car worthy of display at such an auspicious event, there's RM-Sotheby's Villa Erba sale, where nearly half of the 40 lots are expected to fetch more than US$1,000,000 (€909,000).

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti

1960 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione by Scaglietti

The price of this car may go beyond eight figures, becoming just the 19th car in history to fetch more than US$10,000,000 at auction. The last 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta "Competizione" by Carrozzeria Scaglietti to sell at auction fetched $8,140,000 at an RM auction in Arizona in January, 2013, so all eyes will be watching to see the result.

1952 Ferrari 212 Export Barchetta by Touring

1963 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta 'Lusso' by Scaglietti

1985 Ferrari 288 GTO

1960 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series II by Pinin Farina

1950 Ferrari 195 Inter Berlinetta by Ghia

1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 S by Bertone

1953 Fiat 8V Cabriolet by Vignale

1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 Sport Lightweight

1996 Ferrari F50

1955 Austin-Healey 100S

1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

2002 Ferrari Enzo

1991 Ferrari F40

1992 BMW K1

The only motorcycle to go under the auctioneers hammer at Villa Erba in 2015 will be this 1992 BMW K1 which is estimated to fetch between €20,000 and €30,000. The bike was donated by BMW specialists Mint Classics of Münster, Germany and 100% of the proceeds, including the buyer’s premium, will go to Caritas International in support of earthquake relief in Nepal.

The digital catalogue for the RM-Sotheby's sale can be viewed here, and the lots can be more easily browsed here. The auction will be held between 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm on Saturday, May 23, 2015 (local Italian time) and the event will be webcast live on the RM-Sotheby's site.

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