The Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 2018 has been a significant annual event in Italy for 91 years. For a large part of that 91 years, it has been the home of automotive passion in the most passionate automotive country, particularly so since public events such as the Mille Miglia (a 1000 mile race on public roads) were abandoned due to the dangers. Automobiles are about many things, but passion is a factor in every facet that counts in Italy, and elegance and beauty are key factors in every equation.
This year we decided to cover the country's annual automotive beauty contest differently, and rather than trying to cover all of the 50 or so entrants, we decided to concentrate just on the winners and the people who displayed them.
Trofeo BMW Group (Best of Show)
1958 Ferrari 335 Sport Spider by Scaglietti
The Trofeo BMW Group is the outright Best of Show award decided by the jury and a recently restored Ferrari 335 Sport Spider by Scaglietti and owned by Andreas Mohringer took the grand prize ahead of a spectacular field of automotive treasures.
This particular car is indeed one of the most important cars in history, being the youngest of just four made by Ferrari with three extant. Descendant from the Ferrari 315S, and built to counter the outrageously powerful Maserati 450S of the 1950s, the car's four liter V12 engine produces 390 horsepower (290 kW) for a top speed of 300 km/h (190 mph).
In the 1957 Mille Miglia, the 335S had an indelible impact on motorsport when the legendary Marquis Alfonso de Portago (read his incredible life story in this article) had a tire blow at speed, killing the dashing, unspeakably wealthy, devil-may-care young Marquis and 14 spectators and ending racing on public roads in Italy forever, the Mille Miglia included.
One of the fastest cars on the planet in its day, a 335S recorded the first Le Mans lap of over 200 km/h (124 mph) – bear in mind that's an average speed over the then 8.38-mile course – and helped Ferrari take the 1957 Manufacturers' World Sports Car Championship.
More recently, one of the three remaining 335S Spiders sold at Retromobile in 2016 for €32,075,200 (US$35,712,945) when rival footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo engaged in a bidding war that ended just short of it becoming the most expensive car (sold at auction) in history. Measured in British pounds and Euro, the 335S is the most expensive car ever sold at auction, but our listings (be they cars, motorcycles or scientific manuscripts), are compiled in USD at the currency exchange rate of the day, and only a Ferrari 250 GTO has sold for more at auction by our reckoning.
"It is always difficult to select the Best of Show from the winners in eight award classes because the difference between a Formula 1 automobile and a vehicle from 1913 is very great," mused Jury President Lorenzo Ramaciotti.
"In this case, the rare nature and the outstanding engineering were the deciding factors. The Ferrari 335 Sport was the most powerful sports car from this marque, and for a long time also the fastest. Then there was the fact that the recently completed restoration had been carried out to the very highest standards."
The custodian of cars such as this, are as interesting as the cars themselves. Pharmaceuticals entrepreneur Andreas Mohringer paid $21.5 million sight unseen for this car, which had been stored for decades, then he commissioned having it returned to original condition without restoring it, beginning by evicting a family of mice from the intake manifolds. It has subsequently won a host of prestigious awards including the Best in Show at The Quail in 2016, in its unrestored state.
McKeel Hagerty, founder of the world's largest classic car insurance company, recently referred to the Ferrari 335S Spider Scaglietti that sold for US$35.7 million as a "Mona Lisa Car."
The patience and artistry of the recommissioning process must have been immensely costly, as it requires a multi-skilled automotive historian akin to Dianne Dwyer Modestini, who was tasked with restoring Leonardo da Vinci's long lost Salvator Mundi after it had been painted over. It sold for £45 in 1958, but when Modestini had worked her magic, it sold for $450,312,500 in November, 2017.
After reclaiming his Mona Lisa car from the mice and showing it around the world, Mohringer then restored it to perfection, though that may not adequately describe the result.
Then, during the black tie affair following the event, with the prize winning cars out front ... it rained, with the spider uncovered. Never have two men in tuxedos moved so fast.
That's the car being inspected after the storm ... let's hope there wasn't too much damage.
Coppa D'oro Villa D'este
1968 Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale Coupé
Voted "Best of Show" by the public at Villa d'Este, this Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale is one of just 18 Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale (roadgoing) cars produced, and just 13 were bodied in this Franco Scaglione aluminum creation with dihedral doors, the first car to use the ingenious unconventional design that is now regularly seen on hypercars such as McLaren and Koenigsegg.
The Stradale was developed directly from the highly successful Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 sports racing prototype. The engine of the Stradale is a 230 hp (172 kW) 2.0-liter V8 from Alfa Romeo's race development partner Autodelta, coupled with an aluminum body on a tubular aluminum chassis for a kerb weight of just 700 kg and a top speed of 160 mph.
Given the outrageous specifications of the de facto racing chassis and engine, the other cars were despatched to the likes of Pininfarina, Bertone and Giugiaro (ItalDesign) to create concept show cars which also starred at major motor shows in Turin, Geneva, Paris and Brussels in period.
Even then, very few of the 13 aluminum-bodied Stradales were the same, with some wearing dual headlights and large cooling vents behind the front and rear wheels and other minor differences.
The car was built by Carrozzeria Marazzi and debuted at the 1967 Turin Motor Show. Like many other priceless cars seen on the international show circuit, the Stradale is from the collection of Albert Spiess of Switzerland.
If you've heard that name before, it's because Spiess has appeared across the world in two different facets of public life. He won best of show at Villa d'Este once before for his 1956 Maserati 450 S, and his vast collection includes a range of Italian national treasures including the one-off Lamborghini 5-95 concept he commissioned Zagato to build based on a Gallardo LP570-4. The Lamborghini museum contains several of his cars, but he is best known as the head of his eponymous company which produces epicurian delights such as Bündnerfleisch, a branded product as synonymous with Switzerland as watches, chocolate and cheese.
Trofeo BMW Group Italia
1968 Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale Coupé by Scaglione
The Trofeo BMW Group Italia is chosen by public vote at Villa Erba and this Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale was a fairly predictable winner given its beauty, heritage, rarity, and atom-perfect presentation. One final gem with regard to this car is that in 1968 it was the most expensive road car available to the public with a price tag of $17,000 at a time when the average cost of a house was $14,950, the average income was $7,850, the average car cost $2,822, and gas was $0.34 a gallon.
Trofeo BMW Group Ragazzi
1970 Lancia Stratos Zero by Bertone
The Trofeo BMW Group Ragazzi is chosen by attendees up to the age of 16 of Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 2018 at the adjacent Villa Erba part of the show, and the arresting visual presence of the 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero Concept has more than weathered the passing of time since it was penned by Marcello Gandini for the 1970 Turin Auto Show. Though this car used a 1584cc Lancia Fulvia V4 engine engine, the basic Stratos Zero shape evolved into the successful Stratos HF rally car debuted in Turin the following year featuring a mid-mounted 190 hp (140 kW) 1,987cc (121.3 cu in) Ferrari V6 from the Ferrari Dino.
The Stratos Zero is a spectacular car, having become known globally via the publicity it generated internationally at Turin, then again in 1988 via the Michael Jackson movie Moonwalker, but when owner Phillip Sarofim steered the car into the prize-winning ceremony, and the unconventional front-opening door was raised, sitting beside him was his latest girlfriend, Canadian singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne. Remarkably, the paparazzi had tracked the pair to nearby Villa Balbianello, but clearly didn't make the connection as to why they chose Lake Como. There are more pics of the Stratos Zero (and Phillip and Avril) in the image gallery.
Concorso d'Eleganza Design Award for
Concept Cars & Prototypes
2018 Ferrari SP38 Coupé
If you've never heard of the SP38 Ferrari, that's because it isn't a production model, and it is brand – a one-off based on the Ferrari 488 GTB, but completely restyled by Ferrari's Flavio Manzoni to the point where you can't even see the resemblance. As Loz Blain wrote last week when the official Maranello press release and studio images arrived: "Top-flight Ferraris are not cheap things, and special editions even less cheap. So we shudder to think what one-off creations like this SP38 would cost. It's a custom work by the Ferrari Design Center for a specific mystery client 'with a deep passion for racing' and apparently quite a bit of taste."
Given that Ferrari 488 GTB pricing starts at US$256,550, the mystery buyer obviously likes both anonimity and exclusivity, though there's every likelihood that the gentleman concerned is a resident of Switzerland as the car was shown at the Concorso d'Elegenza under the banner of Swiss Automotive Atelier, Loris Kessel Auto SA, and driven during the Concorso by Loris' son, Ronnie.
The twin-turbo, twin-intercooled 488 GTB may have formed the basis of the SP38, but there's more than a liberal helping of F40 in the styling.
Class A | The Titans: Dirt, Dust And Danger
Class Winner: 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix
One of just six Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix racers ever built, the T59 was the last pre-war Grand Prix car from Molsheim, and faced some fierce competition in this class of the beauty contest which contained a 1909 Isotta Fraschini Tipo FENC, a 1925 Bugatti Type 35, a 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Spider Zagato, a 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza Zagato, 1934 Triumph Dolomite 8 Roadster Corsica and a 1936 Lagonda LG45 Rapide bodied by Fox & Nicholl. As with many of the museum exhibits at Villas d'Este and d'Erba, the owners are as interesting as the cars.
The T59 is owned by Marc Newson (pictured in the car), often described as the most influential designer of his generation. Newson's small car collection includes an Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Ferrari and a Cisitalia, most of them much older then he is, but they all get lots of miles and Newson is a regular starter in the Mille Miglia.
One wonders whether there might be a particular appeal about the T59 for tastemeisters. Ralph Lauren owns one of the other five.
Mention of Honor: 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza by Zagato
Owner: Jack Roderick, Great Britain
This is a museum quality specimen of one of the most desirable automobiles in the world and without doubt the single model series most responsible for the glorious brand values of the Alfa Romeo name. The Alfa Romeo straight eight 8C spawned a range of Alfa Romeo road, race and sports cars which were still winning races two decades after they were built.
A slightly later 1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo C 8C fetched £5,937,500 (US$9,425,188) at Bonhams' Goodwood Revival auction in 2013 and the ultimate sportscar incarnation of the 8C series, a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider by Touring, is the most expensive pre-WW2 car ever sold at auction, and one of the 10 most valuable cars ever sold at auction. The impossibly beautiful Alfa Romeo 8C sports car sold for $19,800,000 at RM-Sotheby's Monterey auction in 2016.
Class B | From Manhattan To Mayfair:
The Golden Age Of Motoring Opulence
Class Winner: 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom Brougham de Ville
Owner: 1929 Frédéric Leroux, France
Proof that you don't require a King's Ransom to play with the big boys at Villa d'Este is this 89-year-old Phantom Brougham de Ville by Brewster & Company. One of only 10 bodied by Brewster, the Phantom I is the epitome of opulence with gold-plated exterior trim, the original exterior cane work and sumptuous everything.
The Phantom I Brewster Riviera cost $19,965 new, weighed 5,450 pounds, and was powered by a 7.7 liter SOHC six-cylinder engine which according to the the British motoring press was "essentially silent at 80 mph." This was a time when Rolls-Royce cars were sold with a three year warranty, and owners were implored by the factory to return their car to the factory every 50,000 miles for "dismantling and examination."
It wasn't the first time this car had been to Villa d'Este, having sold at RM-Sotheby's biannual Villa d'Este (now Villa d'Erba) auction held in conjunction with the event. You'll never guess how much it sold for! Answer.
Mention of Honor: 1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster by Fleetwood
Owner: Frederick Lax, United States
The Cadillac Sixteen is an automotive masterpiece that found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The 452 cu in (7.4 L) V16 was first shown at the New York Auto Show on January 4, 1930, just weeks after Black Tuesday, the day Wall Street collapsed (October 29, 1929) marking what we now know as the decade-long Great Depression.
Despite rave reviews from the press and great admiration and awareness by the public, it was the most expensive car in the Cadillac range, which was the premier brand in the General Motors stable. It remained as the company's marquis offering for a decade, finally ceasing production in the face of the mounting war effort in 1940, with 4076 built. Half of those units were built in the first half of 1930 but production slowed as the depression wore on, and just 50 units a year were produced towards the end of the decade. Cadillac later acknowledged that it had lost money on every single V-16 it sold, due to the massive resources it had put behind the car.
Only Bugatti had ever built a V16 prior to Cadillac, and almost all of the 4076 chassis were sold with bespoke bodywork created by General Motors' own coachbuilders, Fleetwood and Fisher. More than 70 different styles of bodywork were created for the car by the two automotive couturiers, but selling an extremely expensive and exclusive custom order car in a depression is task so difficult that even the almighty General Motors struggled to sustain it.
Those fortunate enough to own one of the remaining Cadillac V16s truly do have one of the great cars of the twentieth century.
Class C | Shaped By The Wind: Grandes Routières Of The Art Deco Era
Class Winner: 1936 Lancia Astura Serie III Cabriolet
by Pinin Farina
Owner: Anthony MacLean, Switzerland
Lancia pioneered monocoque construction in their 1922 Lambda, but when the Astura was created, it was given a cross-braced box-section chassis to allow greater design latitude by the carrozzeria it was inevitably destined for. Gorgeous in every respect, this car was sculpted by Battista "Pinin" Farina when his company was just six years old and a quarter century before the President of Italy formally authorized the change of Farina's last name to Pininfarina and the brand took the shape we know.
It's probably reasonable to expect that this massive Lancia might not be all that nimble and sporting given it only has a three liter motor. Not so! In 1934, an Astura finished tenth in the Mille Miglia and the same car won (with another third) in the six-day, 3,534-mile Giro d'Italia, averaging 53.6 mph.
RM-Sothebys sold a very similar car to this for $2,145,000 at Amelia Island last year, proclaiming in the auction description: "The Astura is the pinnacle of pre-war Lancias, placing it at the summit of pre-war Italian automotive engineering and design. Its combination of luxury and engineering refinement made it an ideal platform for coachbuilders, particularly in its more sporting Corto, or short-wheelbase version."
Mention of Honor: 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Coupé
Owner: Albert Wetz, Luxembourg
The Type 57 was first shown at the Paris Automobile Salon in 1934, marking the point at which Jean Bugatti emerged as Bugatti's leader and creative force. Having been largely responsible for the company's Type 41 Royale (twice the most expensive car in the world), Ettore Bugatti's son combined his talents as both engineer and designer to create the Type 57, sculptinging four bodies (Ventoux, Stelvio, Atalante and Atlantic) in the process, the latter now also among the world's most expensive automobiles. The T57's 3,257cc eight cylinder engine propelled the Grand Tourer with flowing coachwork at prodigious speed.
In a road test of the car in May, 1939, Motor Sport magazine wrote: "The car sped along at 80 mph with the comfort and quietness one associates with the Type 57 ... we were quite willing to believe that Jean Bugatti had achieved the 435 kilometres to Paris in just under 1½ hours in the Type 57 ... at an average of 77 mph"
Had Jean Bugatti not died testing the Le Mans-winning Type 57 tank-bodied racer on public roads in 1939, Bugatti might still be in family ownership.