History in motion: The spectacular winning motorcycles of Concours d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 2019
The Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este is one of the automotive world's most prestigious events, and this year's motorcycle division showcased some extraordinary gems making rare public appearances. Here are all the winners, and photos of everything that entered.
Almost all the bikes you'll see below and in our gallery are running and roadworthy, as proven by the famous Street Run, in which participants ride them in convoy through the streets of Cernobbio, Italy, to the shore of Lake Como and the Grand Hotel Villa d'Este, where the public gets a chance to take a close look.
The judging proceeded in five different classes, plus two overall Best of Show bikes voted on by the jury, and by a public vote. Here are the class winners, followed by the overall winners.
Class A | Still in Action: Motorcycles more then 100 Years Old
The Centenarians' class was won by this beautiful Achilles 3 1/2 PS, built in 1904 by the Schneider & Son company, based in Ober Politz, South of Dresden in the former Austro-Hungarian empire and modern Czech republic. It's a 500cc machine making a mighty 3.5 metric horsepower. The owner says it's got more than 25,000 km (15,500 mi) on the clock, and he rides it regularly, undertaking painstaking maintenance once a year. You can learn more about it here, if your German's up to snuff.
The Mention of Honor went to the stunner above: a 362cc, shaft-drive 1905 FN Four making 3.45 hp. Fabrique Nationale was a Belgian arms and ammunition company established in 1889 that started making bikes in 1901. This 1905 model is recognized as the world's first production inline 4-cylinder motorcycle, and by 1911, when its engine had grown to 498cc and a mighty 6 hp, it became the fastest production bike in the world at what must have been a terrifying 64 km/h (40 mph).
Class B | Sound and Style: the new motorcycles of 192
The Class B winner is this 1929 Marcel Guigat Corbelin (MGC) N3A "Écrémeuse." MGC was a French manufacturer, and this model apparently caused quite a commotion at the 1929 Lyon show due to its cast aluminum frame. Unfortunately, the idea was many decades ahead of its time – the alloys of the day tended to fail, leaving leaks from the integrated fuel tank, and alloy frames wouldn't reappear until Suzuki's RG250 and GSX-R750 of the 1980s. This bike used a 500cc JAP engine.
The honorable mention went to the above 1929 DKW Super Sport 500. DKW stood for "Dampf Kraft Wagen" (steam-powered car), but by the time the company started making motorcycles, it was using the same initials to call itself "Das Kleine-Wunder" (the little wonder). By 1929, when this bike was released, DKW was the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. This two-cylinder machine was the top performing model in the range when it launched in 1929, making 18 hp and hitting speeds as high as 120 km/h (75 mph).
Class C | Promenade Percy: Sportsman's Wear
This 1938 Moto Guzzi GTCL took the win in Class C, GTCL standing for "Gran Turismo Corsa Leggera." It runs a 498cc single making somewhere around 26 hp. On both the front girder suspension and rear spring shocks, you can see friction damping systems. This was a proper sportsbike of its day, and on its race debut at Circuito de Lario, it immediately won the production class and set a new lap record. It was the precursor to the Condor and Dondolino models.
And the honorable mention: the above BSA DBD 34 Gold Star, from 1958. Beezers were serious performance machines in the 50s, and the 500cc DBD 34 was the king of all British singles, renowned for its 180-km/h (110-mph) top speed, its huge success at the Isle of Man TT, and for the fact that its close-ratio 4-speed transmission was geared so high that you could barely let the clutch out below freeway speeds, which made it a nightmare to ride in city traffic. It was the ultimate poser's machine and cafe racer of its day, and remains in high demand.
Class D | 50 Years Ago: Trendsetters for Modern Success
Ah, the mighty Kawasaki Mach III H2 of 1969. A worthy class winner and a profoundly terrifying machine. With a three-cylinder, 500cc two-stroke engine, it made 60 hp in a crazed rush that would strike fear into the hearts of modern riders accustomed to three times that power. It also offered a chassis incapable of braking, cornering or handling bumps to provide further horror. A generationally renowned widowmaker, it was a bike people bought simply to prove they could hang onto it, and plenty couldn't – so a nice clean example free from twigs, branches and merrily draped internal organs is a mighty find indeed.
This 1969 Triumph T150 Trident won the honorable mention for Class D. It's another three-cylinder bike, albeit this time a 741cc, 58-hp 4-stroke with much better manners than the Kawasaki. This was the bike that started Triumph's iconoclastic reputation for triples, and it was roaringly fast, breaking 210 km/h (130 mph) in the quarter mile. Triumph was owned by BSA at the time, and this bike was also produced under the BSA brand as a Rocket 3 – a name that will resonate with modern Triumph lovers. Sales suffered somewhat due to the fact that it launched around the same time as Honda's CB750/4, as well as the fact that people didn't love the look of it.
Class E | Two-Wheeled Guards: To Protect and to Serve
King of the cop bikes was this 1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Electra Glide. Last of the Panheads, and the first big Harley with an electric leg, this bike allowed Mr. Plod to thumb his bike back into life by the side of the road instead of entertaining you with red-faced efforts to kick-start a huge, 1200cc (74 ci) v-twin after writing you a ticket. The '65 model sold with either hand or foot shift – this police model runs a modern-style foot shift.
This military green Moto Guzzi V7 from 1968 took the honorable mention. Where the Harley was repurposed for police duties, the Guzzi V7 was designed first and foremost as a police and military bike, and its success in fleet duties preceded its introduction to the mass market. Its trademark sideways-mounted, 703cc, 90-degree v-twin gave it enough grunt for a top speed somewhere around 185 km/h (115 mph).
Best of Show (Jury's Selection)
Koehler-Ecoffier was a French manufacturer operating out of Macon, north of Lyon. Founded in 1914, it built 500cc V-twins until production was wound down for the remainder of the First World War. In the 1920s, the company began making beautiful 1,000cc overhead cam racing V-twins with saucy twin exhausts like this 1929 example. The company merged with Monet & Goyon shortly after this bike was built, making it one of the last to wear the Koehler-Ecoffier logo. And as voted by your judges, this bike is your Best in Show!
Best of Show (Popular Vote)
Considering the competition, this 1953 BMW R 68 must have been pretty amazing up close to win the hearts of the public, but this was indeed a significant model for BMW, who claimed upon its launch that it was "The First 100mph Motorcycle." Less than 1500 R 68s were manufactured, making it one of the rarest production BMWs for collectors. Note the plunger-style suspension on the back end and telescopic forks on the front – both would disappear in subsequent models. You may also note that it runs a pillion seat without an extra set of footpegs – that's because it was never intended for passengers. The extra seat at the rear was for racers to slide back and flatten themselves out for better aeros on high-speed racing straights.
While these were this year's winners, they're by no means the weirdest or most interesting to look at. Jump into the gallery to see all the entrants from this year's Concours event.