Pictorial: The spectacular 2019 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este
This year was the 90th anniversary for Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, which was first held at the palatial 16th-century villa on the shores of Lake Como on September 1, 1929.
As a setting for a celebration of any form of heritage, there could be no finer location, as the former royal residence near Rome is now a luxury hotel, world-renowned for its 25 acres of terraced Italian Renaissance gardens.
Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este is by far the world's longest running Concours d'Elegance (a French term meaning "competition of elegance"), with the oldest such event in North America being the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, which began in 1950 and will be held for the 69th time this year.
When Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este first began, it was essentially an automotive beauty show for contemporary cars. The above image from the 1931 event shows Josette Pozzo and her then new Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport by Touring, which won the 1931 Coppa d'Oro for best in show.
Times have since changed, and money dictates that cars from the immediate post-WW2 era are the most desirable. Only a handful of pre-WW2 cars command similar prices at auction to post-WW2 cars in general, and Ferraris from the 1950s and 1960s in particular.
Concours events these days are far more an automotive heritage celebration, and like the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este's stature in the global scheme is of the highest order. Longevity, world-leading technology-in-period, styling, provenance and authenticity are key variables in the concours world, but scarcity is invariably the determinant of a high price.
Tradition seemingly has dictated that those concours events with the greatest lineage have the most gravitas, mainly because they are now exquisitely organized. Going against this trend is the relative youth of Amelia Island and the extraordinary impact of Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award, which is already recognized as the world championship of concours cars, despite being just four years old.
This year's custodian of the Coppa d'Oro ("best in show" by public referendum) and Trofeo BMW Group ("best in show" by the Jury) at Villa d'Este is David Sydorick, whose 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B is, ironically, closely related to Josette's 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750.
As we wrote this week, David Sydorick's Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta (pictured directly above in the same location as one of the above images from 1929) is now the most acclaimed concours car in history, having previously won the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, and the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best award at Retromobile in February, 2019. David likened winning both best of show awards (both public and the judges) at Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este to having a knighthood bestowed.
RELATED CONTENT: During the three major associated classic car auctions at Retromobile in Paris in February, 2019, an identical car to David's 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta sold for €16,745,600 ($18,968,675) to an American collector, becoming the third most expensive pre-war car ever to sell at auction.
RELATED CONTENT: Pictorial: David Sydorick's Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta
The traits that set Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este apart from the thousands of automotive beauty contests around the world each year is best encapsulated by this paragraph from the event web site front page: "The Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este owes its privileged status among the world's most prestigious heritage events for historic vehicles to a number of unique attributes. These include the elegance of the event, its long and illustrious tradition, the unrivalled flair experienced at the majestic Grand Hotel Villa d'Este on the shores of Lake Como and the small, select groups of participants."
It is that select group of participating vehicles that captivates us each year when we report on the event, and such is the quality of the distilled excellence on display annually, that there are often cars that don't win awards we want to write about for their sheer design innovation.
One such car this year was the Gyro-X, a car so far ahead of its time that its time has not yet come, even though it is already half a century old. The cigar-shaped car was good for 125 mph with an 80 hp 1275cc engine thanks to its low frontal area and miniscule drag co-efficient. The form factor has been tried many times since, but as the world becomes more energy conscious, there's every chance it will one day achieve critical mass.
By our reckoning, the California-based Gyro Transport Systems built the first such prototype in 1967, utilizing a gyroscope (pictured below) to remain upright when not moving. Sadly, the company became insolvent before the Gyro-X went into production, and the one-and-only specimen became an orphan.
For decades the Gyro-X was passed from owner to owner, its condition deteriorating along the way. It was then found, appreciated for what it was, and has been restored to its former glory.
The single-seat Gyro-X was penned by renowned industrial designer Alex Tremulis, who had previously designed vehicles for Cord, Duesenberg, General Motors, Tucker and Ford.
We wrote about the Gyro-X before the restoration began in 2013, and we were thrilled to see it in its former splendor at Villa d'Este where it competed in Class H (Concepts which rocked the Motoring World) where it came up against a star-studded field that included the 1967 Lamborghini Marzal by Bertone, the 1965 Vivant 77 and the Ferrari 512S Modulo by Pininfarina, and understandably, didn't win a gong. If you want to see it in the flesh, the Gyro-X now resides at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, and there is an array of images in the image library for this article.
Below you'll find the class winners and honorable mention recipients, and in the image library, you'll find many more photos that capture the splendor of this remarkable annual event. If you have petroleum running in your veins, head to Northern Italy in late May at least once in your lifetime – it will be worth it.
Finally, if you are looking for the motorcycles at Villa d'Este (actually, they were next door at Villa d'Erba), you'll find them here, and BMW's Concept R18 cruiser, which was shown for the first time at the event and seems destined to go head-to-head with Harley and Indian, can be found here.
Trofeo BMW Group Italia
by Public Referendum at Villa Erba
Winner: 1938 Lancia Astura Serie IV Cabriolet by Pinin Farina
Owner: Filippo Sole, Italy
This regal Lancia Astura Serie IV Cabriolet is powered by a 3 liter engine and was penned by Battista "Pinin" Farina during the early years of his Carrozzeria Pininfarina coachbuilding company. At the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, a 1936 Astura Pinin Farina Cabriolet once owned by guitar virtuoso Eric Clapton won Best of Show.
Trofeo BMW Group Ragazzi
by Public Referendum (up to 16 years of age)
Winner: 1967 Lamborghini Marzal Four-Seater Coupé by Bertone
Owner: Albert Spiess, Switzerland
The Lamborghini Marzal was a prototype designed at Bertone by Marcello Gandini when Ferruccio Lamborghini decided he wanted a proper four-seater beyond the existing 400GT 2+2. Built on an extended Miura chassis, the Marzal's engine was half of a Lamborghini 4.0 liter V12, making for a compact 175 bhp (130 kW) 2.0 liter inline-six engine, mated to a 5-speed transmission.
Readers might find it hard to believe, but only one Marzal was ever produced. Both Dinky Toys and Matchbox made scale models of the car, which debuted to much fanfare and public acclaim at the 1967 Geneva Show and was famously driven by Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace on the parade lap at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix. As the poster couple of the paparazzi at that time, the drive made newspapers across the world.
The above video shows Prince Albert of Monaco driving the Marzal at the GP de Monaco Historique in 2018.
Concorso d'Eleganza Design Award
for Concept Cars & Prototypes
by Public Referendum
Winner: 2019 Bugatti La Voiture Noire
Owner: Etienne Salomé and Achim Anscheidt
The sensation of the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, the one-off La Voiture Noire (The Black Car) made headlines across the world when Bugatti revealed that the debutant show car had already been sold for US$12.3 million, making it the most expensive new car of all time.
La Voiture Noire is a modern interpretation of Jean Bugatti's Type 57 SC Atlantic, based on the Bugatti Chiron. While it came with the Chiron's 8-liter, W16 engine, the internals were reworked to produce a stunning 1,479 horsepower (1,103 kW) and 1,180 pound-feet (1,600 Nm) of torque from its 16 cylinders.
Volkswagen Group relaunched the famous Bugatti brand in 2005 when this publication was just three years old, and in doing so it recalibrated the world supercar market with the Veyron – a 987 hp work of art with unprecedented levels of luxury, safety and a 407 km/h (253 mph) top speed. La Voiture Noire's engine produces 50 percent more power than the fastest car in the world did just 14 years ago. The march of automotive technological progress has become a full-blooded sprint.
There are quite a few images of this car in the image gallery for this article as it is impressive from every angle, and not surprisingly, it took home a win at its first outing, despite a strong field of Concept Cars and Prototypes.
The 2019 Concept Cars & Prototypes category at Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 2019 was probably the toughest field of the entire event: from top left clockwise, the gull-winged 2019 Austro Daimler Bergmeister ADR 630 Shooting Grand, the 2018 Peugeot E-Legend Concept, the 2019 Touring Sciàdipersia Cabriolet and the 2018 Panther ProgettoUno. The gull-winged Austro Daimler Bergmeister, just as an example, is the first car of the rebirth of a famous retro brand, and the Villa d'Este show was the the first time it had been seen.
Class A - Goodbye Roaring Twenties: The Birth Of The Concorso
Winner: 1925 Vauxhall 30/98 Type OE Boattail Tourer
Owner: Peter Goodwin (US)