The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is one of the most important events in the classic car world – a place where the international scene dances around the wonders of traditional automotive sculpture and the enthusiasm for mythical names such as Bugatti, Delage, and Cisitalia knows no bounds. But how does the automotive concours of the future look? Are the collector cars from the turn of the new millennium also adept at being admired in an elegant setting by veritable experts? And with which models can you inspire millennials who are comparatively unenthusiastic about the subject?
Answers to all these questions were sought by the Milanese fashion entrepreneur Guglielmo Miani last weekend. Just a few minutes (by Riva, naturally) from the comings and goings of the Concorso on Sunday was the inaugural Fuoriconcorso at the Villa del Grumello. The focus of the monothematic automotive beauty pageant was the great Bentley Continental Rs and Ts, with which the 100-year-old British brand made a fantastic comeback in the 1990s.
In the presence of the huge coupés with their almost comical proportions, exuberant luxury, and tailor-made optional extras, it dawned on many visitors just how little in common these cars share with today’s prêt-à-porter models from Crewe. That a bespoke example of the Ferrari-eating Continental R was built by the factory for the exceptional Italian entrepreneur Carlo Talamo is also a testimony to British eccentricity, something that’s been somewhat lost in the brand’s transition to the Wolfsburg era.
The 527HP Continental R ‘Sufacon’ (an abbreviation of ‘Super Fast Continental’) and the Continental S equipped with corduroy upholstery at the behest of a British parliamentarian are also evidence of Bentley’s once extravagant and fast-paced clientele’s desire to emulate the legendary ‘Bentley Boys’ from the 1920s, regardless of cost and convention. Or how about the canary-yellow Continental T built to be parked pride of place in Casino Square in Monte-Carlo? Or two secret compartments in place of the rear seats? In contrast to the roulette wheel in Monte-Carlo, everything was possible in Crewe for a short time.
It seems hard to believe that the mighty, once-eye-wateringly-expensive Grand Tourers from Bentley’s independence days could, until very recently, be obtained for roughly the same the price of a new small car. In the meantime, values have increased significantly, but there are still fantastically equipped examples on the market listed at reasonable prices. It was part of the appeal of Fuoriconcorso that these cars have only just been rediscovered by the collecting community and not – as at next door’s Concorso d’Eleganza – been traded at peak prices for decades. Miani and his team must also be complimented for the first-class staging of the event. Similar to the California-born Porsche meeting Luftgekühlt, every car in the grounds of the Villa del Grumello was staged in such a way that it made for a great photo opportunity. Thanks to all the photographers and influencers, the Bentley-themed show was omnipresent on social media on Sunday afternoon.
The Fuoriconcorso also celebrated the publication of the illustrated book Bentley – A Century of Elegance and Speed, published by Miani in partnership with the Milanese publishing house Giorgio Nada Editore. Over 300 pages, author Marko Macaus tells the 100-year history of the Bentley brand and the photographer-cum-influencer Ted Gushue’s images beautifully document the Continental Coupés (many of which were present at the event). Furthermore, the foreword was written by our very own Editor-in-Chief Jan Baedeker and was recently published in the Classic Driver Magazine. We heartily recommend securing yourself a copy of the book from the Classic Driver Market, before it inevitably sells out.
The team behind the Fuoriconcorso also managed to invite a very special guest to Lake Como: John Heffernan. The British car designer developed the shape of the Bentley Continental R during ‘Project 90’ – coincidentally, he is also the designer who created the Aston Martin Virage, another overlooked 1990 supercar that would be suited to star at its own concours. In any case, we are excited to see what will be the theme of next year’s Fuoriconcorso.
Photos: Andrea Klainguti for Classic Driver © 2019