Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

For the 20 years from 1929 to 1949, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este was a world-renowned automotive beauty contest, with the latest and most stylish cars displayed in the Grand Hotel’s glorious Lake Como setting. Attempts to revive the event in the 1980s and mid ’90s came to nothing and then, in 1999, BMW stepped in, providing the necessary vision and backing. Today, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is one of the highlights of the motoring calendar, a stunning mix of the greatest classics from the 1920s-1970s and present-day concept cars and prototypes.

In 2008, beautiful weather enhanced a magnificent event, a stroll through the grounds of the Grand Hotel feeling like a trip through motoring history. From the 1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Pall Mall Tourer to the black Lamborghini Miura SV owned by Dr. Luigi Macaluso, President of Girard-Perregaux, the automotive allure went on and on.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

The seven-strong jury, chaired by Fiat designer Lorenzo Ramaciotti, included Lord March of Goodwood fame. Every detail of the competing cars was examined and, every time an engine was started up, a crowd of spectators gathered… lured by, for example, the roar of the 5.3-litre V8 of the extravagant Bizzarrini P 538 Manta.


Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

Saturday’s highlight was the parade of the classic and concept cars with commentary by Simon Kidston, the knowledgeable former head of Bonhams Europe's motor car department, rolling out anecdote after anecdote, all in fluent Italian.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

The Mexican collector Arturo Keller took the most coveted prize, the 2008 Coppa d'Oro Villa d'Este, for his 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Autobahnkurier Coupé, which also won the Streamlined Style and Speed group. Just two 540 Ks exist; the other, a gift to the Shah of Persia, resides in Tehran. The Trofeo BMW Group went to John Croul’s beautiful 1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring Berlinetta.


Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

Fred Kriz drove his 1959 Bentley S1 Continental 2-door saloon Mulliner from Monaco, which won him the prize for the car driven the longest distance to the event. If there had been a prize for the most impressive sound, it would doubtless have been awarded to the 1930 4.5-litre Blower Bentley.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

On the second day, the general public arrived to view the cars in the spectacular gardens at Villa Erba, former home of the director Luchino Visconti. The visitors voted for their favourite car and the winner, the 1937 Delahaye 135M of American Peter Mullin, was awarded the Trofeo BMW Group Italia. This unique machine, designed for a Maharajah, features bodywork by Figoni & Falaschi.


Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

Surprisingly, the public audience chose the Bugatti Veyron Fbg Hermès to win the Concorso d'Eleganza Design Award. Other prototypes and concepts on display included the Swiss submersible Rinspeed sQuba, the Morgan LIFEcar Coupe, Zagato’s GTZ Bentley and Maserati Touring’s Bellagio Fast Back Shooting Brake study. BMW gave a glimpse into its own future with the Concept CS design study – though, as event sponsor, it withheld the CS from the awards.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

BMW also used the Concorso to pay tribute to its M1 sports car, celebrating the 30th anniversary of this great mid-engined model. Eight M1s were on show and, as if that weren’t enough, on the Saturday evening Adrian van Hooydonk, Design Director of BMW Automobiles, unveiled the BMW M1 Homage – a detailed report on which appeared in last week’s Classic Driver.


Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

The Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este has once more confirmed its position as Europe’s dream event. The selection of cars, the location and the organisation are exceptional. This outstanding experience surely deserves a place in your 2009 travel plans.

Photo Gallery

1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1925 Bentley 3 Litre

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
Mercedes-Benz 680 S

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1928 Isotta-Fraschini 8A

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
Bentley 4 ½-Litre "Blower"

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1932 Daimler Double Six

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1934 Voisin C 24

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1936 Hispano-Suiza J 12

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1927 Hispano-Suiza H6C

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1928 Mercedes-Benz 680 S

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1935 SS Cars Ltd. SS 90

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1936 Bugatti 57

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1937 Mercedes-Benz 320

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1937 Delahaye 135 M

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1940 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1935 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Jankovits

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1937 Bugatti 57 SC Atalante

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1937 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 B Pescara

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K "Autobahnkurier"

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
3 1948 Delahaye 135 M

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1956 Bentley S1

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1956 Maserati A6 G54

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008
1958 BMW 507,

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008

Text: Classic Driver
Photos: Nanette Schaerf / BMW


ClassicInside - The Classic Driver Newsletter
Free Subscription!