For anyone with a fondness for spring and an appreciation of the Italian way of life, Lake Como in April has always been hard to beat. And the world-famous Grand Hotel Villa d’Este is the perfect base for those looking to revel in the lakeside ambience rather than merely bed down for the night. Should the same people also share a love of fine cars, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este will deliver the perfect weekend. All of which means that the dates 23 – 25 April are likely to have been among the first in any auto enthusiast’s diary.
This will be the 12th time that the automotive beauty contest has been held under the patronage of the BMW Group. “We are very proud that, working with the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este, we have made the Concorso one of the world’s top classic car events,” said Karl Baumer, President of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este and Director of BMW Group Classic. Dr Jean-Marc Droulers, President of Villa d’Este S.p.A., also underlined the importance of the event for his company: “The Concorso offers an atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else. The manufacturers focused on professionalism, flawlessness and elegance when it came to building their cars, and we’re following a similar blueprint with the Concorso.”
BMW’s Italian job
The relationship between BMW and Italy is by no means limited to the Concorso. This year sees the 70th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in the history of BMW Motorsport: victory in the 1940 Mille Miglia. The hero of the day 70 years ago was the BMW 328. Just 464 examples of the Roadster were built over the four years from 1936 to 1940, but that was enough to put the wind up its rivals. A racing version of the 328 made its debut in the legendary Italian car race in 1938 – and filled the top four places in its class at the first attempt. BMW lined up for the final pre-war edition of the race two years later with a pair of 328 Coupés and three Roadster versions, for which a new and ultra-lightweight streamlined body had been developed. In the battle to shed the seconds, its head-turning contours successfully reduced aerodynamic drag and shaped the path of automotive design for decades to come. The BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé secured the brand its greatest triumph to date. Drivers Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer posted an average speed of 166.723 km/h on the way to securing overall victory in the race, and the coveted team prize also went to BMW. “Before we head to the Mille Miglia we will put all of our Mille Miglia cars on display to the public in a special exhibition at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. You could call it a team presentation,” said Karl Baumer, whetting the appetite for the planned BMW showcase at the Concorso.
As always, the BMW Group Classic cars will appear hors concours. The selecting committee has picked out 52 beautiful models from six decades of automotive history for the event on the banks of Lake Como. They will be entered in seven different classes. In his capacity as Selecting Adviser, Urs Paul Ramseier is responsible for choosing the cars that will take part in the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. In Geneva, he offered a foretaste of some of the treasures in store among the elite field of entrants.
Jaguar XKC 120, 1952
The Jaguar C-Type – C for Competition – was a two-seater sports car designed for racing. It was developed in 1951 around the improved Jaguar XK 120 engine, a 3,442 cc six-cylinder unit producing 200 bhp. That was enough to power the car to over 230 km/h. The C-Type celebrated victory on its race debut in May 1951, the pairing of Peter Walker/Peter Whitehead winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car which will be on display at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2010 is the first which was delivered to the United States in 1952 and it was driven by the Formula 1 world champion Phil Hill at different races. The Jaguar will be shown in Europe the first time after it left England almost fifty years ago.
Talbot-Lago, T150 C SS Goutte d’Eau, 1938
The takeover of the Talbot factory in 1935 by Italian Antony Lago marked the dawn of a new era. Indeed, it wasn’t long before the brand was attracting international attention, notably after its victory in the 1937 French Grand Prix. The new T150 C SS race chassis delivered exceptional performance and reportedly provided the basis for 14 teardrop-shaped bodies built by renowned Paris coachbuilders Figoni & Falaschi. The car which will be on display at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2010 was ordered by Duke Philippe de Massa in autumn 1938 with aluminum bodywork, a sunroof and a rear window which could be opened. In 1939 it was piloted by the driver pairing of Philippe de Massa and Norbert Mahé at Le Mans. Unfortunately the number 8 car was forced to retire on its 88th lap while running ninth. The current owner bought the Talbot-Lago at auction in the USA in 2006, and its appearance at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2010 will be the first time since restoration that it has gone on display in Europe.
BMW 328 Mille Miglia Roadster Series 1, 1937
After topping its class at Le Mans and the Mille Miglia in 1939, the BMW 328 roared to overall and team victory in the Mille Miglia a year later, securing its legendary status as an all-conquering racing car. One incarnation of the 328 was the series 1 BMW 328 Mille Miglia Roadster. Also known as the “Trouser Crease” Roadster, it was built as a series production model in 1937 but wrapped up victory in its class at the 1938 Mille Miglia with only a handful of modifications carried out to the standard specification. In 1939 BMW decided to completely rebuild the car for the following year’s Mille Miglia. The chassis and frame were retained, but this time provided the basis for a totally new racing sports car body. The result was a racing concept which broke new ground with its aluminum body and aerodynamic form. The open-top racing car owes it nickname “Trouser Crease” to the distinctive ridge running over the top of its fenders. After the war, the Roadster found its way to Moscow and finally Latvia, before being acquired by a buyer in Germany in 2001.
Alfa Romeo Giulia 1600 Sport Pininfarina, 1965
Alfa Romeo presented the TZ (Tubolare Zagato) road-going racing car at the Turin Motor Show in 1962. A strict allegiance to lightweight design principles produced a tubular frame and aluminium body and brought the weight of the sports car – which borrowed the remainder of its technical make-up from the Giulia 1600 – down to well below 700 kg. Small-series production got under way in 1963 but came to an end in 1965 with only 102 Zagato-bodied examples made. Most TZ1s and TZ2s were subjected to a punishing and varied racing schedule, yet more often than not they finished well up the field. The car on show at the Concorso is a one-off example with a Pininfarina body which is based on the TZ2 like the Canguro by Bertone. This concept car was unveiled to the public for the first time at the 47th Turin Motor Show in 1965. Visitors will find this outstanding Alfa Romeo beautifully presented in its original condition and still with its original paintwork.
The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2010
The weekend of 23 – 25 April 2010 will see the fabulous grounds of the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and Villa Erba in Cernobbio once again offering an exquisite stage for the most alluring classics of the past and the boldest concept cars of the present. The first Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este was held here on the banks of Lake Como in 1929, and today no other event of its kind can match its heritage and tradition.
The Concorso begins on Saturday with a program for invited guests. On Sunday, all car fans will then have the chance to admire these automotive masterpieces at close quarters in the adjacent parkland of Villa Erba. The cars presented on Saturday will be complemented by special exhibitions featuring a host of other prestigious classic models. Admission to Villa Erba in Cernobbio is 14 euros (concessions 8 euros).