Villa D’Este is a concours d’elegance where everything from the grass on which the motor cars rest, the lake and hills that they overlook and the hotel overlooking them seem film-set perfect, with weather to match.
When you arrive, it’s difficult to know what to look at first. Especially as there are cars here that you’ll likely never have seen before in magazines, books or on the web, never mind in real life.
The Villa D’Este concours, named after the hotel whose grounds the event takes place in on the shore of Italy’s Lake Como, has been running for 85 years as a glamorous parade of some of the world’s rarest, most exotic and quite often most expensive cars.
And all of them are presented in perfect condition, although determining just how perfect is part of the point of this event, which is a contest of automotive beauty, preservation and originality.
The outright winner of this year’s pageant was a 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport by Aprile, whose siren engine note was as captivating as its unusual looks.
These were some of the most spectacular machines:
Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport by Aprile
This Alfa started life in 1931 as a Zagato-bodied car, until a crash saw it rebodied by a tiny coachbuilders called Aprile, who gave it rather more modern clothes. It was bought by its current owner Corrado Lopestro in 2008, whose restoration of it involved analysis of old black and white photographs by Milan Polytechnic in order to determine its original colour scheme. This car was the event’s overall winner.
Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM Superflow IV
This car has lead four lives, all of them famous. In 1953 it was a racing car, driven to second place in the Mille Miglia by Juan Manuel Fangio. It was then used as a styling platform for Pinin Farina, who produced no less than four different styles for it between 1956 and 1960. The first was a coupe, the second a modified version of that, the third a roadster and the fourth the car you see here. Most versions featured a Plexiglass roof, which slides. The Superflow’s influence on the original 1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider is clear.
The 1936 BMW 328 and its spaceframe chassis marked a major advance in sports car design, this open two-seater winning many major competitions. Just two of the closed variety were produced, this dramatic, streamlined version bodied by Wendler Wagenfabrik for a Hans Klepper, who planned to compete in the Berlin to Rome endurance race. In early tests this two litre, six cylinder car achieved 108mph, giddy for a 2.0 litre of the day.
Ferrari 250 Europa
It might be share its colour scheme with a trifle, but this long, low and elegantly spare Ferrari from 1963 is utterly fabulous. Bodied by Pinin Farina, this car lived briefly in Italy before being shipped to the US, where its V12 engine was brutally substituted for a Chevrolet V8. The car returned to Italy in 1990, then went to Holland, its original engine improbably unearthed in 2007 to complete a total restoration.
Fiat 132 Aster
The Fiat 132 was a fairly large rear-drive saloon best known for an acute understeer habit and the pleasing rort of its twin cam engine. Very few survive, but one lives in the form of this Zagato-bodied Aster coupe from 1972. Novelties of this strange aluminium-bodied two-seater included its triangular quarterlights and polished alloy roof. The prototype was assessed by Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli himself, but considered too expensive to make. There are two Asters in fact, both owned by Swiss collector Patrick Bischoff.