I have never been to Italy before. Although they say that all the ways lead to Rome somehow I managed to find some that do not. That sounds weird because if you knew me well, you would know that I am fascinated with Italian culture, cuisine and more importantly for this case – Italian automobiles. After all these years I managed to book my flights and was looking forward to my trip to the sunny Italia. Excited as I was, I planned the entire voyage having the automotive theme in mind with the focal point being right in the beginning – The Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa Erba in Cernobbio.
I have arrived to Como on Sunday morning and went to check in to my hostel. I was really surprised when I met Jakub from ForzaItalia.pl checking-out in the lobby. We chatted for a while and I teamed-up with Jakub’s team as they offered me a ride to Cernobbio, to Villa Erba where the event was held. We parked way before the venue but we did not regret it – there were enthusiasts arriving in very interesting cars – on the way we passed a Ferrari 456GT and BMW Z8. By that time I already knew it will be a good day.
BMW NEW SERIES 8
We have arrived slightly before the opening hour and queued for a short while. Here is a hint for anyone who is planning to go there next year – buy the entrance ticket online and print it at home – you will be in much faster. As soon as you enter through the door you can feel that it is a luxurious place and a great venue to adore classic, vintage motorization. On the way to the garden where all the Concorso d’Eleganza participants were displaying their beauties there was an extraordinary exhibition by BMW, who were the main patron of the event. Showed on a circular podium there were historical coupes by the German manufacturer from different eras: 327, 503, 3200CS, the one-off M8, 850i Cabrio and 850CSi.
At the very end of the route I understood the point – premiered there was the new BMW 8-Series. Although I could not get close to it I can see that it is a beautiful car which takes heaps from its ancestors and I cannot wait to see it on the streets soon.
As soon as I walked outside the initial exhibition I found myself surrounded by one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever been to. And to top it all off, on the perfectly trimmed lawn there were the tens of the automobiles of my dreams. I need to admit – I was a bit overwhelmed. Although I am a huge petrolhead since the time my granddad let me drive (steer is probably more appropriate, as I could not reach the pedals at that time) his white Fiat 126p when I was couple years old, never have I been to an elegance contest of such a scale and reputation. It was simply the perfect combination – fantastic venue, incredible Italian weather and legendary classic cars. I took a deep breath, fired up my camera again and started to walk around these beauties.
The first eye-catcher was doubtlessly the BMW 507. It was not a contestant but here again the Bavarian company did their best presenting a mint condition classic. Although this one was red, standing close one could almost feel as if he or she was Presley. Accompanied by appropriately chosen live music band I wandered towards a beautiful Italian duo – Lamborghini Miura P400 and Ferrari 365 GT/4 Berlinetta Boxer.
Both were listed in the same class, of as ever for Concorso d’Eleganza extraordinary name – Fast and Flamboyant: Playboys’ Toys. The first one has an impressive history and has been restored shortly before the contest. Originally owned by the son of the famous sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Adrian, it had fantastic Rosso Speciale exterior and very uncommon black leather interior. The latter of the duo I fell for immediately. The one and only Berlinetta Boxer which left the factory in striking Verde Germoglio green body paint. Number 379 out of 387 ever produced is a fantastic sculpture by Pininfarina with exceptional details such as six-piece tail lights combined with six exhaust pipes delivering the most beautiful music of the flat-twelve engine.
ALL THESE GRAN TOURISMOS
I will not hide it – I am a huge fan of the classic gran tourismo and such cars appeal to me a bit more than the others. Hence why not so far away from the described above an exceptional Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato was working on me like magnet. This one had a fantastic silver bodywork made out of thicker than normal aluminium sheets ordered specially by the client. That, together with Perspex windows replaced by glass possibly made this particular car the heaviest of the 19 examples ever produced. Despite being a bit chubby it has rich racing history behind it.
Almost next to that Aston was one of plenty, if not the only favourite car for me – the legendary Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB. I have never seen it live up to that point. With golden painted, haute couture aluminium body by Scaglietti it makes for a perfect racing car. With an amazingly clean V12 powered by three Webber carburettors it made one of my automotive dreams come true. This example was first owned by Gérard Spinedi who equipped the car with rather extraordinary details – third windscreen wiper and third headlamp. Although one might argue if his taste for such options was good (of course it must have been, he chose 250 SWB), there is no doubt that he used the car right. Racing since 1961 that Ferrari won several races in his class with Spinedi shining on fourth place of 1963 Tour de France.
And then I spotted my second dream. I quickly passed the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Competizione, Porsche 911 Carrera RSR and briefly stopped by the Lamborghini 350GT owned by Bénédicte and Veronique Laureys. With chassis number 0265 it was a model which was originally owned by Ferruccio Lamborghini himself. But I could not wait anymore. Few steps away was a car which I have assembled myself as a 1:24 scale Bburago when I was a child, and I still keep in my parents’ house. Standing next to the real Gullwing was a fantastic experience for such a big fan of the model as I am. With its doors up it was surrounded by spectators all the time making it impossible to take a good shot. However, I was rewarded later on, being able to capture it driving towards Lake Como with wings spread wide.
IF I ONLY HAD THE MEANS…
For 2.30pm there was the award ceremony scheduled so I took my time to quickly eat lunch and visit the tent with cars which were sold the day before by RM Sotheby’s. Although the cars auctioned were not as amazing as the ones participating in the contest – they were still top notch. Two automobiles were sold with a price tag set at around 3 million Euros – 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS ‘Goutte d’Eau’ Coupé and 1935 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Prototype followed by a brand new (weird as it sounds, but the car was never driven) Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 3.8 from 1993 which was sold for a bit more than 2 million. If I had the means I would consider buying either the 1969 Ferrari 365 GTC or almost three times as expensive Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso from 1964. All the lots sold by RM Sotheby’s totalled more than 25.5 million Euros.
It was getting late so I headed towards the grand stand to participate in the award ceremony. I did not sit at the tribune as I wanted to be closer to the cars and be able to walk around to get best views and shots. Although I could go on and on and describe each and every car that was presented I would like to focus on just a few icons. But before I will get to my beloved classics I would like to start from almost the end of the event and describe aa auto which appeared out of nowhere and changed my attitude to concept cars. Trezor was simply fantastic – an electric two-seater coupe which was futuristic but down to Earth. Its proportions were extreme: very wide and long whilst just a bit taller than the wheel-line. It made no sense and perfect sense at the same time. Brilliant job, Renault! But… back to the classics!
First and foremost a car who simply won it all – both the judges and the public chose that car as the most beautiful. A star of the Supergioiello Class – Alfa Romeo Giuilietta Sprint Speciale Prototipo. Contrary to the the famous Alfa Romeo ‘BAT Mobiles’ – Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica – which were test vehicles this one was a prototype of a road car. Incredibly slender lines makes it look fast even while standing still – Franco Scaglione made sure everything is buttoned up on this one. Possibly that is why he scrapped it from the famous Scudetto… Four years younger Fiat Otto Vu, or simply 8V is another example of a very streamlined design. Second of nine ever produced this one was recently restored by Dutch specialists from Strada e Corsa. The job was done perfectly what was proved by the car winning its Class – Heroes of the Jet Age. It seems like they did not call it Supersonic for nothing.
I changed places and moved closer to the Villa. It was then when I captured a hilarious scene which to me looked so Italian. There were four guys pushing the Maserati A6G/2000 Gran Sport and they managed to get it up to speed quite significantly. It was the ‘Ultimate Barn-find’ being pushed as the car once belonged to the French entrepreneur Robert Baillon. One of the very few cars kept in weather-sealed garage preserved until today in original state with charming patina. It was refurbished mechanically, but at Concorso it gave up. What worked perfectly though was its older brother – Ballot 3/8 LC. Although I mentioned some lines above that I was huge fan of vintage gran tourers, my love to pre-war cars is somehow limited. That French two-seater had me at hello. Having great racing history behind it the Austrian driver Alexander Schaufler decided to leave early and not head to the Villa anymore. Luckily I was at a right place at a right time and captured a clean shot of him leaving the driveway…
I WILL BE BACK
And so left I. After the ceremony had ended I took a last look at the Lake Como from close to the Villa and although I was really exhausted I decided to walk all the way from Cernobbio to Como. Before coming to Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa Erba my expectations were high and I was expecting something really unique. What I really experienced was a stunning show which I will doubtlessly visit next year.
Halfway through the way to the hostel I stopped at Vecchia Tavernola, ordered a pizza and home-made wine. It was possibly the best finale for a fantastic petrolhead day….
Text & Photos: Adam Pękala ©