On the sunny shores of Lake Como in Northern Italy sits Villa d’Este, a grand 149-year old Villa that has been the stomping ground for the world’s aristocracy for over a century. It’s about as romantic as it gets on one of the most romantic lakes in the world and for one weekend a year it plays host to one of the most romantic automotive events. 

The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este had its inaugural event in 1929 on the same grounds the event is still held on today. Its longevity today is a culmination of a near 100 year history and the prestige that comes with entering a car here and the opportunity to win a class or overall trophy. With over 150 cars entered this year, each representing the very best of their kind, it was a tough year to be a judge. 

2022 sees the return of the Concorso being held at its usual time slot in May from 2019. During 2020 the show was cancelled and in 2021 a smaller show was held in October. Though it wasn’t quite as bustling as it once was pre-pandemic, 2022 certainly felt like a return to form for one of the premier concours events on the automotive calendar. 

This year saw a celebration of 50 years of BMW M, no coincidence as BMW Classic is the major sponsor for the show. BMW pulled out all the stops bringing cars from their museum onto the picturesque lawns at Villa d’Este. A display of M3s greeted everyone entering the show while highlights from BMW M’s racing history such as the M1 Procar, 3.0 CSL, and 320 Group 5 were proudly displayed. 

Separating the 150+ cars are 7 distinct categories; Class A was The Golden Age of Elegance: The Art Deco Era of Motorcar Design, Class B was Kompressor! The Supercharged Mercedes-Benz, Class C Celebrating 150 Seasons of at Villa d’Este: How Grand Entrances Were Once Made, Class D was The Cavallino at 75 – Eight Decades of Ferrari Represented in Eight Icons, Class E was Born For The Racetrack – “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday”, Class F was 50 Years of Mean Machinery – BMW’s M Cars and their Ancestors and finally Class G was Breaking the Speed Barrier: Pioneers That Chased the Magic 300 kph. 

Taking the Class A win was the 1937 Bugatti 57 S. This particular car is one of four Bugatti 57 S cabriolets bodied by coachbuilder, Vanvooren. An interesting part of this car’s history is that it was once owned by a Vice President of General Motors who swapped the original inline-8 engine for a Buick V8 for “test purposes”. After being separated from its original engine resulting in the culmination of a four-decades search, the car and its inline-8 were finally reunited after the engine popped up for sale on an online auction. 

Class B trophy was taken by the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet A. Once owned by Parisian entrepreneur Lucy Franchi, owner of the Parisian Bar Americain La Roulette, it was said to have chauffeured talents such as Edith Piaf, Louis Armstrong, and Django Reinhardt to and from Franchi’s bar. A true icon of 1930s high society. 

For Class C, entrants brought back cars that had previously won at Villa d’Este before. The winner of this was the 1956 Chrysler Buono Coupe Speciale. Based on a Chrysler 300 and coach built by Buono for one Giovanni Agnelli (yes that Agnelli) but then passed it on to his brother, Umberto, upon taking over the reins at Fiat. The car spent much of its life in France until it was sent over to the United States in the 1980s. The current owner acquired the car in 2018 and has since meticulously restored it back to its former glory. 

Class D was a celebration of Ferrari’s 75th anniversary. It’s no surprise that perhaps one of the most bizarre Ferraris of all time took out the prize for this category. The 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale Tre Posti is not only a mouthful to say but also jaw dropping to behold. It’s the first Ferrari road car to adopt a mid-engine layout, much to Enzo Ferrari’s resistance. Alas, Giovanni Agnelli and Luigi Chinetti, Ferrari’s American importer, convinced Enzo to build two prototypes. Unlike regular prototypes, the 365 P was based on the 365 P2 racing cars with the same race-spec 380hp 4.4-litre V12 positioned behind the cabin. Inside the cabin is what makes this car even more unique, it had a three-seater configuration with a central driving position. This was a full three decades before the McLaren F1 made this layout legendary. 

The Class E winner for “Race on Sunday, sell on Monday” went to the intriguing Porsche 356 B Abarth GTL. That’s not a mistake, this car is both a Porsche and an Abarth. Porsche had an existing contract with the Italian company and they came together to produce a compact GT car to rival new competition from Alfa Romeo and Lotus. Only 20 lightweight bodies were created by coach builders Viarenzo & Filliponi and Rocco Motto, with final assembly being done by Porsche. This particular car was originally owned by Swedish-based Carl-Gunnar Hammarlund who won all 11 races he entered the car in, without any accidents. 

Rounding up the winners of each class was the BMW 3.0 CSL for Class F and the Porsche 959 for Class G. Best in Show went to the 1937 Bugatti 57 S while People’s Choice went to the Aston Martin Bulldog. This was also a particular favourite of mine from the show purely because this one-off from 1981 just seemed like a car that’s never been seen in public and would remain an automotive mystery. Initially commissioned by a customer who wanted a sports car that could break the 200 mph barrier, the Bulldog had its own bespoke tubular frame and was powered by a turbocharged version of Aston’s contemporary 5.3-litre V8. The car has since undergone comprehensive restoration and is said to make a 200 mph test run later this year. 

It’s not all classics and vintage cars too, there’s a special section dedicated to the latest speed machines and concept cars. This year the likes of the Bugatti Bolide, DeTomaso P72, Marc Philip Gemballa Marisen, Glickenhaus SCG004, and Maserati Mostro Zagato Spyder made up the lawn. Modern speed machines such as the Maserati MC12 and Nissan R390 GT1 were also there to represent the modern class of collectable cars. These cars will ensure that shows like this will continue to have audiences in the future. 

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este has attracted entrants and spectators from around the world for almost 100 year simply because it is one of the best automotive events of the year. A weekend on one of the most beautiful spots in Italy surrounded by some of the best and most significant cars throughout the history of the automobile, sign me up for that. This year’s instalment did see a few cancellations due to the rising cost of bringing cars over from around the world but even with over 150 cars in attendance amidst everything else going on in the world, the 2022 Concorso d’Eleganza was a show of strength for its longevity and place in automotive culture. 

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Ken Saito
Words cannot begin to describe how much I love cars but it's worth a try. Grew up obsessed with them and want to pursue a career writing about them. Anything from small city cars to the most exotic of supercars will catch my attention.


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