Last weekend, the “Crème de la Automobile” met at the “Villa d’Este” in Cernobbio for the two-day Concorso d’Eleganza. An insider event by and for coach builders.
The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este has been held in irregular succession since 1929. The idea is – or at least it used to be – to nominate the most beautiful car in the world. Beauty is a relative term, so it is up to a jury of judges to award the main prize, which used to be a «Coppo d’Oro». Now there are a variety of prizes. The most desirable prize for the participants who drive up their cars is the “Trofeo BMW Group – Best of Show by the Jury”. The “Coppo d’Oro Villa d’Este” also still exists, but the audience awards it by voting on the first day of the event.
The name of the main prize reveals what the 1,200 invited guests jumped at this weekend from almost every area of the Hotel Villa d’Este, which was full of cars: Bayerische Motoren Werke AG is a co-organizer of the Concorso – in addition to the “Villa d’Este” itself, which, by the way, is celebrating 150 years of its existence as a hotel this year. In 1999, BMW, along with a few others, entered this show of classic vehicles as a sponsor. The car manufacturer has been an equal partner of the “Villa d’Este” since 2005 and has gradually begun to use the event as a marketing platform for almost all communication topics. This resulted in a marathon of events – at least at this edition of the Concorso.
Show running with prologue
For the first time in the history of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este there was a prelude tour in which the participants drove in convoy from Milan to Cernobbio. This included the unveiling of a Rolls-Royce Boat Tail on Friday evening, which was built as a one-off for and with its owner. Coachbuilding is what Rolls-Royce call this process – a word that stands for handcrafted luxury and dates back to the century before last, when coachbuilders actually built horse-drawn carriages.
The future owner of a “coachbuilt” Rolls-Royce can implement his wishes and ideas with the help of the actual automobile designers and engineers – a service that Rolls-Royce in Goodwood is very happy to offer, similar to when owners with a very large budget choose to do so have a yacht personalized.
At the request of the owner family, the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail presented in Cernobbio was equipped with something like a rolling picnic basket with ship character, including an extendable parasol, all in very feminine rosé to brown tones, revealed in the garden of the Hotel Mandarin Oriental Como what underlined the high-end status of the family carriage even more.
Alex Innes, who at the age of 35 is still at the very beginning of his career, is in charge of the design for the coach building at Rolls-Royce. Actually, one might think that such young creative people with an affinity for automobiles are striving for more modern model series. Innes, when asked about it, grins boyishly, he hears it often: “But I’m actually fascinated by how the heritage of the Rolls-Royce name, how the DNA of the brand can be transferred into the future: Heritage made young. And managing a project like this, where you can implement the customer’s wishes directly, is a fascinating challenge.»
When you arrive so early at the pinnacle of luxury, where money is (almost) irrelevant, what does a young automotive designer still dream of? “To design a yacht,” says Alex Innes. Kind of logical when you see the Boat Tail. Incidentally, BMW secured the rights to Rolls-Royce in 1998, just a year before their first engagement at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. Everything from Munich hand.
One M more
The M for Motorsport was emblazoned everywhere on the site, visible from afar. This year, on May 24th, 2022, BMW is celebrating 50 years of M, i.e. the existence of the BMW Motorsport Group, with the presence of the first BMW M1 and its designer, the legendary Giorgio Giugiaro, among other things.
Racing versions and road models from the M series, both old and new, were lined up for the festive occasion. Very fresh in this context: the BMW M4 CSL (stands for Coupé Sport Lightweight), a world premiere that was unveiled on Friday evening before the sophisticated dinner. A special model limited to 1000 pieces and currently the fastest production BMW, it should reach 307 km/h. Things continued happily on Saturday: the unveiling of a European premiere, the all-electric BMW i7 luxury sedan. It is intended to demonstrate that BMW wants to be seen as a luxury and premium brand.
In a back corner of the spacious park, you could still marvel at an alleged sensation in a cube, protected from prying eyes, but only if you handed in your mobile phone at the entrance: the seven-seater BMW XM. It’s due out in 2023 and it will be the heaviest car BMW has ever built. It’s easy to believe when you see the car. Its size is suspiciously close to the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, a giant ship not designed by Alex Innes, but – because it is a BMW – by chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk himself. “The future will produce more cars with a stronger individual character,” van Hooydonk answers the question about the car design of the future and probably wants to justify the two brute models XM and M4 CSL. He likes to be at such events, enthuses van Hooydonk from the Concorso, they support the continued passion for automobiles, give mobility itself a meaning and remind him that it is worth striving to create design that lasts.
Back to the Future
On Saturday, an example of – brute – design that has remained was actually considered by the audience with the audience award, the “Coppo d’Oro Villa d’Este”: the Aston Martin Bulldog, a one-off built in 1979, for the amateur viewer a car straight out of a 1970s sci-fi movie. Perhaps the model was once intended for a Bond film, for the villain? In any case, it was built back then at Aston Martin in coachbuilder style for one customer and only once. More were planned, but the vehicle simply cost too much. This unique piece, which was probably ignored for a long time, was afforded by a billionaire’s son from the USA, restored it meticulously and was very well received by the public this year.
Best of Show
However, the actual main prize, the “Trofeo BMW Group – Best of Show by the Jury”, was awarded on Sunday afternoon after a second parade. While all 59 cars vying for prizes strolled down the gravel path in front of the Hotel Villa d’Este on the first parade on Saturday, on Sunday it was the finalists, i.e. the best in their classes and those honored with Mention of Honorees. There were six classes, each with a theme. One was of course called BMW and was dedicated to the 50 years of BMW M history. And because every class received an award, a BMW also made it into the final, a 3.0 CSL from 1972. In the end, the jury’s prize went to a beautiful 1937 Bugatti 57S owned by a very wealthy management consultant from Monaco. A car that also radiates the elegant flair of the coachbuilders of past centuries in a way that is understandable for laypeople – how fitting for this occasion.
The Svizzeri at the Concorso
Dorte Welti. It is appropriate to mention a few of the Swiss applicants, simply because they were just right, at least for the writer at this concorso. Above all, a beautiful Bugatti Type 59 Sports from 1934 owned by the collector Fritz Burkard. A car with a lot of soul – the Bugatti used to be a bolide on racetracks before the then King of Belgium bought it and put it on common roads. The Bugatti, which probably did its laps in factory blue and was repainted black at the behest of the Belgian king, is in its original condition and therefore received the “Trofeo Fiva” as the best-preserved pre-war car, awarded by the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens (Fiva) , by professionals. And as you know, they know each other.
O Lord, won’t you buy me . . .
In class B, in which only a Mercedes can win, because the “Kompressor! The supercharged Mercedes-Benz», won a 540 K Cabriolet A from 1936, driven by Hans Hulsbergen from Switzerland. Konstantinas Karosas’ Mercedes-Benz 500 K, built in 1935 and from the same class, earned nothing but applause. Stefan Näf took the “Trofeo BMW M” for the most powerful vehicle home with a Ferrari F40 LM from 1993, which was built for the racetrack at the time but never saw one.
Then there was the 1998 Nissan R390 GT1 that actually competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is now street legal thanks to Erik Comas, its former driver. Comas now lives in Lausanne and made the car roadworthy. The car took part in the Concorso in Class E for “Born on the Racetrack” cars, but did not receive a prize. And Daniel Iseli also got nothing with a 1955 Mercedes 300 SL, although the father of this car is the same one who built the one that recently went under the hammer for $135 million. But this example was “only” driven by Sophia Loren, and that’s not a sign of quality in the illustrious Concorso d’Eleganza circles. The 300 SL competed in Class C for “Celebrating 150 Seasons at Villa d’Este”, a class of its own.