Originally known as the “Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este”, the international Concours d’élégance for motor cars, was held for the first time on the 1st of September 1929. The inimitable beauty of the Lake of Como and the fabulous backcloth provided by the gardens of Villa Olmo and Villa d’Este, rapidly positioned this event in a class of its own

It is also interesting to know that September 1929, was only two months before the Wall Street Crash, the tragic economical downturn that lead to a reassessment of values, and an acceleration of the rationalisation of car design, resulting ultimately – in Europe at least – in the demise of automotive gigantism. But despite this, the coachbuilding business managed to stay afloat and coachbuilders enjoyed a twenty-year reprieve during which they reached heights of creative expression that have perhaps remained unmatched ever since. Obviouly this was crucial for the Concorso’s good health for many years which unfortunately had to close its doors in 1952

Photography by Hermann Koepf

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After forty years of absence, the Concorso was finally relaunched in 1995, with the exception of a couple of years in between, and it is now been stablished as one the milestones in the antique car world, with multimillion machines (Last year’s winner Bugatti owned by Ralph Lauren was $44.000.000) camping freely all around the beautiful gardens.

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What was going on in Villa d’Este, was a cool party in one of the most amazing places we’ve ever been invited to, but these rich, among the rich, automobile connoisseurs didn’t look like they were having any fun at all. It reminded me of a canine concourse but of excessive monetary proportions & consequences. The car owners looked like fossil collectors, and they were concentrating for their parade, (200 meters at idle speed in front of the jury), as if their cars would perform better or pull out some amazing trick to waive the prize, if they showed everybody else that they were really focused… Weird

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D-Types, Bugattis, 16 cylinder Maseratis, crazy prototypes and studies… The quorum was astonishing, but as it usually happens with motoring life & heritage, the english do it much better. A glimpse at Goodwood’s Revival, and the visitor can see the same level of machinery, but being enjoyed by their owners and why not RACED!@#$ Yeh! Raced & abused in the track. Probably what all of you, readers of this little corner of the motoring world, would do if could afford it. (Read our chronicle of Goodwood Revival clicking HERE!)

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But it wasn’t until very recently that motorcycles were included in this amalgam of international uber trust funds and serious faces, and after motorcycles… come bikers. You could easily identify those non conformist two wheeled enthusiasts like Norton George, – no matter their age – , drinking and grinning like if it was their last day on earth, while carefully, – joyfully! –  examining & chatting about some of the most impressive motorcycles in history. Well, maybe they could also be spotted by their tattooed bodies and more casual attires! … That’s what bikers do. It was also remarkable, how, in difference to the extensive over-restored state of all the cars in the game, most of the motorcycles were in original condition, something that really shows a sense of respect and joie de vivre. Surely, it is just another manifestation of the so called ‘vulnerability’ of bikers in a car world, that turns them into stronger, confident – and why not – , better persons… 😉

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Hosted by our dear friend Paul d’Orleans (aka The Vintagent) who was a member of the jury and Ola Stenegard,  representing the future of motorcycle design, there we were standing behind our dear Impostor, making sure that she behaved properly, and didn’t chew other bike’s egos, mirrors, blinkers…

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Dear Paolo Sormani, the man behind most of the writing in the fabulous italian magazine RIDERS

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The Vintagent is a fine example of the #TalkLessPlayMore philosophy, and couldn’t wait to jump on Impostor, wheelie off the wooden platform, that showcased the custom bikes, and go for a ride dropping jaws along the way skidding in between the strict dumbfounded crowd.

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Never so many early record holders had been under the same roof before. Ernst Henne’s over the top supercharged BMW – 279’5 km/h in 1937 – really impressed all the observers. A fully closed Gilera, looking like a missile with windshields, gave me goosebumps only by trying to figure out what the rider must have felt at top speed. Probably something similar to what it could feel like to be a muffin in a microwave. In another league but equally beautiful was the Rumi SS 52 “Gobbetto”  which brilliant’s alloy bodywork was designed by a famous painter in just two brush strokes, emulating the twin cylinder, two stroke nature of its motor.

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The modern attitude was represented by a small collection of custom BMW among which was Impostor, also Urban Motor’s Trackgrinder and the awesome Sprintbeemer by the Lucky Cat Garage.

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6 thoughts on “CONCORSO D’ELEGANZA VILLA D’ESTE”

  1. Yeehaw!!! I’m sure BMW is chewing their fingernails, wondering what they’ve unleashed by including El Solitario in their orbit! The Germans aren’t usually comfortable with Spanish-style anarcho-chaos, nor with guys in double-breasted jackets doing gravel burnouts and jumping Impostor off their tidy wooden platform. But you know, to their huge credit, nobody connected with the event did anything but smile at our antics. As opposed to test-riding a Black Lightning in Austria -at a race event- and being yelled at for going too fast… The vibe at Villa Erba is cool, whereas at Villa d’Este it’s a bit squeaky anus. You’re right about nobody looking like they’re having fun – I thought this was Italy? At least at the botox fest which is Pebble Beach, the superrich are tanked by 10am…

  2. Well observed. As a rider of an unrestored Rudge I can see your point. I was at Goodwood last year as a cyclist in the TdF celebration and we felt like the bikers at Vila.

  3. You’re absolutely right Paul, the Villa Erba “spare” event lacked of the same class and touch of glamour of Villa d’Este. Seemed to be intended as a B movie of the Concours d’Elegance, and little did the Rolls Royce 110th and Maserati 100th anniversaries show. As bon vivants, we exige more enchanting fraulein, more botox and refreshments and a wider choice of classic motorcycles. The classic Riva and Tullio Abbate boat service between the two villas was a good starting point.

  4. Really enjoyed this write-up and the perceptive observations of and comparisons to the world and mindset of car collectors. I would’ve loved to have seen people’s reaction to your Impostor!

    One small point, this gathering may have had the largest collection of record-making supercharged bikes under one roof ( a fascinating and mouthwatering display no doubt) but it did not have the largest number of record-making motorcycles gathered. That distinction goes to the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours and has, to my knowledge, never been eclipsed.

  5. When I saw the post on FB a few days earlier I cringed… had succes gotten the better of the ES-crew? Why would they present the Impostor at such a mondaine event? Somehow none of it made sense… but having read the above article all’s in order again… and all my half-guessed observations on/of the event (never having actually been there) have been confirmed!

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