Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2015

Once again, SMAC members were invited to attend the fabulous, exclusive Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, which took place May 22-24 on the grounds of the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and Villa Erba on Lake Como, Italy. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Lake Como, the 2015 Villa d’Este Concours presented the chance to not only admire about 50 historic cars, but to be treated to a breathtaking presentation of concept cars, some shown for the first time.

The theme for this year’s Consorso was “Seventies Style – the Jet Set is Back”, which was reflected by the automotive entries, the costumes of the staff and even the choice of concepts. Other highlights of the event included the “Concorso di Motociclette” and a look back at “90 years of the Rolls-Royce Phantom”.

As in recent years, SMAC members stayed at the lovely Villa Flori hotel, directly on the shores of Lake Como, a short walk or ride to the Concorso sites.

Hotel Villa Flori

Hotel Villa Flori

The festivities began on Friday evening, with a gala reception at the Villa d’Este. During outdoor cocktails, BMW introduced two phenomenal concepts, one car and one motorcycle. The BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage paid tribute to the BMW 3.0 CSL – a timeless classic and iconic BMW coupé from the 1970s.

BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept car

BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept car

BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept car

BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept car

The motorcycle was the Concept 101, which, according to Edgar Heinrich, boss at BMW Motorrad Designs, “is BMW Motoradds interpretation of endless highways and the dream of freedom and independence – the perfect embodiment of American touring.”

Concept 101

Concept 101

The outdoor reception was followed by a sumptuous dinner in the main dinning room. What is always exciting at Villa d’Este are the large shared tables for dinners and lunches; you never know who you will sit next too: a designer from Zagato, collectors from South Africa, or an Italian gentlemen who has just completed the Mille Miglia, for the 23rd time.

Rolls Royce (owned by BMW) used the occasion to launch their latest Phantom, presented here by SMAC members Rolf and Jeanette Schumann.

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The Concorso began on Saturday morning. As you enter the grounds of the Hotel Villa d’Este, the first cars to be seen are the concepts. Some of this year’s offerings were from Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Maserati, and some specialty design houses.

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interior of Aston Martin concept DBX

interior of Aston Martin concept DBX

The designers claim it's street legal!

The designers claim it’s street legal!

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But the one concept that was not just my personal favorite, but winner of the group, was the Bentley Exp 10 Speed Six Coupe. Luckily, this concept will go into production. The panels on the inside of the doors are carved wood and leather.

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During the morning, guests can roam around the grounds of the hotel and admire the full range of cars on display, chat with the owners and other aficionados. Here is a sample:

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SMAC Member Dr. Norbert Seeger's regal Phantom IV, previously owned by Princess Margaret

SMAC Member Dr. Norbert Seeger’s regal Phantom IV, previously owned by Princess Margaret

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After an amazing buffet lunch, the parade of cars and announcing of the winners begins. As in years past, the Master of Ceremonies for this event was in incomparable, Geneva-based dealer and automotive expert, Simon Kidston. Switching seamlessly between English and Italian, Simon introduces each car with a description or personal story that seems as though he is talking about an old and treasured friend.

Simon Kidston

Simon Kidston

Speaking of Simon, in his online newsletter – K500, his photo of the event included SMAC members Ken Youngstein and Edmond Saran – to the right of the Pegaso.

photo copyright, K500

photo copyright, K500

This part of festivities gives the participants a chance to sit and admire the cars as they pass by.

Christian and Barbara Köhler, Ingrid Barrage and Jeanette Schumann

Christian and Barbara Köhler, Ingrid Barrage and Jeanette Schumann

Norbert and Esther Seeger

Norbert and Esther Seeger

Edmond Saran and Rolf Schumann are joined by world renowned, Zurich-based automotive photographer Michel Zumbrunn

Edmond Saran and Rolf Schumann are joined by world renowned, Zurich-based automotive photographer Michel Zumbrunn

Here are some scenes of the parade.

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This year, our beloved local Ristorante Il Gatto Nero was closed for renovations, so we used this opportunity to attend the RM car auction, at the Villa Erba.

cars on display at the RM auction

cars on display at the RM auction

By the evening, the weather had become considerably cooler but the atmosphere under the auction tent was quite hot. The anticipated big money cars, being a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione (one of these fetched $8,140,000 at an RM auction in January, 2013), and a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider (estimated at €11,000,000 – €13,000,000) both failed to meet reserve, but a 1952 Ferrari 212 Export Barchetta by Touring sold for €6,720,000 ($7,398,653), moving into the top 100 most valuable cars ever sold at auction. SMAC members were not among the bidders.

You can find the full results of the auction at: http://www.rmauctions.com/ve15/villa-erba/results/

Sunday, the final day of the event is held on the grounds of the Villa Erba, open to the public. Here, all of the cars from the previous day’s Concorso are on display, along with special collections, including the extensive showing of vintage motorcycles.

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This year’s special exhibition in the rotunda at Villa Erba was devoted to the “Art Cars”. In June 1975, a BMW 3.0 CSL, painted by US artist Alexander Calder, raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This was the car that launched the Art Car tradition in which BMW invited other world renowned artists, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol to apply their artistic signatures on a BMW racing car. The most recent addition to the series is the BMW M3 GT2 Art Car created by Jeff Koons.

Artist: Andy Warhol

Artist: Andy Warhol

Paul and Vonda Baldwin

Paul and Vonda Baldwin

Artist: Jeff Koons

Artist: Jeff Koons

Artist: Alexander Calder

Artist: Alexander Calder

Artist: Frank Stella

Artist: Frank Stella

Artist: Roy Lichtenstein

Artist: Roy Lichtenstein

After a private lunch at the Rotunda, we headed home with many fond memories (and photos) of another great SMAC outing.

This is my fifth time at the Concorso, and I look forward to next year.

I would like to thank the BMW Group and their organizing team for their superb support.

Text: Kenneth Youngstein

Photographs: Rolf Schumann and Kenneth Youngstein