A Private Invitation to Villa d'Este's Concorso d'Eleganza


Cernobbio, Italy, where time has stood still on the magnificent shoreline of Lago di Como for centuries, it is here the word ‘elite’ may as well have no value. A fascinating curation of the world’s most rare and pristine autos gather at Villa d’Este, arguably the most prestigious hotel property - where style, elegance and tradition all meet in perfect synchrony.

This event quickly becomes the seasonal envy for most enthusiasts, beginning from the first yearly announcements as both the participants and attendees are carefully hand-selected for each of the invite-only highlights of the weekend program. While the last weekend of May continued to be the traditional selection for the festivities, the organization returned to the normal schedule after last year’s pause due to continued pandemic precautions.

Sprawled across Villa d’Este’s enchanting estate, is a selection of the most luxurious automobile finds. While most assume the vehicle selections to be comprised of vintage displays, the show itself is dedicated to highlight autos that are world-elite in their categories; from concept, bespoke to new-line production onward. While the show is organized by the BMW Group, many of their first-time viewings on new models from the BMW and Rolls-Royce marquees also take place during the auto-focused weekend.

With a kickoff that begins with a Concorso Prelude Tour Drive from the heart of Milano Central all the way to Como, the cars and their owners arrive in Cernobbio for the inaugural dinner. With over 100 entrants, technical and mechanical inspections are done at the time of check-in and then during judging, so the process can be quite tedious.

The judging panel divided the parameters into 7 + 1 distinct classes: The Golden Age of Elegance - Art Deco Era of Motor Car Design - luxury cars that were produced in the period between the end of the 1920s and the end of the 1930s; Kompressor! The Supercharged Mercedes-Benz - supercharged Mercedes produced between the end of the 1920s and the end of the 1930s; Celebrating 150 Seasons at Villa d’Este – in celebration of the Anniversary of 150 Seasons of the Villa, the Concorso highlighted automotive masterpieces from the 1950s and 1960s. The Cavallino at 75 – with a special look at the Ferrari brand, the extraordinary history of this brand came to life with its own competition category with each vehicle representing the vision of its decade and the technological excellence behind its creation. In addition, special models from the recent past, each bearing the legendary “Cavallino Rampante” (prancing horse) symbol, will be exhibited for the first time. Born for the Racetrack – win on Sunday and sell on Monday mentality. 50 Years of Mean Machinery – dedicated to the BMW Motorsport GmbH anniversary being celebrated at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.

Founded 50 years ago, today the BMW Group subsidiary is known as BMW M GmbH. Its first independently developed vehicle, named the BMW M1 and introduced in 1978, was a milestone in its history. BMW M GmbH continued its impressive history by then designing engines for Formula 1 and developing the most successful touring car in the history of motorsport, the BMW M3. 

Breaking the Speed ​​Barrier- Speed has always had a magical effect on automotive aficionados. Since the invention of the motorcar, higher top speeds have always been regarded as a sign of technological progress and a key to success. After having exceeded top speeds of 150 km/h relatively early, it took considerable engineering skill to reach and exceed 300 km/h. Last but not least, a Special Mention class reserved for contemporary concept cars and prototypes.

The high-caliper group of collectors, four-wheel restorers and prominent personalities from within automotive high society gathered in the gardens and former Renaissance residence of Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio to analyze and elect the most beautiful car. This year, the Concorso organization included three important anniversaries within the program: the 50th anniversary of BMW M GmbH, the 75th anniversary of Ferrari and 150 Seasons Celebrated for Villa d’Este. Additionally, some of the notable vehicles revealed and placed on display to the public during the course of the show included the all-new BMW M4 CSL, BMW i7, BMW IX FLOW, Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, DeTomaso P72, Gemballa Marsien and the Vayanne.

On Saturday, perhaps being one of the most-coveted days to attend, guests were invited to rest and retreat at beautiful tables flanking the presentation driveway lining the bank of Lago di Como. Between bites of their famed Villa d’Este Club Sandwich and sips from their chilled Vranken Pommery Champagne, we watched as the dance of the cars began, ending with the prestigious Gold Cup Award. Reserved for the most beautiful car chosen by the public in referendum, winning this honor denotes a pure enjoyment and acceptance for years of restoration, patience and finances spent resulting in a trophy of respect by your peers. This year, it was no surprise that the prize of the show went to the wedge-shaped and beautifully maintained stunning Aston Martin Bulldog owned by Philipp Sarofim entered in the Breaking the Speed ​​Barrier class. The Bulldog, being a true one-of-one, also comes with an interesting history to match its exterior coachwork design and a history that Sarofim noted he wished to maintain in his acceptance speech.

On Sunday, however, the most important of trophies and the grand conclusion to the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este takes place. This year, the two notable trophies: The Concorso d’Eleganza Design Award - for concept cars and prototypes (which also came in via public referendum) and the coveted BMW Group Trophy - Best of Show. This year The Concorso d’Eleganza Design Award was awarded to the incredible Bugatti Bolide presented by Achim Anscheidt. The Bugatti Bolide is a track-only, hyper-sports car featuring a W16 engine derived from series production combined with a minimal body for maximum downforce. It consumes 110-octane racing fuel that propels new aerodynamics and a lightweight construction into an aesthetic that reflects the unique Bugatti DNA at a price point of $5 million USD. In great anticipation however, The BMW Group Trophy - Best of Show trophy was awarded to The Bugatti 57 S, a 1937 convertible owned by Andrew Pisker of Monaco that included a beautiful A. Lange & Söehne timepiece, as an official partner of The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. The Bugatti 57 S is noted as a triumph in a carefully curated field of participating rare jewels from eight decades of automobile history. The elegant convertible body and perfectly balanced proportions accentuate calm, knife-edge lines that reject any form of opulence or flamboyant ornamentation.

The additional award winners include: The Golden Age of Elegance - 1937 Bugatti 57 S owned by Andrew Pisker, KOMPRESSOR! The Supercharged Mercedes-Benz – 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet owned by A Hans Hulsbergen, Celebrating 150 Seasons at Villa d’Este - 1956 Chrysler Boano Coupé Speciale owned by Stephen Bruno, The Cavallino at 75 – 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale Tre Posti owned by RQ Collections, Born for the Race Track – 1961 Porsche 356 B Carrera Abarth GTL owned by Robert A. Ingram, 50 Years of Mean Machinery – 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL owned by Michael Ulbig, Breaking the Speed ​​Barrier - 1989 Porsche 959 Sport owned by Andreas Gundermann, and Concorso d’Eleganza Design Award for Concept Cars – 2020 Bugatti Bolide accepted by Achim Anscheidt.

Continued prestige and an elevated refinement marked the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este a destination for the appreciation of vintage motoring. Once again, the festival was a true celebration of elegance and timeless beauty, on four wheels.

Michael Snell Luxury & Automobile Contributor Polo Lifestyles 2022