COMO, Italy — For a brief moment, the most valuable object at the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance wasn’t the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. It was an umbrella. As the drizzle intensified into a storm you’d want shelter from, the participants scrambled for dry ground and I probably could have talked someone into trading me something old and expensive for my umbrella. Rain or shine, however, the show must go on.
Approximately 50 cars convened on the picturesque shore of Lake Como to attend the 2023 edition of the event, and some traveled a very long way to get there. Eizo Tomita shipped a 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400SV finished in a head-turning color all the way from Japan, and several cars (including a 1979 Porsche 935) came from the United States. Although the Villa d’Este show is smaller than the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance held in California, it’s just as interesting because it always features a diverse selection of vehicles. The cars that you’d expect to see, like pre-war luxury models, are accounted for, but there are also fascinating oddities such as a 1986 Isdera Spyder 033-16.
When was the last time you’ve seen — and heard! — a 1970 Porsche 917K? How about a 1998 911 GT1? Now, imagine both cars (and many more) parked within 10 feet of each other. The part of the event dedicated to Porsche’s 75th birthday was a show on its own.
This year’s event was split into eight categories:
- 100 years of the 24 hours of Le Mans: heroes of the most famous race in the world
- The fast and the formal: pre-war high-speed luxury
- Grande vitesse: pre-war weekend racers
- Incredible India: the dazzling motoring indulgences of the mighty Maharajas
- Porsche at 75: delving in the Stuttgart legend’s iconic and eccentric back catalog
- GranTurismo: experimenting with the post-war European GT
- That “made in Italy” look: styles which conquered new worlds
- Here comes the sun: topless done differently
The jury gave the “best of show” award to a 1935 Duesenberg SJ, while the aforementioned classes were respectively won by:
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
- 1933 Chrysler Custom Imperial CL
- 1938 Delahaye 145 Coupé Chapron
- 1935 Duesenberg SJ
- 1963 Porsche 901 prototype
- 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC Speciale
- 1956 Maserati A6G/54
- 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California
Had a drenched visitor offered to trade me one of the cars for my umbrella, I would have driven home in the 1955 Lancia Florida. It’s a one-off, Pininfarina-designed coupe based on the Aurelia and displayed at the 1955 Turin auto show. Its design inspired the Flaminia, the flagship model that Lancia released in 1957, when it still made some of Italy’s most luxurious cars. Alternatively, I wasn’t against the idea of taking home the 1953 Cadillac Series 62 Ghia, which features gorgeous proportions and airplane-inspired design cues. It’s one of two units built.
BMW sponsors the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance and always brings several classics from its collection along with a concept created for the occasion. This year, all eyes were on the Z4-based, Z3 Coupe-inspired Concept Touring Coupé. It’s a one-off model as of writing, but Autoblog learned that it could spawn a low-volume model in the not-too-distant future. However, don’t let the sponsorship deal fool you into thinking this is a BMW fest. The brand sets aside rivalries to spend a weekend celebrating classic cars, even those built by Mercedes-Benz.
On a secondary level, the less-than-ideal weather conditions served as a reminder that cars are meant to be driven, even if they’re rare and expensive. Seeing a 1959 Ferrari Testa Rossa — a race car that doesn’t have a roof — idle in the rain made me feel more than a little dumb about the times I’ve left my 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300D or my 1972 Volkswagen Beetle in the garage because the sky looks somewhat dark.
About the gallery: Villa d’Este is a multi-day event held at several venues, and there are plans to make it bigger in the coming years. Some of these photos were shot at the Villa d’Este, which is a historic mansion, while others (the drier ones) were taken at the nearby Villa d’Erba on the following day. This explains why the order that the cars are parked in and the background changes as you scroll through the gallery.
Finally, the last photo is a treat for true nerds who are more possessed by than obsessed with obscure vehicles: an Alfa Romeo AR6 camper van. It’s based on the first-generation Fiat Ducato, it was sold primarily in Italy, and I haven’t seen one in nearly 20 years. You’re welcome.
Check it out, and let us know which car is your favorite in the comments.