World’s rarest cars on show

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on May 30, 2019.

Entrants driving a BMW 507 Roadster past guests at the 2019 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este show in Cernobbio, Italy. (Presley famously owned a 1957 BMW 507 Roadster like this, which he bought while stationed in Germany, though his was white.)

The 1967 Lamborghini Marzal was the most futuristic concept of its day. Drawn by Marcello Gandini, the car stands just 43.3 inches (1.1m) off the ground and has large gull-wing doors supported by light springs on the rear and designed by Bertone. The four-seat coupe has glass surfacing all around the cabin and an inline-six engine that gets 175 horsepower (hp). Even more impressive, it was driven around the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix circuit by Prince Rainier and Kelly. It is owned by Albert Speiss of Switzerland.

Visitors attending the Lake Como show on Saturday. The show, about an hour north of Milan, is one of the three highlights on the classic-car circuit each year, which includes the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. It is the only such one in Europe.

Visitors looking at the Rolls-Royce Wraith Eagle VIII during the show. The car is part of a special group of 50 of its kind made by the Goodwood, England-based automaker. Its name serves to commemorate the first non-stop transatlantic flight. In 1919, Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown flew non-stop from St John’s, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Ireland, in a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber aircraft. The biplane was powered by twin 20.3-litre, 350hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines.

Entrants driving a Seat Nardi 750 GT at the Villa d’Este. The red car in the middle is the 1967 Gyro-X, a concept developed to explore the qualities of aerodynamics in an open-seat car. It has an inline-four engine that gets just 75hp. The car is owned by the Lane Motor Museum in the US. In the rear to the right sits the 1970 Ferrari 512 S Modulo that was created by Paolo Martin with coachwork by Pininfarina. It has a V12 engine and gets 550hp. It is owned by James Glickenhaus of the US, who is famous for his Ferraris and racing fame.

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For those fatigued by the hordes populating the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, here is a new goal: The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, a multi-day show and promenade held annually on the shores of Lake Como, Italy.

Sponsored primarily by BMW Group and the German watchmaker A Lange & Sohne, the concourse displays 50 of the most expensive and beautiful collectible cars in the world from 1925 to today. These are the blue bloods of the car world, like a 1936 Bentley 4¼ Litre, a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta, a 1985 Aston Martin V8 Vantage — plus a Lamborghini driven by Princess Grace Kelly and a BMW Roadster owned by Elvis Presley.

The Villa d’Este concours started as a way for automakers to show new cars to prospective buyers and to celebrate winning race cars in town from Milan and Munich. Now, it is perhaps the most stunningly arranged car show in the world, with the historic Grand Hotel Villa d’Este mansion as its backdrop, and prices for the value of most of the cars on display nearing or surpassing US$1 million (RM4.2 million) each. And that tally excludes the few lucky one-of-one modern creations that earned the right to be parked in such rarefied air as well. Those included the US$12.5 million Bugatti La Voiture Noire and the priceless BMW Garmisch, which was created as an homage after a lost BMW concept car from 1970. Tickets for Saturday’s private viewing event started at €490 (RM2,294) per person.

The cars were displayed over the course of three days on the lawn of the Villa d’Este and the Villa Erba estate grounds. Guests from France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, England, South Africa, Japan and beyond wore summer suits with straw boaters and floral dresses with wedged heels while they took photos of the cars, sipped champagne and ate beef sirloin. A string quartet played on the lawn.

Late-afternoon rains slowed some of the ladies in the highest heels, but not our photographer. Here is a look at the best of what we saw. — Bloomberg