Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este

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DISCOVER THE CLASSES FROM A TO HConcorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2023

DISCOVER THE CLASSES FROM A TO HConcorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2023

CLASS OVERVIEW: The classes of 2023

Nothing is more ephemeral than beauty, goes the familiar adage. And that is indeed very often the case. But things don’t necessarily have to be like that. This is highlighted at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este by the lovingly curated selection of automobile classics drawn from more than 100 years of design and engineering history. Each participant epitomises a highly individual facet of this great cultural heritage handed down to us by past generations. Moreover, looking after the vehicles themselves, their authentic and faithful restoration and maintenance represents a sublime level of artistry. A historic artefact like an automobile can only appeal as truly authentic if its elegance maintains contact with the traces of time. It is important to bear in mind that these are working automobiles and not static sculptures, because this is the only way of preserving our automobile heritage as a cultural asset. Seen from this perspective, beauty is unambiguously about one criterion: never standing still, never waiting on the side-lines. Rather, it’s about movement, excitement and surprise. Every analysis, each judgement is only effective from a clearly defined starting position and it requires a specific perspective that does justice to the automobile treasures presented in this contest. And that is why the Selecting Committee of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este creates entirely new classes every year, each of which invites an unusual and unconventional focus, and salutes the participating vehicles through the prism of automobile culture.


The Fast and the Formal:
Pre-war high speed Luxury

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Automobiles performed a wide range of functions from early on. They were absolutely ideal for routine, everyday service. Uncomplainingly, they provided transport for people and goods. But they generated the greatest enthusiasm when they combined speed and luxury in a magnificently holistic experience. The era between the two World Wars was the first time when a fascinating melange was created between aesthetic design and speed. Pace itself had been transformed into a facet of luxury. After all, travelling fast in everyday life was a completely new experience. While conceiving and building a body exuding elegance was already regarded as a lofty aspiration, a powerful drivetrain imposed additional sophisticated demands on designers. Travelling quickly and comfortably all at the same time remained the preserve of a select elite during that era. The vehicles in this class are living proof of that privilege.


Grande Vitesse:
Pre-war Weekend Racers

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At an early stage, three characteristics were already absolutely crucial: endurance, performance and courage. In the absence of these attributes, victories remained elusive chimeras. The driver had to contribute all three but the automobile also had its role to play. The engine needed performance and power, an appropriate chassis was important and a huge amount of reliability was no less essential. These attributes were also attractive characteristics for the sporty gentleman when he was looking to select a suitable sports car. During the period before the Second World War, driving an automobile for everyday use that could also win big races at the weekend was regarded as an expensive but technically by no means unattainable pleasure. There were some seriously good sports conveyances that could nevertheless be clothed in elegant coachwork. These imperious loadstars always turned heads when they rolled along crowded city boulevards.


Incredible India:
The dazzling Motoring Indulgences of the mighty Maharajas

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When faraway Asia began to come closer at the beginning of the last century because distances were starting to shrink, because the proliferation of photographs caught the eye and films burgeoned, the western world was completely captivated. People revelled in the gaudy, colourful sights and the glittering opulence that Indian dynasties celebrated at their courts with sumptuous abandon. Some of the mightiest among them – in all more than 500 Maharajas and Nawabs – reputedly enjoyed fabulous riches. They ruled over princely states and not a few had their automobiles lavishly decorated to project power or simply to indulge their own pleasure. Not only a multitude of Rolls-Royce limousines but other luxury automobiles were often exported to the distant colony where the influence of the British crown held sway. Some flaunted glamorous flamboyance with highly polished bonnets or exotic interiors, while others were provided with gun holsters and giant hunting lamps on telescopic arms to light up the surroundings on tiger hunts at night. Vehicles in this class provide an impressive demonstration of these fabulous automobiles.


Porsche at 75:
Delving into the Stuttgart Legend’s iconic and eccentric Back Catalogue

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“In the beginning, I looked around me but I couldn’t find the motor car that I dreamed of. I therefore decided to build it myself” is surely the most famous quote from Ferry Porsche. After the Second World War came to an end, Ferry Porsche, before he took over his father’s design office in Stuttgart, combined the mechanical skills and the components available to him and his operatives in Gmünd, Austria, to fulfil his vision of creating a lightweight, speedy automobile. This passion gave rise to the very first Porsche in 1948. Racing drivers rapidly proved so enthusiastic that Porsche boldly anticipated producing several hundred cars. Over the subsequent 75 years, many more sports cars than that were produced – incredibly many more – with lots of fascinating strokes of genius among them. The history of Porsche reads like a unique concatenation of two families with their conflicts, encompassing technical genius in the designs along with constant evolution, hard-headed practicality and courage. This very much sounds like a story made in Germany, but it is at the same time a highly emotional narrative. A heady mix that could only come to pass once in the world of automobiles.


Experimenting with the post-war European GT

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The fascination associated with the concept of Granturismo – or GT for short – extends across all marques and encompasses all models. It’s not exactly obvious when this big idea was first floated in the realm of automobiles. What is certain is that Ferrari defined this genre in a tangible, precise and inspiring format when the company presented the 250 GT in 1955. The actual origin of the word goes back much further in time. In the Renaissance, a Grand Tour was a journey undertaken by the sons of the aristocracy. The idea was to enjoy cultural and other pleasures in southern climes – in Italy, in Spain or even in Terra Sancta, the Holy Land. When the automobile was mature enough following the Second World War to travel over great distances reliably and quickly, people were in turn motivated to undertake their own Gran Tour. Seeing the great diversity created for these journeys remains exciting to this day.


That ‘made in Italy’ Look:
Styles which conquered new Worlds

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There are regions in the world that are unique because of their geography or their products. Italy has a number of regions where we recognise protected designations of origin – for Parmesan cheese, for Barolo wine or ham from Parma. There is always a special Seal of Origin and in principle it would also be appropriate to honour Italian coachwork artistry with a similar accolade. Over the past century, unique centres of creativity developed in Turin and Milan, which interpreted the automobile in completely new ways that diverged from the ideas espoused by everybody else. Myriad aesthetic inspirations originated here and manufacturers from all over the world came to consult the motordom oracle requesting support with design or even commissioning complete orders right through to production. This class gives an insight into the exciting ideas that originated from this incomparable nucleus of automobile design.


A Century of the 24 Hours of Le Mans:
Heroes of the most famous Race in the World

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The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este almost accomplishes a precision landing. Pretty close to 100 years ago – on 26th and 27th May 1923 to be precise – the first great Racing Party was launched in Le Mans. This 24-hour spectacle was announced in advance as a wild, cacophonous and boisterous festival. The poster shows a racing car hard-driving through the night under a full moon, headlamps flooding the darkness with bright light. The jazz bands at Le Mans were playing wild music against the rhythmically symphonic howl of high-revving engines. Fireworks were shooting up into the sky while the brakes burned non-stop on the asphalt. For the past 100 years, Le Mans has featured drama and dynamic performance, victories and sensations, adrenalin and endurance. Whoever wins in Le Mans becomes immortal. Whoever loses still attains the heroic status of having participated. The wonderful variety of automotive designs resulting from this epic theme of speed – sometimes in idiosyncratic forms – indubitably proves this precept: Beauty was never a one-dimensional concept.


Here comes the Sun:
‘Topless’ done differently!

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The contradiction gave rise to a challenge. When great designers invented the modern coupé during the immediate post-war era, this milestone raised formal elegance to a new level. It necessitated a complete remodelling also of the archetypal open-top design for the automobile, which was for many aficionados the purest and most enjoyable way of taking to the open road. More sophisticated solutions and more finesse were essential in order to sculpt fluent lines and make them a reality. This was achieved again and again with outstanding success, as demonstrated by this class bursting with unusual designs infused with iconoclastic enthusiasm and passion. Driving pleasure experienced in open-top automobiles is not something that fits predefined patterns. There are certainly no boundaries and sometimes common sense is thrown to the wind. But this is precisely the secret of these fascinating automobiles that allow you to travel with the wind coursing through your hair.

You can view all the automobiles participating in the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2023 and those from past editions under the menu item “Contributors”.

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