Determining highlights from Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este—one of the world’s most exclusive car shows—is no small feat. The annual affair, hosted on the shores of Lake Como and sponsored by BMW and luxury watch brand A. Lange & Söhne, features a treasure trove of unique automobiles. Beyond being embraced for their rarity, each vehicle carries a story and the following six captured our ears as much as our eyes.
1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spider
This year’s top prize winner—taking home the Trofeo BMW Group award for “Best of Show”—happens to be one of the most awarded sports cars in history. As far as pre-war sports cars go, this eight-cylinder model won both Le Mans and Targa Floria, making waves along the way. A total of 188 automobiles were built, but this particular model (designed by Vittorio Jano) was styled with a Zagato body. From 1932 to 1936, it was housed in Genoa, before being shipped to the States where it has since resided.
1952 Pegaso “Cupula”
Only 87 vehicles were produced at Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones SA in Spain, and this vibrant gem from 1952 happens to be one of them. The car itself made its debut at NYC’s World Motor Show in 1953, but the one we saw stakes claim to a many year ownership by the former President of the Dominican Republic Rafael Trujillo. After Trujillo’s assassination, the government would acquire the car and sell it off to a private buyer in NYC. It’s changed hands multiple times since and had its most thorough restoration back in 1987. This eight-cylinder coupe carries coachwork by Enasa, and its unusual glass trunk stands as one of the more interesting defining attributes.
1976 Lamborghini Countlach LP 400
Truly a car from the future past, this Lamborghini debuted back in 1971 though this particular vehicle was constructed in 1976, and was produced in the Lamborghini plant as opposed to the Bertone plant in Turin—where earlier models were constructed. The car features a high-performance engine with a lightweight alloy block—altogether making it a speedy machine. When this model debuted at the Geneva Motor Show back in the day, its wedge-shaped body struck the attention of many. And its odd, flat sensibilities still intrigue today.
1933 Pierce-Arrow 1242
Counting Clark Gable and Carole Lombard as owners, this specific Pierce-Arrow carries everything from Ostrich leather interiors, a Lalique-designed hood ornament and exquisite wood finish. The swivel headlamps, a tremendous innovation at the time, are directly connected to the steering wheel. The Pierce-Arrow 1242 represented the elegance and excitement of the ’20s, when it was designed, but this model was actually constructed four years after the 1929 stock market crash which would ultimately bankrupt the car company in 1937. It’s pure magnificence and at the very least rocks a very memorable color.
1950 Ferrari 166M Barchetta
The Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este prize, decided by public referendum, went to this Ferrari styled by Touring. The line debuted in 1948, but this one in particular happens to be the penultimate car made. Gianni Agnelii, was the first owner, but it would win the Spa race under different ownership a few years later. This vehicle repeatedly changed hands—including one owner who sold and repurchased it six times. The Ferrari received a thorough restoration in 1966, and was later exhibited in NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. At Concorso, Agnelli’s grandson Lapo Elkann rode in the 12-cylinder beast during its presentation.
1964 McLaren M1-A
Claiming Elvis Presley as its most famous—non-race—driver, this machine with design and coachwork by McLaren features a Chevy V8 engine. Earlier versions sported an Oldsmobile engine. This car was built with the American sports car racing market in mind by the famed New Zealander, and would excel within it.
Ferrari image courtesy of BMW, all other images by David Graver