The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d'Este is perhaps the moment that, for European Gentlemen Drivers like us, is equivalent to the Christmas of the automotive year. It is the most enjoyable, glamorous and relaxing event on the calendar and it is always the perfect occasion to see cars whose story is little known but have an irresistible charm.
This year's event will surely be remembered also for the spiders and “barchette” that paraded with open umbrellas, but despite the rain and hail in the afternoon the Concorso at Villa D’Este remains the most desirable event of the year.
Here are the 5 must-see cars of the 2019 edition according to The Outlierman.
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Lungo (2019 Coppa d’Oro)
When such cars show up at any event, it soon becomes clear who is destined to win the most prestigious prizes. The 8C 2900 B is today one of the most fascinating and most valuable Alfa Romeos for any car collector. Defined as “the fastest car in the world” by Motor Sport journalist Cecil Clutton back in 1937, the 8C 2900 is very important in the history of the Alfa not only for its excellent technique, but also for being one of the most exclusive cars produced before World War II. The 8C was such an impressive car that, 10 years after its introduction on the market, it brought the Biscione back to the absolute victory at the Mille Miglia in 1947 with the Biondetti-Romano duo. Derived from the most powerful version A, mainly created for racing and equipped with a shorter wheelbase, the rarer version B was the variant reduced to 180 HP and with a longer wheelbase. With its 8-cylinder in-line engine, dual-stage volumetric compressor, independent suspension and aluminum bodywork by the Italian Touring company, the 8C 2900 B Lungo is a real rarity: only 10 were produced and the one presented at Villa d'Este by David Sydorick is one of the very few left in the world.
Ferrari 166 MM, 1949
When Enzo Ferrari left Alfa Romeo at the end of the 30’s to establish Auto Avio Costruzioni and build the 815, he relied on the renowned Touring Superleggera body shop in Milan, which took care of designing and building the all-aluminum bodywork. Mindful of this experience, Ferrari still used the Touring to make the first cars produced under his name: among these, the 166, destined to become one of the most famous Ferrari models. Driven by a 2-liter V12 engine designed by Gioacchino Colombo and highly appreciated in its MM version with a barchetta bodywork, the 166 was very successful in competitions, from the 24 hours of Le Mans with Luigi Chinetti (who drove for 23 consecutive hours until the overall victory) and the Mille Miglia with Clemente Biondetti. This masterpiece from 1949 is one of the 24 built between 1948 and 1950. It took part in the Mille Miglia and the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este in 1949 and 2000.
There is some truth in saying that copying is the best compliment one can do. In this case we are talking about a car that takes inspiration from the lines of the Alfa Romeo B.A.T. by Franco Scaglione and has become a unique object with a great personality. Designed by the Pontiac engineer Herb Adams in the first half of the 60s, the Vivant 77 was a project of considerable interest.
Built literally from scratch in Adams' garage, the Vivant was an interesting prototype powered by a 370 cubic-inch Pontiac V8 engine and equipped with Corvette C2 suspension and Kelsey-Hayes Bonneville wheels. The body was made of aluminum by the "Beatles of Troy, Michigan" a trio of Englishmen - Harry Kennedy, Jack Henser and John Glover - famous in the American hot rod scene for their great job. After only one appearance at the Detroit Autorama in 1966, the Vivant 77 fell into oblivion, only to be found in past years and impeccably restored.
O.S.C.A. MT4 1450, 1953
Every racing car makes a virtue out of necessity and embodies an intrinsic beauty, derived from the pure research of technical functionality. All of this unknowingly creates true works of art, which know how to enhance forms and pure creativity starting from a very specific practical purpose. In the panorama of 50's Sport cars, the O.S.C.A. MT4 is undoubtedly one of the cars that best represented the combination of absolute beauty and pure technique. With the body by Frua and Morelli, and with the prodigious twin-shaft engines, the MT4 was one of the most successful cars in the Sport category, continuing to win for over a decade, achieving the last victory, a first class, at the 500km of the Mugello in 1966. Founded by the brothers Ernesto and Bindo Maserati after having sold the homonymous company to the Orsi family, the "Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili", aka O.S.C.A., began to produce cars based on the evolution of the Maserati 4CL: the abbreviation MT4 in fact means "Maserati Type 4" and it’s the basis of a family of successful engines.
This particular MT4 is one of the 8 produced with the 1450 cc engine and one of only 2 with Frua’s body. Purchased as new by the film producer William B. David from San Francisco, it had a pretty successful career, winning 4 out of 9 races with no retirements.
Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
At the beginning of the 60s, the Carrozzeria Zagato is in full swing. After the revival in the late 40’s and the beginning of the overwhelming successes achieved in competitions in the 50’s thanks to the ultra-light aluminum bodies and the characteristic rounded shapes, many sports car manufacturers are turning to the Atelier in via Giorgini in Milan to commission small series of really special cars.
With the young designer Ercole Spada who joined the Zagato team in 1960, the company began to prepare refined bodies with even more refined shapes. At the same time, Aston Martin was trying to get the most out of its DB4, with a body by the Touring Superleggera. After having introduced the GT in 1959 without managing to counter the more powerful and light Ferraris 250 SWB, the managers at Newport Pagnell decided to have a more aerodynamic and lightweight body made by Zagato. Although the DB4 GT Zagato never achieved the awaited successes, it immediately became one of the most beautiful cars ever made: the Anglo-Italic hybrid was a true style icon. Only 19 were produced until 1963, and today it is definitely a rarity. The one attending this year's Villa d'Este Concours was presented at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show; in 1962, after a modification in the factory that enlarged the rear fenders, it appeared on the cover of the prestigious American magazine “Car and Driver”.
Choosing only 5 icons from an event like the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is always somewhat reductive ... Check out other protagonists and snapshots of the day in the gallery below!
Words: Jacopo Villa, contributor
Photos: Dominico Savio Lee for The Outlierman © 2019