2008 Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza

We knew it to be prestigious, but the fact that the majority of voting for the Concorso d'Eleganza at the Villa d'Este occurs during an invitation-only event helps solidify that image.

The masses aren't invited to see the entire field at the Villa Erbe until the day after - and at $16 a head. Still, that price makes the show accessible to a wider audience, all of whom selected the recipient of the Trofeo BMW Group Italia. Peter Mullin's flamboyant 1937 Delahaye 135 M Figoni-Falaschi roadster took the prize, evidence that the voting public had a taste for flamboyant design coupled with obscure marques.

Edged out in that class was Arturo Keller's magnificent 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Autobahnkurier "aerodynamic" coupe, although the fastback Benz did win the prestigious Coppa d'Oro award.

One of only two known to exist (the other, ex-Shah, car is in Iran without an engine), this dazzling vehicle was ordered by a Spanish ophthalmologist who used it until his death a few years ago. Keller is only the second owner, and he put it though a typically perfect Paul Russell restoration so that it appears to be factory-fresh.

The Trofeo Auto & Design, presented to the most exciting car present at the Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza, as determined by a seven-man jury, went to Belgian Roland d'Ieteren's 1953 Pegaso Thrill coupe, created by Carrozzeria Touring of Milano. The four-cam V-8, five-speed transaxle chassis was the most advanced road car platform of the Fifties, in many ways a smaller precursor of the much later Porsche 928.

The same seven-member jury, chaired by Fiat Group design leader Lorenzo Ramaciotti, awarded best in show to the 1949 Ferrari 166 coupe by Carrozzeria Touring. Driven by young Count Marzotto, it won the 1950 Mille Miglia. Several amusing stories attach to the car.

Marzotto, scion of a textile family, drove in suit and tie, not to advertise his family's wares, but because he expected the car to break down and did not want to be embarrassed to be dressed in coveralls when he took a train home. The car was painted blue because his father had asked with some ascerbity, "When are you going to stop racing those little red cars?" The win was popular because so unexpected.

Winner of the Trofeo del Presidente della "FIVA" for best-preserved car was Gary Barlett of the US for his 1957 Jaguar XK-SS, which has done only 13,000 miles in the last half-century. Available for just $200 more than a standard Jaguar roadster, the racing D-Types were unwanted, so Jaguar set about converting unsold racers into a spartan road car. Only 16 were completed before a fortuitous factory fire destroyed the surplus stock, simultaneously increasing rarity and desirability of the few remaining cars. Still a strong runner, the car remains on its original tires, so its extraordinary speed capability is no longer exploited by the prudent owner.

The Italian Dreams class for historic concept cars was taken by the 1970 Lancia Stratos prototype. Resplendent in its original day-glo International Orange matte finish, this car looks much like the fiberglass production models, but is actually completely different in every line and surface of its alloy body.

The class was highly competitive, with the legendary 1967 Ferrari Dino 206 S Competizione Berlinetta, pried away from the Pininfarina in-house museum by American collector James Glickenhaus, Ital Design-Giugiaro's first-ever project, the 1968 Bizzarrini P 538 Manta, and the one prototype of the planned Pantera successor, the 1973 De Tomaso Pantera 7X/Montella, presented by its American designer, Tom Tjaarda.

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