The Top 10 Head-Turners from the 2016 Villa d’Este Concours
Never mind who won what award and why
You know it's a tough crowd when a Ferrari modified for former Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli goes home with nothing but a "better luck next time." The 87-year-old Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este is that kind of event—nothing but the best of the best gets a foot in the door.
The annual gathering took place this past weekend beside Italy's picturesque Lake Como at exclusive Hotel Villa d'Este, with a private main event on Saturday preceding a general-admission display on Sunday at nearby Villa Erba public park. The field is limited to about 50 cars, and awards are presented by the judging panel as well as by voting participants and attendees. The winners always wow, but even those that don't win grab your attention. These are the 10 cars we think turned the most heads during VdE 2016.
1933 Lancia Astura Series II, Body by Castagna
Lancias used to be the Mercedes-Benzes of Italy. Famous racers such as Tazio Nuvolari used them as personal cars, Benito Mussolini commissioned them as limos of state, and his son, Vittorio, had this Astura rebodied by Castagna of Milan so he could race it. The aero coupe didn't see too many victories with Vittorio behind its wheel; the Villa d'Este judges, however, awarded it First in Class, and car-savvy Saturday participants voted it Best of Show.
1951 Pegaso Z-102
Pegaso built fewer than 100 cars in their seven years, most of them ugly, but we love 'em. This is reportedly the oldest surviving Pegaso, a car built by Wifredo Ricart, a brilliant, aristocratic Spanish designer for Alfa Romeo in the 1930s. Ricart returned to fascist Spain after World War II and began developing these hand-built supercars with quad-cam V-8s and five-speed transmissions, all carrying the Spanish name for the mythical creature Pegasus.
1954 Maserati A6 GCS, Body by Pininfarina
Hammered by Pininfarina and penned by Aldo Brovarone, who went on to design the Ferrari 500 Superfast and the Dino 206GT, there truly isn't a bad bit on this GT with flowing lines, a long hood, and a short deck GT; many would say that the A6 GCS is the ultimate expression of a GT car's shape. Anyone who can walk by this without stopping to gasp should forget about cars and take up golf; the jury made it the Class Winner, plus Best of Show.
A collaboration between Ghia of Turin and Chrysler, via famed designer Virgil Exner, the indescribably alluring Dual-Ghia had a 230-hp Chrysler V-8, cost more than the biggest Caddy, and was a favorite of the Hollywood set, including Ronald Reagan, who supposedly lost his to Lyndon Johnson after a bad poker bet. This Dual-Ghia, once owned by pop singer Vic Damone, was awarded a class Second and Best Interior.
1957 Maserati 200SI, Body by Fantuzzi
Unrestored race cars are really cool, and the coolness quotient jumps considerably for '50s Maserati racers. Racing Maseratis lived in the shadow of Ferrari but were every bit as worthy and generally more fun to drive. Four-cylinder Maseratis of the Types 150, 200, and 250 were mainly raced by privateers, and this car, Chassis 2413, had been the property of a French driver since the mid-'60s; recently purchased by the current owner, it basically had only a cleanup and a mechanical once-over before winning Best Preserved Post-War Car.
1962 Facel Vega Facel II
Like the Dual-Ghia, the Facel Vega is a Euro-American fusion, again with a Chrysler V-8. However the French, not the Italians, did the design and construction under the guidance of Facel founder Jean Daninos, formerly an engineer on the Citroën Traction Avant. There's no "Mad Men" flash here, only elegance and genuine style. Tragically, the Facel II was the also the last of the Facel V-8s, and production ended altogether in 1964. Merde.
1964 Austin Healey 3000 Mk III
This Healey might not have won an award at VdE, but it got its trophies where it really mattered. As works car ARX 91B for the illustrious BMC Comps Department, it helped Paddy Hopkirk win in the '64 Alpine Rally and led Timo Makinen to a class second in the '65 Targa Florio, right behind a Ferrari GTO. It's the only works Healey to find success in both rally and road racing.
1975 Lancia Stratos
All Stratos are homologation specials—rally car kits not yet completed— that overload your senses. A full-on, rally-prepped Stratos, though, is a rabid Rottweiler, a midnight set by the Sex Pistols, a jilted spouse with a shotgun—menacing and insane. It says something about our maturity level that the ex-Jolly Club rally Stratos won only the Young People's Favorite award.
2015 Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo
In an unusually strong year for the prototype and concept car contingent, the Bugatti Vision was far and away the boldest and looniest. Featured prominently in the "Gran Turismo 6" video game, Bugatti says this car shares a lot with the new Chiron and represents what might be built for a racing effort, if one ever got the green light.
2016 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder, Touring Superleggera
Two years ago, Touring Superleggera's retro-inspired Alfa Disco Volante won the Villa d'Este Design Award, and this year, its new Disco Volante Spyder won it again. If the Bugatti Vision is the yin of modern automotive design, the Disco Spyder is the yang, and any healthy psyche needs equal doses of both.