Eye Candy: Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2016

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1953 BMW 503
A 1951 Pegaso Z-102 Enasa is part of the chassis/prototype class | Dirk de Jager photos

Aah, the shores of Lake Como, situated just half an hour away from the fashion capital in the world, the burstling city of Milano. Here, for the past 17 years, BMW throws the most prestigious concours d’elegance held in Europe.

What sets it apart first is the location, one of the leading luxury hotels in the world, The Grand hotel Villa d’Este, where you can only join in on the beauty by invitation. The hotel is nestled by lake with a stunning view across the water and with private docking for your Riva should you choose to arrive by water.

Naturally, this also is where BMW does a world premiere to show off its latest concept vehicle. This year, with the 100th anniversary of the brand, it showcased the redesign of two iconic models — the R5 motorcycle and the 2002 automobile.

BMW doesn’t enter its concepts in the concours class of the concours, but invites other manufacturers and coachbuilders to enter. To me, Aston Martin stole that show with its latest collaboration with Carrozzeria Zagato, a stunning car based on the Vanquish chassis.

But most people come to see the elder cars that fill the hotel’s car park. This year there were room for 54 of them.

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You can’t have a concours without elegant pre-war cars, and this year there was even a separate class of Pre-1945 Supercars – The Fast and the Flamboyant. It’s difficult to be more flamboyant than showing up with a supercharged Bugatti T57SC Atalante.

Yet even such a vehicle can can be upstaged, as the car next to it proved: A Lancia Astura with a streamlined Castagna body that was built on order from Mussolini for his son and that went straight into racing, and then appeared in this very same concours in 1935.

Some may have wondered how a Jaguar XK120, Ferrari 275 GTB/4 and some other seemingly more mundane cars qualified for the concours, but they were part of the Cars of the Stars class, vehicles owned and driven by such movie greats at Clark Gable (XK120), Steve McQueen (275 GTB/4) or Clint Eastwood (’Ferrari 365 GT/4), also a Dual Ghia that belonged to Vic Damone and was making its first appearance in any concours.

Italian sports and racing cars and cars of the ‘50s also had their place, including a Fiat 8V Supersonic, an unrestored Maserati 200 SI and probably the most famous coachbuilt Maserati in existence — one of only four A6 GCS/54 Pinin Farina coupes.

And that’s just the main concours on Saturday. On Sunday, the show moves about a kilometer down the road to the nearby park of Villa Erba where the cars are put on public display in a larger venue.

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Three major trophies are awarded during the weekend. Saturday, visitors vote on the the Coppa d’Oro, which went to a streamlined Lancia Castagna. Sunday, visitors at the park presented the the Trofeo BMW Group Italia to a Lamborghini Miura P400 SV and at the gala Sunday evening, a panel of esteemed judges selected a 1954 Maserati A6 GCS Pinin Farin coupe as their best of show selection.

Photography by Dirk de Jager

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A racer's son, Dirk de Jager is a Belgian-based photographer raised in a family of car enthusiasts. While his passion started out with classic Italian cars, it has expanded to include other nationalities with a preference for cars of the 1930s to 1950s. Dirk can often be found at top classic car events in Europe and the United States, whether on a racetrack, rally or concours field. For the past decade he has photographed numerous rare classic cars either for international magazines, commercial work, auction company's or private collectors. In addition to photography, he tests classic cars and assists collectors in managing their collections and showing cars at leading concours.