Every spring since 1929, automakers and well-to-do enthusiasts from around the world have gathered at the Villa d’Este, a luxury hotel perched on the shores of Lake Como in Cernobbio, Italy, to participate in the Concorso d’Eleganza, an elegance competition (they hate it if you call it a car show) that brings out some of the finest vintage cars and classic motorcycles in existence, not to mention debuts for a variety of concepts and prototypes. For the past 10 years, BMW Group has had the responsibility of organizing the event, and for this year’s gathering, the German automaker is teasing “two sensational exhibits from the field of concept vehicles.”

Details on the concepts are non-existent, but looking to past events for clues, we’ve seen Bimmer use the Concorso d’Eleganza to debut vehicles like the 2008 M1 Hommage, 2013 Gran Lusso Coupe, and 2012 Zagato Coupe. Other standout appearances include the Aston Martin One-77.

The theme for this year is “Seventies Style – The Jet Set is back,” with early European and Japanese superbikes plus many classic Minis scheduled for exhibition. There will also be five unique models from the BMW Art Cars Collection.

The ’70s was a particularly important decade for BMW, with a company-wide restructure and product portfolio reshuffling that saw the launch of the 5 Series, 3 Series, 6 Series, and 7 Series, all crammed into a brief seven-year period between 1970 and 1977. “Many innovations from this era continue to define BMW’s image to this day, from the model designations to the hallmark design cues that typify the brand,” BMW stated in a press release.

The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este will be held May 22nd through 24th. Keep it locked to TopSpeed for updates.

Continue reading for the full story.

Note: 2012 BMW Zagato Coupe pictured here.

Why it matters

Speculation runs rampant when it comes to trying to figure out what BMW has up its sleeve. Current guesses include concepts for the 7 Series, X7, and M2. It’s tough to pin down exactly what will break cover, but perhaps we could look to some of the other cars slated for exhibition for hints.

First amongst the highlights is the Pegaso Z-102 Berlineta Cupula, a two-seat coupe from the from the ’50s that once was designated the “Spanish Ferrari.” It’s powered by a 2.5-liter V-8 that produces 165 horsepower, propelling the car to a top speed of 125 mph. Only 90 were created, with the model on its way to Italy first presented at the 1953 World Motor Show in New York.

It’s tough to pin down exactly what will break cover, but perhaps we could look to some of the other cars slated for exhibition for hints.

Next is the Maserati 60/61, aka the “Birdcage”, a moniker engendered by its intricate space frame designed by Giulio Alfieri. The car was designated as a racing prototype, built between 1959 and 1961, and was destined exclusively for customers rather than a factory works team, with great success in competition. With only 1,322 pounds to motivate, the 250-horsepower inline-four cylinder engine under the hood managed to push this Maserati to a top speed of 186 mph.

One of the more unusual cars on display will be a Panther 6 two-seat convertible. Built in 1976 by Robert Jankel, only two were ever made. Inspired by the Tyrrell P34 F1 racer, the Panther 6 has six wheels, with four in front and two in back. A twin-turbo 8.2-liter eight-cylinder engine from Cadillac is mounted above the rear axle, with output rated at 600 horsepower, rendering a top speed of 200 mph.

Rolls-Royce will also make an appearance, celebrating 90 years of the Phantom with a special competition category and a Phantom IV. Built between 1950 and 1956, only 18 Phantom IVs were produced, with just 16 surviving today. The model scheduled for arrival in Italy belonged to the British Royal Family for over 30 years, originally ordered by Queen Elizabeth for her sister Margaret.

So then, what should we expect from BMW? A new luxury cruiser perhaps? Or how about a gentleman racer? It’s all still very much in the air, but thankfully we won’t have to wait long to find out.

Vehicles competing in the Concorso d’Eleganza will be judged in nine categories, including “Flamboyance in Motion” (pre-war coach built luxury), “Antidepressants” (pre-war sports cars which defied the Great Depression), “Phantom Story” (the Rolls-Royce Phantom through the ages), “Made to Measure” (the final flowering of the coach-built coupe), “Gentleman’s Racers” (speed meets post-war style), “Hollywood on the Lake” (convertibles for a grand entrance at Villa d’Este), “GT Man Has Arrived” (interpretations of opulence), “How Fast is Fast Enough” (mid and rear-engined supercars from the disco era), and “Two seats against the stopwatch” (classic sports racers).

2012 BMW Zagato Coupe

2012 BMW Zagato Coupe High Resolution Exterior
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Unveiled at the 2012 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, this joint venture from BMW and Italian design company Zagato is a hand-built, bona fide work of art. The traditional Bimmer design language has been altered from every angle, producing a vehicle that’s still quite recognizable as something originating from Munich, but unique and stunningly beautiful. What’s more, a 400-horsepower engine that sounds as good as the sheet metal looks is waiting to get uncorked underneath all those striking lines.

Read our full review here.

Jonathan Lopez
About the author

Press Release

Today the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este ranks among the world’s most exclusive and tradition-rich events for historic cars and motorcycles. First staged in the north Italian town of Cernobbio in 1929, the Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este – as it was then known – was a showcase for new products from the automotive sector. Now, the upscale Classic Weekend looks back on a richly varied history spanning 86 years. In 1999 the BMW Group took over the patronage of the event, and since 2005 BMW Group Classic has hosted this high-calibre display of rarities jointly with the Villa d’Este luxury hotel.

The fascination of an exceptional decade.

The motto of the three-day event in northern Italy is “Seventies Style – The Jet Set is back” It runs like a thread through the entire weekend, with vehicle classes dedicated to the theme and an exhibition in the grounds of Villa Erba as well as the Saturday evening event in the pavilion at Villa Erba likewise staged under this headline. In addition to early superbikes from the seventies, which include Japanese volume-produced models and European rarities, numerous unusual examples of the classic Mini from the 1970s will also be on display. In addition, an exhibition entirely in the spirit of this era will showcase the five unique models from the BMW Art Cars Collection which it spawned. Visitors to the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2015 will experience three days under the banner of a decade of social upheaval that also marked the dawning of the modern age for BMW.

BMW’s restructuring of the company and its product portfolio in the 1970s propelled the car and motorcycle manufacturer into the modern era while paving the way to lasting international success. At the start was the BMW 5 Series model range, which debuted in 1972, followed three years later by the BMW 3 Series. Just a year later the BMW 6 Series was launched, with the BMW 7 Series arriving in 1977. Many innovations from this era continue to define BMW’s image to this day, from the model designations to the hallmark design cues that typify the brand.

Glorious tradition, fascinating future.

The traditional focus of the event at Lake Como are the beauty contest in which select historic automobiles with an intriguing history compete in various categories, the Concorso di Motociclette for classic motorcycles, and the forward-looking concept cars and prototypes. This unusual mix against a stylish backdrop constitutes the special appeal of this event while underlining the continuous fascination with historic vehicles on two and four wheels. Under this year’s slogan “Seventies Style - The Jet Set is back”, automotive fans from around the world will gather in Cernobbio from 22-24 May 2015 and, in the marvellous grounds of the Villa d’Este luxury hotel and neighbouring Villa Erba, be swept away not just by the alluring past but equally the future of mobility. As well as numerous historic models, the BMW Group will also be represented by two sensational exhibits from the field of concept vehicles.

Among the highlights of this year’s historic cars:

Pegaso Z-102 Berlineta Cupula

In the 1950s this two-seater coupé had the moniker “Spanish Ferrari”. Under its stretched bonnet was a 2.5-litre V8 engine generating 165 hp that took the car to a top speed of 201 km/h (125 mph). What was unusual about this car was its minimal production run: commercial vehicle manufacturer Enesa built just 90 units. The model on show in Cernobbio was presented at the 1953 World Motor Show in New York’s Madison Square Garden before passing into the possession of the then President of the Dominican Republic, Hector Bienvenido Trujilio Molina. The vehicle has been part of the Black Hawk Collection in California since 1975.

Maserati 60/61 “Birdcage”

A mere 22 examples of this spectacular racer were built between 1959 and 1961 – exclusively for customers. Maserati never deployed it on the race track as a works car. Developed as a racing prototype, the Maserati dominated the racing scene in the early 1960s, above all in the USA. The Maserati Tipo 61 triumphed twice in the 1,000-kilometre race on the Nürburgring. Its nickname “Birdcage” derives from its unusual, intricately constructed tubular space frame designed by Giulio Alfieri. Weighing just 30 kilograms, it consisted of over 200 thin steel tubes while boasting similar rigidity to far more expensive monocoques. The Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” weighed in at 600 kilos and was driven by an in-line four-cylinder that nestled under its extremely flat bonnet and delivered 250 hp to take the car to a top speed of just over 300 km/h (186 mph).

Panther Six

Just two units of the Panther 6 saw the light of day. The vehicle was built in 1976 almost singlehandedly by Robert Jankel, the owner of the small British car company Panther. The two-seater convertible runs on six wheels. Four small wheels with 205/40 VR13 tyres are mounted on the two controlled front axles while the rear axle has two considerably larger wheels. An unusual vehicle in every way, it drew on the design principle of the Tyrrell P34 that caused such a sensation when it debuted in the Formula One World Championship in 1976 and applied it to a roadgoing car. The Panther 6 was powered by an 8.2-litre eight-cylinder Cadillac engine with twin turbochargers that was mounted above the rear axle. The official figures: peak output: 600 hp, top speed: 200 mph (approx. 320 km/h).

Rolls-Royce Phantom IV

To mark the anniversary of “90 years of the Rolls-Royce Phantom”, this year’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este features a Rolls-Royce Phantom 1-6 Concours class, the so-called “Phantom Story”. One of the absolute gems of this class is the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV – without doubt the most exclusive vehicle that Rolls-Royce ever built. Between 1950 and 1956 a mere 18 examples were produced for a client list comprising royalty, the nobility and heads of state. Of these, 16 have survived. On show at Lake Como is the model that Queen Elizabeth ordered in 1954 for her sister Margaret, who was very partial to taking the wheel herself.

It has a landaulet body and, unusually, features an automatic transmission. It belonged to the British Royal Family for more than 30 years.

The categories

The historic vehicles nominated for awards at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2015 are divided into nine classes for cars and five for motorcycles. These categories offer an overview of the extraordinary diversity of the rarities on four and two wheels presented at Lake Como. The historic automobiles are split into the following groups:

Class A: “Flamboyance in Motion” – Pre-war coach built luxury
Klasse B: “Antidepressants” – Pre-war sports cars which defied the Great Depression
Class C: “Phantom Story” – The Rolls-Royce Phantom through the ages
Class D: “Made to Measure” – The final flowering of the coach built coupe
Class E: “Gentleman’s Racers” – Speed meets post-war style
Class F: “Hollywood on the Lake” – Convertibles for a grand entrance at Villa d’Este
Class G: “GT Man Has Arrived” – Interpretations of opulence
Class H: “How Fast is Fast Enough” – Mid and rear-engined supercars from the disco era
Class I: “Two seats against the stopwatch” – Classic sports racers

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