1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione by Scaglietti
Most car aficionados know all about the fabled Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, that annual August romp on the Monterey peninsula that finds fans rubbing shoulders with celebrity cars and humans alike. Tickets will set you back anywhere from $300 to $750, but at least you can buy your way into to this exclusive party.
Not so with another storied concours that also unfolds each summer by a beautiful body of water. You see, the Concorso D’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy is an invitation-only affair. If you’re there when it unfolds May 22-24, it means you likely have a net worth with eight or nine zeroes or a lineage that flies royal colors.
Held in the same location since 1929, this year’s concorso will feature around 50 elite automobiles — last year’s Coppa D’Oro grand prize winner was a rakish 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C — and celebrate “Seventies Style — The Jet Set is Back,” which will include a bevy of BMW Art Cars (BMW Group Classic is a co-sponsor of the concorso) ranging from Alexander Calder’s 3.0 CSL to Jeff Koons’ M3 GT2.
“It’s simply the most exclusive and historically significant concours there is, with the most exclusive automobiles in the world,” says Alain Squindo of RM Sotheby’s auction house. “Monterey is wonderful, but can be sensory overload. At Villa d’Este, you can grab a glass of champagne and calmly study a few dozen cars that rarely make the rounds.”
Squindo would know. For the past four years, he’s made the trip to the tiny town of Cernobbio — not far from George Clooney’s lakeside home — to oversee a companion event that the public is indeed able to attend.
1963 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta ‘Lusso’ by Scaglietti
This year’s RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba auction ($110 buys you a ticket to the action) unfolds concurrently with the concours just a few blocks away from the leafy grounds of the posh Villa d’Este Hotel at a park-like residence called Villa Erba. Among the 40-plus cars up for sale are a thrilling 1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale (estimated at $340,000 to $450,000), a unique 1955 Austin-Healey 100S ($1 million to $1.2 million) and a pair of de rigeur Ferraris: a super-hot 1961 250 GT SWB California Spider and a very rare 1960 250 GT Competizione Berlinetta (each expected to fetch more than $12 million).
“The Cal Spiders are of course very popular these days, and are considered by many to be the prettiest car Ferrari ever built,” says Squindo. “But this competition car is really the most attractive dual-purpose Ferrari ever built.”
The yellow bullet is indeed a looker. Boasting a muscled body designed by Pininfarina and built by Scaglietti, the 280-hp V12 rocket is one of 45 aluminum-bodied racing 250 GTs built in that year, even though this model didn’t hit the track. Instead, it was driven casually by a Florentine doctor for a few decades before finding its way into a few California garages in the early 1970s.
Given the unreal boom in Ferrari values of late, it’s almost charming to know that in the ‘70s, this 250 GT was involved in a slight accident that resulted in damage to the passenger side lower grille area. To quote the RM Sotheby’s catalog: “Following the incident, it was determined that the damages would cost in excess of $1,000 to repair. At the time, its owner felt that the car’s financial value did not justify immediate repairs.”
Squindo says having this pair of ultra-valuable Ferraris is a must at an event that is considering a top social-calendar outing for Italian enthusiasts. “You can’t show up here without them,” he says with a laugh. “You’re talking about a who’s who of car collectors looking at who’s who of cars.”
Other cars of note at this RM Sotheby’s auction are worth a few words.
If you’re a fan of rally racing, you’ll know all about the legendary Lancia Stratos HF (which oddly stands for “high fidelity”). The car was purpose-built for the World Rally Championships — its most famous driver was Sandro Munari — and its wedge-like Bertone design became an instant classic. Having a mid-mounted Ferrari Dino V6 producing 192 hp didn’t hurt either.
“The Stratos is in keeping with the growing market for ‘80s-vintage supercars,” says Squindo. “This Lancia in many ways signaled the shift into that era of (Porsche) 959s, four wheel drive machines that could take on the most grueling races in the world. And besides, it’s just a super fun car.”
Perhaps as impressive based on projected value alone is the Austin-Healey on the block. Although many of these shapely British roadsters routinely trade hands for high-five and low-six figures, the rarity of this racing version of the iconic 100 is what promises to catapult its value into the seven-figure realm.
The 100S was clad in an all-alloy body to reduce weight from 2,200 to 2,000 pounds, and fitted with a modified in-line four-cylinder engine that bumped horsepower up from 90 to 132. Dunlop hydraulic disc brakes on all four corners was considered cutting edge racing tech in the era.
“It’s an eye-opening vehicle for the marque,” Squindo says.
The same could be said for the place where it’s being sold. If you’ve never been to Lake Como, put it on your bucket list. With its placid waters surrounded by verdant hills, the place conjures up endless cliches of the Italian “dolce vita.” Even more so if you show up in car-crazed late May.