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Sun adds sizzle to Concorso d’Eleganza Varignana 1705

WORDS: NATHAN CHADWICK | PHOTOS: RICCARDO RUATASIO

The inaugural Concorso d’Eleganza Varignana 1705 was an event to remember – not only did Corrado Lopresto notch up his 300th concours award and 62nd Best in Show, this time for his 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Berlinetta Touring, but excellent hospitality at the Palazzo di Varignana in unseasonably warm weather made for an excellent weekend of automotive fun.

The palazzo sits overlooking Motor Valley, with panoramic views across the engine room of Italy’s exotic car culture. The resort offers hotel rooms and suites, individual villas and a country house, several bars and restaurants, and a spa. There’s also golf, tennis, basketball, squash and gym facilities – and the resort runs its own agricultural estate, too, offering saffron oil, wine, tea, chocolate and honey. It’s the brainchild of Carlo Gherardi, who began the renovation of the Palazzo Bargellini Bentivoglio in 2005 after a life in digital and financial technology. It is now known as the Palazzo di Varignana, and this year’s inaugural Concorso d’Eleganza was a tantalising taste of the future.

Unseasonably warm weather made for an excellent weekend of automotive fun

Unseasonably warm weather made for an excellent weekend of automotive fun

Magneto was there to soak in the sights and sounds, which included 23 cars from across the motoring spectrum, largely built before the mid-1970s. The judging panel included Lorenzo Ramaciotti, Dr Gianni Mercatali and Alessandra Giorgetti, led by president of the jury, Stefano Pasini. The winning car, pictured below – which also won the Pre-War Elegance class – was originally sold to Prince Camillo Caetani in Rome, the son of the famous musician Roffredo. However, the prince would live for only another year, killed in action during World War Two on the Albanian front. After the war the car would change hands four times, always staying in Rome, before moving to a Milanese collection in the 1980s and eventually to the Lopresto Collection. Commenting on his win, Corrado said: “Winning Best in Show is everyone’s dream. I am delighted to have participated in the ‘number zero’ edition of an event that I hope will become a hallmark in the international elegance competition season.”

The weekend began with a cocktail reception prior to a three-course meal from the Palazzo di Varignana’s Ristorante Aurevo, before an early start to get the cars into position. Among our favourites was a brace of Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs – one a Gullwing and the other a Roadster with its rarely seen optional hard-top. Other highlights included a 1939/1946 HRG 1500 Le Mans, which served as the firm’s aerodynamic prototype, and a 1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS, which won the Heroic Racers class – it’s believed to be one of the last four Alfas bodied by James Young. The Italian Fine Gems class was won by the 1950 Fiat 1100 E Vistotal, visiting from the Nicolis Museum in Verona (see below). Built by Carrozzeria Castagna of Milan, it featured a transparent Plexiglass steering wheel, while the Vistotal panoramic windscreen used a patent that allowed for no window supports.

In the German class, a 1972 BMW E9 CSL wearing its original Inca Orange paint took home the class win, while a 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider with a Resinflex interior and Pininfarina hard-top took home the Grit & Style class. The Great Class Sports Car section was won by a 1963 Ferrari 250GT Lusso. One of our highlights, however, was the one-of-three 1952 Ermini 1100 Sport Internazionale pictured below, which competed in the 1952 Mille Miglia, Targa Florio (where it finished first in class) and Coppa d’Oro Delle Dolomiti (where it finished second in class). The Spirit of Varignana award, reflecting the unique character of the Palazzo di Varignana and the lifestyle it represents, went to a 1993 Porsche 964 Speedster.

However, our favourite had to be the 1927/1935 Bugatti Type 37/44. During the 1930s the Type 37 (below) had an engine fire, destroying the 1.5-litre four-cylinder motor. The car was sold for scrap to Jack Lemon Burton, a Bugatti racer of repute at the time. He replaced the burned engine with a supercharged straight-eight from a Type 44, which necessitated a modified bonnet and engine mounts, a wider front axle from a Type 43/44 and larger brakes. The gearbox and rear axle, meanwhile, were taken from a Grand Prix Bugatti. To finish it off, a monocoque body was fitted, and it went on to perform in hillclimbs through to the end of the 1980s with several owners. It was restored to Burton’s specification in the 1990s by Ivan Dutton.

The Concorso d’Eleganza Varignana concluded with a parade around the resort’s grounds, before a gala dinner and firework display. Plans are already being put in place for next year, with an even wider array of classes and a driving tour, enabling the event to fully capitalise on having the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, Pagani, Lamborghini and Ducati (plus many more) on its doorstep. More details can be found here.

Concorso d’Eleganza Varignana 1705 results

Best in Show: 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Berlinetta Touring (owned by Corrado Lopresto). Also won Pre-War Elegance.

Heroic Races: 1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS (owned by Luca Patron).

Italian Fine Gems: 1950 Fiat 1100 E Vistotal (owned by Silvia Nicolis/Nicolis Museum).

Great Class Sports Car: 1963 Ferrari 250GT Lusso (owned by Gianmarco Rossi).

Grit & Style: 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider (owned by Gianmarco Rossi).

German Icons: 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL (owned by Lorenzo Matteucci).

Spirit of Varignana: 1993 Porsche 964 Speedster (owned by Alessandro Maccaferri).