Monday, June 01, 2015


For your consideration; the 1964 Honda 2RC164, Jim Redman's TT winner for that year
While the Concorso di Villa d'Este traces its roots back to 1929, the sporadic history of the car show at the historic Renaissance villa didn't include motorcycles until 2011.  I was privileged to witness the birth of the Concorso di Moto that year, and 5 years on, motorcycles have a secure footing in the at Villa Erba.  This may be due to the separate venue afforded the bikes, which prevents them being overshadowed by the megabucks glamour of the car show at neighboring Villa d'Este, and in retrospect, this seems the wisest decision BMW could have made regarding the whole event.   There's room on Villa d'Este's extensive grounds - one of the only Renaissance gardens left unmolested over 500 years - for the bike show, but an uncrowded feeling is a principal charm of both concorsi.
The beautifully restored 1951 Douglas 90+ of Bert Ruijs, here ridden in the parade from Villa Erba to Villa d'Este - hence the lack of proper riding gear
If you're not an old car buff, you'd be forgiven not knowing the status of this show in the collector auto universe.  Villa d'Este is the car show Pebble Beach winners would absolutely kill to be invited to. The show inevitably oozes wealth, given the value of the cars on show, but as the Saturday concours is invite-only (and hey, they let us moto-heads swing by too), there's no crowding at all. The cars are driven to Villa Erba the next day, so it's a win-win, as the general public can see the same cars beside the same lake for a very modest admission - 15 euros.  Compare that to $350 for day-of-show tix to stand packed like a sardine at Pebble
'Bentley Belle' Katarina Kyvalova and her 4.5L Open Tourer on the Sunday drive-thru on the grounds of Villa Erba. Another member of the Bentley Belle team - Gillian Carr - was photographed at Montlhery on a Velocette!
That's the car story, anyway, although it's sweet to see every one of them driven around the grounds of Villa Erba during the afternoon, when they're 'presented' to the grandstand audience and described by the multi-lingual and oh so genteel master of ceremonies, Simon Kidston. There's a bi-annual auction too, and this year RM (who've sold 25% to Sotheby's) had a Ferrari-heavy lineup under its own awning.  BMW fills the remaining space with themed displays of cars and bikes, this year a mix of mostly '70s bikes and cars - 2002, R90S, R75/5, 3.0 CS.  
The ubiquitous but always-welcome Kompressor RS255 which won the '39 Isle of Man TT
Plus a full display of M1 'art cars' with color schemes by famous artists - Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Alexander Calder, and of course Andy Warhol, whose finger-painted M1 might just be the most valuable car in the world, if taken seriously as a work of art.  It's the only one of the cars actually painted by the artist, and not merely 'designed by'... Andy's perverse handling of the paint (check out the video) is hilarious, and makes the car an actual painting, in contrast to his usual work, which was created by assistants using silkscreens. 
The most valuable car in the world?  Andy Warhol hand-painted his BMW M1 'art car' in 1977
On the two-wheeled front, the cruciform motorcycle exhibit had 5 themes: 'The Establishment' (bikes from the 'Teens and 20s), 'Gentleman's Ride' (luxury bikes from the '30s), 'Experiments in the '50s', 'Connoisseur's Choice' (70s luxury bikes), and 'The Heroes' (of the '70s bike boom). There was also an un-judged lineup of Isle of Man TT winners, from the BMW RS255 which Georg Meier won the '39 race, to the BMW S100RR which won in 2014.  The most-represented marque this year was, believe it or not, Harley-Davidson, with 3 machines ranging from a beautifully restored 1913 single-speed chain-drive twin, to an original-paint 1971 Shovelhead Electra Glide in AMF white, and an immaculate 1977 XLCR cafe racer.  [For a full list of the participating bikes, follow this link]
Fabulously out of context at Villa d'Este, but fabulous nonetheless - the 1971 H-D FLH Electra Glide [see my road test of one here]
As usual, super-rare bikes comprised the bulk of entries, making the judging process difficult as ever.  We seem to have arrived at a happy core of judges as of last year, with the evergreen Carlo Perelli as Chief Judge, journalists/authors Mick Duckworth, Francois-Marie Dumas, and myself, plus Edgar Heinrich, head of motorcycle design at BMW.  This year we had surprise celeb judge Orlando Bloom, who proved an enthusiastic and welcome addition to our panel; he professed to be a bit overawed by the years of moto-experience at the table, but he's been on motorcycles since around age 12.  The addition of a non-industry judge to our deliberations provides a fresh point of view, a welcome circumstance for us ultra-geeks who are perhaps too deeply interested in details and provenance, and forget the 'wow that's cool' factor. 
Gents of the jury: Pd'O, Edgar Heinrichs, Francois-Marie Dumas, Orlando Bloom, Carlo Perelli, and Mick Duckworth
Orlando's feedback about the process was identical to mine, as related by coordinator of the Moto Concorso, journalist/author Stefan Knittel.  He felt the most interesting and rewarding part of the whole event was our discussion around the judge's table, in which perspectives of judges from 5 different countries and 4 different decades clash, merge, emerge, clash again, and eventually arrive at a conclusion for each of the 5 classes.  And then there was the Best in Show discussion, especially heated this year, as the question of 'elegance' was debated, until Carlo declared eventually that this was a 'Concorso di Moto', not a 'Concorso di Eleganza', as with the cars.  This freed us to award Best in Show to a bright yellow 1973 Münch TTS-E, which might not be the picture of elegance, but is damned impressive, and happened to fit within the 'Spirit of the Seventies' theme of the whole event this year.  Tidy. 
Best in Show!  The 1973 Münch TTS-E of Alessandro Altinier
Big thanks to BMW for their gracious hospitality, and for stewarding such a fantastic event.  

The 1950 Adler M250 of Bernd Dieter, a 250cc two-stroke twin, an interesting design with a Hirth-coupled crankshaft in a tunnel within the crankcase - a design Yamaha copied for its first twin.
The sexy '34 Alfa Romeo 8-cylinder 2300 Spider at Villa d'Este.  It won the BMW Group Trophy (Best in Show). 
Spirit of the Seventies!  The 1970 AMX/3 by AMC, owned by Jurgen and Padma Wilms
More Seventies Spirit - the 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV, the only one with this paint scheme.  Outrageous, but fitting.  Yes, she owned the car, and the dress!
Ueli Schmid and his late '30s BMW R51 with genuine RS tank, albeit in metalflake red!
The complication of the 1959 Maserati 'Birdcage' chassis, a latticework of small diameter tubing for strength
Engine room of the BMW RS255
Now that's a dashboard!  8 'clocks' and a small infinity of switches on an aluminum panel.   
Examining the 1929 Condor Super Sport of Peter Rohrer.  A Swiss machine with Swiss Motosacoche engine, with unique chain-drive magneto for that model.  A very fine machine.
The unique front brake of the Douglas 90+, a 9" diameter single-sided monster with a well-braced and ventilated aluminum backplate, intended for racing. The brakeplate moves with the short leading-link forks; note the parallel brake anchor link.
Douglas began building flat twins 17 years before BMW, and experimented with the 'BMW way' with the Endeavor in '34, but only turned its cylinders transverse to the frame permanently after WW2.
The sweet 1926 Bianchi 175 Sport of Giovanni Pedrali - a gem of a machine in familiar Bianchi blue
All class - the hardbound event programs for the moto and auto concours, showing last year's winning Opel sidecar outfit (read the coverage here)
The luxurious grounds of Villa Erba, while the Sunday show was in full swing. 
Super rare example of Moto Guzzi's first OHV production motor, the 1928 C2V with pushrod-operated valves.  The original G-P (Guzzi-Parodi) prototype of 1923 was an OHC machine.
Owner Luigi Broggio demonstrates the direct fuel line which primes the induction tract, via a hole in the intake manifold! 
The gorgeous and rare 1913 Harley-Davidson twin single-speeder
Rare bird!  28 Healey 1000/4s were made between '71 and '77 by the Healey brothers (no relation to the Austin-Healey).  Top speed recorded in road tests was 126mph, and the weight was kept to 350lbs with an Egli-type spine frame.
BMW always reveals new prototypes, and this '101' Bagger with a 6-cylinder engine was designed by the BMW team and Don Cammorata of MachineForm Design, then built by Roland Sands using his signature elements - the specially machined wheels, clear engine covers, and interesting mix of paint and raw aluminum.  BMW's intention is clearly aimed at America...specifically Sturgis and Daytona.  
The four unique carbs of the Honda 2RC164
Cockpit of the Honda 2RC164, with 15,000rpm tach
Family fun showing off the Zagato-bodied Jaguar XK140 coupé
Imm-ovation; the 1949 Imme R100, a poem to the clever economy of materials 
Benito Battilani's handsome '36 Indian 436 'Upside Down' 4-cylinder.  Benito has just published the first-ever book on Wooler motorcycles, for you enthusiasts of that amazing marque.
The fearsome 1972 Kawasaki H2 750cc two-stroke triple, which came out a year before the 900cc DOHC Z-1 model
Kettles and CBs; the Suzuki GT750 which tried to make a genteel tourer out of a watercooled two-stroke triple. It succeeded in its aim, but not spectacularly in the marketplace.  The Honda was another story...
Tired of wheels?  Look here.
Lapo!  The infamous fashion icon Lapo Elkan, grandson of Gianni Agnelli, the founder of FIAT.  His brother John is CEO of FIAT, and Lapo was once the Marketing Director, although now he makes those groovy pearl sunnies with his Italia Independent line.
Should your vehicle fail to win a prize, the course of action is clear.
Eleganza!  Gorgeous '36 Lancia Astura 3A and '37 Mercedes-Benz 770K
I admit it; I have a weakness for early Maseratis like this '56 A6G/2000 
Another Maser; this the Birdcage, with chassis tubing visible under the huge windscreen

A classic '37 Matchless Model X, owned by the Malenottis (Matchless London reboot)
This lovely yellow 1934 Motobécane S5C Gran Sport was a popular favorite - yellow was the color this year!  The immortal French motoring artist Geo Ham (Georges Hamel) worked with the engineers at Motobécane to design this Art Deco masterpiece.
The unit-construction 493cc OHV engine of the Motobécane
The remarkable 1955 Motom, with torsion-bar everything - suspension front and rear, and valve springs for the OHC engine.  Bristling with ideas, the 98cc was inevitably expensive, and not a great financial success 
There's a chain-drive OHC flat-single motor under all that curvaceous sheet metal
The cockpit of Ray Amm's 1954 Norton Manx racer
With its distinctive proboscis fairing, the 1954 Isle of Man TT winning Norton is certainly distinctive, and devastatingly fast with Ray Amm at the helm
The enormous front brake of the 1954 NSU R22-54 Rennmax.  The truly geeky will note the Rudge alloy rims, built under license by Borrani
The breathing room of the NSU Rennmax, showing the shaft-and-bevel drive to the OHC twin-cylinder motor which won the '54 World Championship 
Cockpit of the NSU Rennmax complete with orange racing sponge
BMW motorcycle designer Ola Stenegard, aboard an original-paint '32 BMW R16, owned by legendary vintage BMW restorer/rider Josef Kast
Yours truly discussing the 1954 Victoria Bergmeister V35, a perfect restoration
No, this isn't Erwin Wurm's latest sculpture, this is a 1952 Pegaso 'Cupula'.  Pegaso, like Lamborghini, was a heavy-equipment manufacturer (Enasa), that branched out to a limited production of sports cars for 5 years, with an all-aluminum OHC V-8 engine.  
Another Pegaso, with a picnic party.
Details of the lovely 1912 Puch Type N, one of the earliest extant examples of the marque.  This level of decorative detail is rare in motorcycling.
Of course, actually riding a 1912 Puch is a complicated business...

It's hard to be humble when you own a Rumi Formichino! Bruno Finardi struts his '54 model
A landscape of luxury: the 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K
The Motosacoche IOE 993cc v-twin housed in a Standard chassis
The 1930 Standard BT1000, quite an impressive machine with its all-nickel tank
Stefan Knittel, organizer of the Concorso di Moto
The engine room of the remarkable 1935 Tornax  Tornado, with a chain-driven OHC parallel twin engine 

The 1923 Victoria OHV engine, designed by Martin Stolle; he had first designed the BMW motorcycle engine for 1921, and Victoria was a big customer for the engine.  Stolle wanted to develop an OHV version of the engine, but BMW wasn't interested, so he went to work for Victoria instead, which forced BMW to begin producing whole motorcycles, as they'd lost their engineer and best customer!


Barry Brown said...

Great coverage yet again Paul. Thanks. One small correction concerning your remark that Douglas did not move their flat twin across the frame until after ww2. You forgot the Endeavour from 1936, excusable perhaps as others might like to forget it as well! Cheers, Barry

The Vintagent said...

Thanks Barry, yes I'd neglected the Endeavor! Text amended. Can't find my copy of Clew's 'The Best Twin'...

Anonymous said...

Hello Paul,

My wife Padma and I met you and Susan over lunch at Villa Erba. It was a pleasure and made lunch a whole different affair. Now I see that you posted a fantastic photo of my AMX/3. Nobody ever got this dynamic perspective before, you really know how to make a design look its dramatic best.

Hope to meet both of you again in the future at a similarly exciting venue.

Best regards,

Jurgen Wilms

Anonymous said...

Profound congratulations for your truly superb report on this year's Concours etc,
which I just finished reading [line by line] a few moments ago. Splendid pics, too.
Stefan, yet again, clearly did a super job with the line-up.

Dare we invite you to SALON PRIVE, on Sept 3rd [Judging Day]? As ye may have
heard SP 2015 has moved to Blenheim Palace. [Did you know why Bl Pal wasn't
bombed during WWII? Because Adolf, a man of exquisite taste, coveted the
property as his English and when he eventually moved in].

Repeated plaudits for the report, and
with best regards...


Footnote - my parents, who married in 1932, spent part of their honeymoon at Villa d' I have long been fascinated by the place...

GuitarSlinger said...

Such a great show [ both the cars and the bikes ] . As per usual great coverage by your self Paul .Too bad BMW had to go an ruin all their good work by unveiling the Victory Vision pastiche of a BMW 101 . That .. along with the severely over designed BMW CSL concept convincing me BMW's design team has gone down Alice's Rabbit Hole of late in more ways than one . The Vision/101 being an abject travesty whereas at least the CSL was heading in the right direction before getting Rococo'd to death from stem to stern said...

Paul, This is a real treat. Many thanks. There are two minor mistakes on the captions. Third photo down of the vintage Bentley. No such thing as a 3.4 liter. It is either a 3L or a 4 1/2L. Of course some folks fitted the bigger engines into the 3's and called the 3/4.5.
The Mercedes 540K would be 1937 vice '47. You are a fortunate fellow for the invitation to attend the show.

The Vintagent said...

Hi Cortes,
that's what I get trusting Internet info! ;)
I've contacted Bentley Belle Gillian Carr, and she explains thus:
"Katarina Kyvalova who you met [at Villa Erba] owns the Bentley which is a 1928 4 and a 1/2 litre car. So yeh, 4.5 is correct.

The background- a really awesome guy called William Medcalf ( had a dream to have prewar cars run for 24 hours continuously for the first time since the pre-war era. He put over 2 years into the planning and last October, 23 teams headed off for Portimao in portugal and did just that. In an incredible feat, 22 of the 23 teams finished and us girls, the Bentley Belles finished 12th!"

You'll hear more about the Bentley Belles from TheVintagent!