[ BMW brought out one of its rare jewels, the 1934 R7 prototype. ]
Italy’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is known as perhaps the most elegant automotive celebration anywhere. It’s a rare combination of the perfect landscape (Lake Como), the perfect Villa and a curated selection of 50 truly exceptional vehicles. With admittance to il Concorso restricted to entrants and invited guests, the show is only a rose-hued dream to millions of car enthusiasts. Put bluntly, this is a private party for elite swells, the famous or merely rich, all on their best behavior and in their most beautiful attire at Lago di Como.
For the 2011 edition, held this past May, the big change was the addition of a Concorso di Moto. Show organizer BMW chose a “zero publicity” strategy to introduce a second judged show on the grounds of Villa Erba. BMW’s quiet approach was perhaps justified, given its adherence to a “since 1929” history of the Concorso at Villa d’Este, which has never included motorcycles. To critics, it might have appeared self-serving that a manufacturer of bikes would break tradition to showcase its “other” product.
They needn’t have worried. The display was clean and modern, on a raised wooden hexagonal platform—for the six judged classes—with a clear overarching canopy marking the fact that “here is something special.” And indeed, the curated selection of 30 motorcycles was very special and incredibly eclectic, from a humble fiberglass Velocette Vogue, to an original-paint supercharged Vincent, a Britten and Willhelm Noll’s 1955 BMW World Land Speed Record streamlined sidecar. The judged categories showed refreshing disregard of chronology and nationality, instead focusing on type: Pioneers, Design and Technics, Glamour, Racing and Records, Production Icons, and Prototypes.
The motorcycle judging committee included Hugo Wilson of Classic Bike, David Robb (BMW’s motorcycle designer), legendary Italian moto-journo Carlo Perelli of Motociclismo d’Epocca, and Thomas Kohler, director of motorcycles for FIVA (Federation Internationale Vehicules Anciens). Their Best of Show-winning 1910 Pierce four-cylinder was a brave choice, being an obscure make from an early era, with faded 100-year-old paint, and not a “wow”-styled machine. The judges chose well and cannily, especially as the Pierce has a big four-wheel brother, a fact surely noted by the “other” concorsi.
Reaction from the public, car entrants and press was 100-percent positive: “a natural fit,” ‘‘the mechanical variety is fascinating” and the oft-repeated, “it’s about time!” All agreed that BMW, whose motorcycle bloodline predates its auto history by six years, was completely justified in adding a second event for bikes.
Quote of the day came from a local security guard who explained, “You Germans have done us Italians a huge favor. We are all of us, men and women, rich and poor, absolutely crazy about motorcycles.”
Attendance at the “open to the public” Sunday on the grass of Villa Erba was a record high. Thousands saw the best, rarest and most beautiful cars and motorbikes ever created, displayed in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.