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Automotive aristocracy on show

Published Mar 3, 2011

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Over the weekend of May 20-22, the grounds of the Grand Hotel Villa d'Este and neighbouring Villa Erba in Cernobbio on Lake Como will again serve as a unique stage for the most beautiful cars and motorcycles from the past and the most extravagant concept cars of today.

First held in 1929, at the same venue, the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este ranks today as the world's most traditional event of its kind.

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Split up into eight categories, the 50 or so classics will await the verdict of the five-strong jury. A novel aspect in 2011 will be a special focus within the competition on the 1960s: about 20 iconic cars in three categories - The Glamour, The Sport and The Unexpected - will represent this style-setting decade for the motoring enthusiasts gathered at Lake Como.

For the Concorso d'Eleganza competition, the selection committee has again picked some unusual beauties from six decades of automotive history. Here are just four of the rarest:

1961 JAGUAR E-TYPE COUPÉ:

This E-Type has a unique history. It was the display car at the 1961 Geneva motor show, which makes it one of the first E-Types ever built. Over the years, however, its distinguished origins fell into obscurity - until 1999, when it was advertised for sale in a Swiss newspaper and it came out that this was the actual Geneva show car.

A Swiss collector than undertook a comprehensive restoration of this pre-production E-Type that took almost a decade, working entirely from original documentation as the show car differs from the production model in more than 30 details inside and out.

1965 ALFA ROMEO ZAGATO TZ2 COUPÉ:

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Alfa Romeo presented the TZ model at the 1962 Turin motor show as a street-legal racing car. The T in its name is for its tubular space-frame, the Z for Zagato, who built the body. Only 102 were made before it was replaced in 1965 by the TZ2 - would prove far more successful on the race track.

Output had been raised to 122kW, its weight was pared to only 620kg, and the chassis was also improved. Alfa Romeo clocked one at 265km/h - not bad for a road car in 1965!

Only 12 were built in two years of production, however, making this not only an exceptional beauty but also a hand-picked rarity.

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1933 ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM II BREWSTER SPECIAL TOWN CAR:

This American-built Phantom II, bodied by Brewster & Co, was the most expensive car on the market at the time. But it wasn't just the price tag that made it special.

This superlative example typifies the styling elements of its day - the long bonnet, low-slung greenhouse and distinctive V-shaped windscreen - while the interior features gold-plated hardware, indirect lighting, high-grade leather and wool carpeting, making this one of the finest and most significant Rolls-Royces yet built.

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1936 BMW 328:

This year marks the 75th birthday of the BMW 328. The celebrations will kick off not far from Lake Como - at the Mille Miglia, where the BMW 328 racing car will be the centre of attention. A week later, at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, the spotlight will turn on the functional aesthetics of this legendary two-seater.

BMW Group Classic director Karl Baumer said: “With the 328, our predecessors created an icon of motoring history which to this day still defines the two-seaters produced by our company.”

It remains unclear what kind of birthday present would be appropriate for such an outstanding representative of the BMW family, “but we'll definitely come up with something special”, said Baumer.

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