Like many contemporary brands, the Concorso di Eleganza Villa d’Este, held on the shores of stunning Lake Como, is a revival. A Concorso was first organized on the grounds of the 16th century Villa d’Este from 1929-49 (with a gap for WW2), and featured the elegant new designs from the many coachbuilders working on automobile chassis at the time (Saoutchik, Figoni&Falaschi, etc), in a grand tradition stretching back hundreds of years. But the economic situation in postwar Italy was dire, and the great coachwork houses were in transition from the large prewar pattern to the sleeker, more modern forms exemplified by the likes of Cisitalia.It would take a a few years for Pinin Farina and Touring et al to revive the story of non-factory styling houses, and in that gap, the Concorso at Vila d’Este slipped away. The concept was revived, ironically, the very next year (1950) at Pebble Beach, where a mix of new and old cars was shown in a small gathering (30 cars). Competing events around the world have focussed increasingly on restored vintage vehicles in the ensuing decades, although contemporary car and motorcycle designs are shown in the concept, prototype, or design study stage.Motorcycles have been included with cars in major Concours after the success of the Guggenheim Museum’s ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibit in 1998, which led to a general acknowledgement of motorcycles as design objects worthy of study and admiration. The rise of celebrity visibility on two wheels (Malcolm Forbes, Elizabeth Taylor, et al) from the late 1980s onwards also helped clean up the image of motorcycles, making them chic for stars who wanted to burnish a bad boy image (Arnold Schwartzenegger, Mickey Rourke et al), or who simply enjoyed riding (Ewan MacGregor, Anjelina Jolie, et al).The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este was revived in 1986, and held sporadically until BMW purchased the event in 1999, and brought its resources to bear on the organization, logistics, and displays on the shore of Lake Como. With their input, the event has become truly grand, taking advantage of both the stunning natural setting beside the lake, and the Villa d’Este’s status as the Best Hotel in the World, according to awards from various travel publications over the years. I’ve never stayed there, but have eaten there many times (excellent), and had enough drinks at their bar to acknowledge it’s a great, if expensive, spot to get lit.The Concorso is held in two locations; the grounds of the Villa d’Este itself, as a private event for entrants and invited guests only (on Friday and Saturday), and a public day on Sunday at the neighboring Villa Erba, and equally spectacular location, with many acres of lawn and trees available for displaying and driving the Concorso cars and motorcycles across a podium for awards and public appreciation. The entry fee for the public is a modest 20euros, and a large crowd enjoys the ambience, which nevertheless never feels crowded – it’s a huge venue, with a breathtaking view of the most beautiful lake in Europe, and plenty of mature Chestnut, Plane, and Elm trees providing shade.Motorcycles have been included as a ‘separate but equal’ part of the Concorso since 2010, with a purpose-built cruciform display podium on the grounds of Villa Erba, a ride across the Villa d’Este grounds on Saturday as a presentation to the automobile judges and guests, and an awards ceremony on Sunday morning. Typically, 35 bikes are displayed, competing in six categories that change annually, which this year included ‘Golden Years for American Motorcycles’, ‘Luxury on 3 Wheels’, ‘New Ideas for the 1950s’, ‘Winning Italian Singles: 250cc Grand Prix Motorcycles’, ‘New Clothes on British and German Motorcycles’ and a display of Prototypes from MV Agusta, Husqvarna, and BMW.The motorcycles displayed tend to include the most technically or aesthetically interesting motorcycles in the world, and has included a lineup of supercharged Land Speed Racers from the 1930s, Golden Age Grand Prix machinery from all countries, elegant Art Deco styling exercises, and vintage one-off machines that are normally invisible except in photos. To see such legendary motorcycles up close, to lean in to examine arcane details, to smell the combined aroma of old oil and cracked leather, to feel their aura in person, is an exceptional opportunity, which I as an 8-year veteran of the Concorso (as a judge) am very grateful for.The ultra-exotic this year included five Italian factory racing 250cc single-cylinder GP machines from the 1950s and early ’60s, and several rare or unique European prototypes, including the 1939 Miller Balsamo, 1947 BMW R10 flat-twin two-stroke, the mind-blowing 1948 Moto Major, and the 1948 Stilma. These are machines one sees in books only, and wonders why they weren’t produced, as all looked promising, or even works of genius. There was always a reason ‘why not’, though, and it’s great to see them in person to understand what beyond their styling might have prevented series production.The Moto Major especially has vexed motorcycle enthusiasts since its debut in 1948, as the bodywork is like no motorcycle ever built, with its nearest rival being two prototypes of Louis Lucien Lepoix (see our article on his work here). The sweeping lines and fully enclosed everything are graceful and suggest speed and modernity in a way scooters never quite succeeded in doing. The charisma of this machine brought a unanimous and un-corroborated consideration of ‘Best in Show’ from the judges, before we’d even met to discuss the matter. It was the easiest decision in my years of judging events, as the bike is simply beyond.A full list of winners, and photographs of all the cars and motorcycles, is available on the Concorso’s website, on which you can explore prior years’ entrants and winners as well.