Last week I had a whirlwind trip to Italy, the primary purpose of which was to introduce the new Concorso Italiano Best of Show Award.  For those of you who don’t recall, several months ago we announced that MR Collection will build the new award that will be presented to this year’s winner of the Best of Show.

Upon my arrival in Turin I had gelato with old friend Mike Robinson.   No, Mike is not old, but we’ve know one another for many years.   It was great to catch up with Mike and hear about some very big plans at ED Design.  By the way, I must confess that it was perhaps the best gelato I’ve ever had.

After that luscious gelato, I accompanied Raffaello Porro who took me to a reception in Moncalieri which is a smaller town adjacent to Turin.  The reception was at Umberto Palermo’s restaurant, Café Up.  On display were three of PALERMO DESIGN’s, Umberto’s automobile design studio.  His most recent and creative designs include the Mole, the Luce, as well as a Palermo-designed Tesla.

On the drive to Café Up we passed Parco Valentino.  Parco del Valentino is the oldest and most famous public park in Turin.  Set along the western bank of the Po River, the park is not far from the historic city center and faces the wonderful Turin hills. The park contains the Castello del Valentino, a royal residence of the House of Savoy and now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It is difficult to find a more beautiful setting for an elegant car show.

From the mid-1930s through the mid-1950s, the park was intermittently the site of races with the last race, the Gran Premio del Valentino held in 1955.  Parco Valentino was also the site of Europe’s oldest concours, the Concorso D’Eleganza Per Automobili Parco Del Valentino which was held almost continuously until the outbreak of hostilities during World War II.  Andrea Levy resurrected the Concorso in 2015 which included displays by manufacturers and designers.

Andrea’s second annual event was opened with a Wednesday morning press conference which afforded an opportunity to meet numerous luminaries in the Italian automotive community.  I even spotted old friend Leonardo Fioravanti in the distance, but by the time I worked my way over to say hello, I lost him.  I had a chance to make a grand tour of the manufacturers’ and designers’ displays.  It was eye candy in every direction.  I even got to meet Turin Mayor Piero Fassino and Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari Senior Vice President for Design.

There was a little time for levity as well.  Raffaello and I had a chance to take a photo together.

While in Turin we had meetings with several automotive designers, all of whom are very familiar to Concorso enthusiasts.

The primary reason for my visit to Italy was the Wednesday evening press conference. As mentioned, in March we announced that we wanted a Best of Show trophy that embodied the spirit and style of Italian automobiles.  One hundred-fifty students from the Transportation Design course of Turin-based IAAD were asked to submit proposals of their interpretation of a no-brand Italian sports car.  The winning design was created by student Joaquin Obligado.

ABACAD Engineering of Turin provided the engineering to create the specifications for the fabrication that was completed by MR Collection.

To announce the award we had a very well-attended press conference in the Hall of Honour in the spectacularly beautiful Castello del Valentino.  On the dais at the conference was Giorgetto Giugiaro, the President and Maestro of the Transportation Design School, Laura Milani, the CEO of IAAD, Renzo Porro, Chairman of Torino Vehicle Engineering and member of ABACAD, Egidio Reali, CEO of MR Collection, yours truly, and Raffaello Porro of Studio RPR who presided over the presentation.  It was a thrill to meet Sg. Giugiaro as I had never before met him.

Later that evening following the press conference we had a delightful  dinner where those of us on the dais were joined by Concorso favorite, Tom Tjaarda.  It was great to see Tom and catch up with him.

Thursday morning we dashed off to the train station for a quick trip to Rome.  I had an interview scheduled with Vincenzo Borgomeo of la Repubblica, and a convivial lunch with Raffaello Porro and American Head of Communications, Media and Development for The Council for The United States and Italy, Dennis Redmont.  Later that evening I was invited by Raffaello to the Globo d’Oro, or the Italian Golden Globes.  Dennis was my technical advisor.  (The reality was that Dennis translated the salient speeches into English for me.)   The awards ceremony was held in the stately French embassy.  The ceremony culminated in a Lifetime Achievement Award for Roberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi who have appeared in many wonderful films together, the most familiar film to Americans probably being Life is Beautiful.

At the reception following the awards ceremony Dennis introduced me to some of his friends and colleagues.  One person in particular, an automotive enthusiast and a bit of a tinkerer, raised some thoughts about the potential of exhibiting some very rare cars in 2017.  We are investigating the possibilities.  Serendipity strikes again.

Friday began with a race to the train station and a ride back to Bologna.  We sped to a meeting with Dallara Automobili and Gian Paolo Dallara and Andrea Pontremoli.  In addition to meeting these two top-flight individuals, we observed the state-of-the-art production process of some race car chassis, a model race car undergoing wind tunnel testing, and perhaps the most amazing simulator I’ve ever seen, a variation of which is something my hometown Boeing might use for testing aircraft designs and pilot training.  I left our meeting absolutely impressed with Dallara, and astounded by the simulator.

My visit to Italy wound up with a Friday night cocktail reception in Carpi, organized by Raffaello.  There, he gathered regional automotive enthusiasts and luminaries.  I had a chance to chat with Adolfo Orsi, and had a brief phone call with none other than Valentino Balboni.  It was an eclectic mix of people that only Raffaello could gather.  There were two cars on display at the reception.  One was an exquisite Lamborghini Diablo.  The other was the most beautiful Alfa Romeo Montreal that I’ve ever seen.  The Montreal was in impeccable condition and ALL original.  Even the engine department, shown to me by an extraordinarily enthusiastic owner, was pristine.  Bellissimo!  He is going to bring the Montreal to CI when we celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Very early Saturday morning I caught a taxi to the Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport, and began my return home to Seattle.  What a week!

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