A PSFK Quest For Brand Passion: The 2010 Concorso d’Eleganza

PSFK takes a trip to the Poconos to find out the essence of what makes Italian car brands compelling.

Finding the essence of what creates passion around a brand isn’t an easy formula to crack. Not that a ‘formula’ even exists. Apple is an often cited example of a company that understands the power of  creating a strong personal connection with consumers. The result of this focus as well as a byproduct is the frenzy surrounding product launches that is unique to Apple. The the lines for the iPhone 4 debut showed once again that people want to personally participate and have bragging rights. So there are learnings and wisdom to be gained from the usual suspects like Apple, Google, and Nike, but getting insight into what drives brand passion can also be found at some unlikely places. One of our choices represents a concentration of devotion you won’t likely find at too many other places, a gathering dedicated to Italian sports cars.

Le Belle Macchine d’Italia held in the Pocono Mountains is a once a year event for vintage and contemporary cars produced by Italian automakers. The invited list includes Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and of course Ferrari. The main draw is private track time at nearby Pocono raceway for the car owners to let loose and experience the performance limits of their cars. Part of the weekend also includes a concours called the Concorso d’Eleganza where the most pristine vehicles are selected for awards. In other words, the hyper-obsessed got the top prize. We were curious what sort of stories we might uncover about why people get so excited about cars from Italy. Volkswagen stepped in and loaned us a new 2010 Golf TDI for the trip.

The site for the concours were the adjacent golf course greens at the Skytop Lodge in Pennsylvania. Cars from each of the individual brands were grouped together so it was possible to see a historic range close together. Many of the owners were available to talk with about their cars. Many were very loyal to the brand that they chose to own. We heard about the friendly rivalry between Ferrari and Lamborghini owners ( the two camps were parked facing each other on opposite sides of the field). Having spent the afternoon walking between the different brands and chatting with car owners, we picked up on a couple common points among all of them.

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Heritage

All of the brands had really interesting examples of historic vehicles at the show. These were the real stars and provided an interesting visual history lesson. Some vintage cars are appreciated because of the patina they acquire over time. Seeing a few examples of cars like these in person really does get you thinking about the life that vehicle had.

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Artful

This is a character trait all of these brands have striven to retain. But it is again the early models that seem to provide the most design risks and uncompromising beauty. These are all vehicles that have impressive presence when you are standing next to them in real life. Many of the owners appreciate these vehicles in the context of rolling sculpture.

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Performance

The close link between race and road cars between all the Italian brands is what quite a few of the owners spoke about. The cars look beautiful, but they also have an aggressive character when driven. With owning one of these cars, it is possible to get the same experience of speed and handling that a race car driver would. With these cars, cutting corners is only intended for the track.

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Craftsmanship

It is expected that automobiles costing a minimum of 100k need to have an exceptional level of craftsmanship. And this is an essential part of their appreciation. Design and craftsmanship here work as a partnership in the realization of each car. Metal forming, wood working, and fabric stitching each demonstrate a high level of expertise of craft.

We’ve assembled a gallery of photos from the event. But an opportunity to see a collection like this in person is worth the effort. The sculptural quality of these vehicles is difficult to convey through a flat image. As was the atmosphere which was more like a sculpture park versus a car park.

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As mentioned before, Volkswagen loaned us a new 2010 Golf TDI for our trip. We wanted to mention a few points about the car that were memorable. The clean styling did attract some attention. A few people stopped by in the parking lot of the concours to have a look at it. The four door had a surprisingly generous amount of interior room. We used the touch screen navagation system a lot and it didn’t take a masters in computer science to figure it out. We also appreciated that we got from New York City to the Poconos and back with less than a half tank of diesel. That included a few ‘test runs’ on a favorite stretch of road near the Delaware Water Gap. Special thanks to Anthony Magle of MWW Group and Ron Kievit of Navs for the arrangements.

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