Arriving in the timeless alpine retreat of St Moritz is like stepping into the setting for a Slim Aarons photograph. The world’s best-known high-society photographer was regularly drawn to the Swiss resort, and you can see why. Badrutt’s Palace, the Cresta Run clubhouse and the frozen lake are unchanging icons of this exclusive enclave which is punctuated by elegantly dressed pedestrians, the scent of cigars and the sound of ice cubes clinking inside their Negroni glasses.
For the last weekend in February, St Moritz offers another treat for the senses: the International Concours of Elegance, or simply the ICE.
The idea for a car concours on ice has been mooted since the 1980s, but it took until 2019 to establish the ICE. Permission had to be secured from the St Moritz authorities, and assurances had to be made about the suitability of letting people and cars be suspended just inches above the inky-black waters of Lake St Moritz.
There’s precedent, in a way at least, as the town has hosted the winter Olympics here, twice, and held horse races and polo matches on the frozen lake since as far back as 1906. 2020’s event was cancelled at the 11th hour, courtesy of an overnight change in Swiss COVID regulations, and 2021’s running was limited to the inventive but behind-closed-doors ‘Lockdown Edition’. For 2022, every effort would be made to come back with a bang – and a rooster tail of snow.
It was an early and bracing start to proceedings on Saturday morning, nudging -15C, but those who avoided the snooze button and braved the temperature were duly rewarded. The walk into the concours event was more dramatic and beautiful than any other in the world. The sun was just cresting the snow-capped peaks and breathing a welcome warm glow down onto the frozen lake. Any fears of the ice melting in the direct sunlight were allayed by the organisers, who confirmed that their seasonal flooring freezes to 40cm, and is tested for integrity using 7700kg weights.
The event is free to the public, ensuring a lively and genial bustle of people from dawn to dusk. Arranged for visitors in a central parc ferme sat a truly world-class selection of cars.
An immediate crowd favourite was the 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO that enjoyed a constant stream of admirers clamouring to photograph this near-mythical model. This particular unicorn belongs to Brandon Wang and he has been its enthusiastic owner since the early 1990s. “In 30 years, I have done everything with this car… except drive it on the ice” he said with a wry smile.
Chassis 4219GT is a particularly original GTO and Brandon is just its fourth owner; the third acquired it in 1964 and kept it for three decades. It had been bought new by tobacco heiress Mamie Spears Reynolds and, while under her brief ownership, Pedro Rodriguez drove it to win the 3h Daytona Continental. A month later the GTO just missed a podium at the Sebring 12h, with pilots Jo Bonnier and John Cannon taking 4th in the GT 3.0L class.
Those who saw it race in the 1963 would be forgiven for not recognising this GTO, which was Rosso Cina when new, but has for most of its life worn a seductively inky Midnight Blue colour – the owner’s favourite – and looks all the better for it. A digital public was sufficiently seduced and awarded the Ferrari the InstaLake trophy, as voted for on Car & Vintage’s Instagram story.
Italian marques were well represented in a concours barely 20 miles from home soil and the pale blue 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 S America, complete with faux fur seat covers for the occasion, could not have looked more La Dolce Vita. Simon Kidston flew the flag for Lamborghini and indeed the 1970s with his purple Periscopio Countach – you can read all about its restoration here – which like many of the concours cars was sporting a set of studded snow tires for perhaps the first time in its life.
Surely the most elegant of the Italians though was the 1953 Maserati A6GCS Berlinetta of Matteo Panini. Matteo’s father Umberto was able to acquire this quintessential Gran Turismo along with the rest of the Maserati factory’s museum collection when the brand’s former owner De Tomaso wanted to liquidate 19 very special assets in 1996. That collection still lives together on the family cheese farm in Modena, the city of Maserati’s founding, in a barn dedicated to preserving the very local and important history of Maserati.
“It was difficult to choose class winners precisely because the cars were all so good,” said collector and ICE concours judge Cici Muldoon, who is used to fine margins as a doctor in atomic and laser physics. “It was also really special to see cars in a dynamic display, as opposed to a static display, which I think is a really solid differentiating factor for the ICE as a concours.”
‘Viola’, Cici’s own 1974 Ferrari 246 GTS Dino named after its original Viola Metallizzato purple paint colour, was among the curated concours selection and joined in with the event’s defining feature – parade laps on ice.
The ice circuit itself was a simple enough anticlockwise oval, but owners were wise to build their speed incrementally on its unconventional surface. Soon enough though the early sighting laps gave way to – for want of a better phrase – hot laps and the 1956 Jaguar XKSS in particular proved well-adjusted to a life on ice; its pilot had no trouble holding the rare beauty at impossible angles.
Another fast, often sideways peddler was Fritz Burkard in his Pearl Collection’s 1939 Maserati 4CL. The prototype ex-Villoresi Voiturette GP car’s heavy-duty snow chains hinted that this would be one to watch, but it was the driver’s Cresta Run whites that explained why this car was so rapid on the slippery stuff. Complete with leather flying cap and a cigarette, Fritz passed for a 1930s Grand Prix driver and had the gusto to match. It was therefore of little surprise that the ICE Vintage Grand Prix class award would be sliding into the 4CL’s trophy cabinet.
Fritz was perhaps the busiest man of the weekend also exercising his original ‘Bond’ 1965 Aston Martin DB5, displaying its fully functional gadgets and frequently affecting an impressively swift tuxedo costume change. This particular car was one of two ordered new and modified by Eon Productions to promote the launch of Thunderball. Also breaking the fourth wall and making the leap from silver screen to winter wonderland was the 1967 Meyers Manx dune buggy as used by Steve McQueen to terrify Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair, but it was the sight and sound of another orange movie car returning to the Alps that was most evocative: the (yes, the) Italian Job Lamborghini Miura. The awarded owner Fritz Kaiser the trophy for the Stars on Wheels class.
Out in force were three generations of the Finburgh family and their heroically patinated 1953 Jaguar C-Type. Patriarch Aubrey has owned XKC043 since the 1960s, or “for some years” as event creator and master of ceremonies Marco Makaus elected to politely put it when presenting him with the Barchettas on the Lake trophy.
Another popular Brit’ was the 1967 ex-Works, Tulip & Alpine Rally winning Morris Mini Cooper S, which held its own both during judging and out on the ice. The diminutive Mini received the Vintage Road Racing class award and proved that size isn’t always everything, having no trouble keeping up with the V12 power of Katarina Kivalova’s alloy bodied 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB – itself no stranger to a winter in the Alps. The official Works Ferrari test car for the 1966 Monte Carlo Rally, this glamourous and glacial Blu Celeste coupé was a worthy recipient of the Jet Set on Ice trophy.
Best of show was to be reserved for another Italian though, the event’s poster car and an all-time great: the 1932 ex-Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo B, chassis 5006. A Grand Prix star in the hands of Achille Varzi, it was eminently special to hear its straight-eight’s sonorous growl bouncing around the steep hillside as its spinning rear wheels atomised the ice into white rooster tails behind them.
We are lucky in the classic and collector car world for there to be no shortage of wonderful events to feed our appetite for speed and beauty, but it is rare to come across one that is both entirely original in concept and executed so well. Plan a visit of your own for 2023.
The ICE St Moritz 2022 Winners
Best of Show: 1932 Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo B
Jet Set on Wheels: 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Alloy
Vintage Road Racing: 1967 Morris Mini Cooper S ex-Works
Barchettas on Ice: 1953 Jaguar C-Type
Vintage Grand Prix: 1939 Maserati 4CL
InstaLake Trophy: 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO
Spirit of St Moritz: 1971 Fiat 130 “Villa d’Este” Introzzi ex-Agnelli