The coolest cars from the world’s coldest vintage-car show
Every year, the lake at the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz freezes over and it becomes the venue for an assortment of unlikely sporting events, from horse racing and polo to cricket.
Now, thanks to an enterprising Italian, you can add motorsports to that list. Local lore says that drivers first took to the ice in the 1930s, but it was a group of Brits in vintage Bentleys that inspired Marco Makaus, already a fan of classic cars, to come up with the idea of The ICE (International Concours of Elegance) St. Moritz. In 1985, said Bentley boys had driven to St. Moritz to hurl themselves down the daunting Cresta Run bobsled track. When bored of that activity, they starting skidding around the lake instead, and Makaus was there to watch.
For more than 30 years he dreamed of seeing more cars send it in the snow of St. Moritz and finally, in 2019, he staged a test event with a handful of chums. The pandemic canceled his first concours event in 2020, but the event proper finally ran in February 2022 and looks set to get bigger and better with each year.
What began as a static display now includes a one-day exhibition, complete with concours judging, followed by a day of multi-million dollar drifting in the most spectacular of settings.
Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani have display stands and Maserati is a title sponsor, while guests have been invited from across the world to take part. Meanwhile, the paying public are encouraged to join the automakers on the ice, slipping from priceless automobile to priceless automobile—although they’re not allowed beyond the roped cordons.
There is a slightly snooty Swiss exclusivity about The ICE, with the sectioned-off VIP area taking up almost half the space allotted on the lake. Owners’ and drivers’ names aren’t in the program or mentioned by the announcers. If you know, you know; if you don’t, tough luck—that seems to be the message.
Whether there are slightly frosty aspects to the way the event is set up or not, there’s no denying the coolness of the cars involved. Credit to the cars’ owners for bringing them out of climate-controlled collections and onto the ice—even if the huge parking lot full of transporters just outside of the town suggests that very few vehicles have made the trip under their own power.
Nonetheless, they are all sent out on the track, driven with varying degrees of trepidation, artistry, or plain showmanship. In fact, the way the cars move on the ice is supposed to be one of the key judging criteria.
The judges eventually settle on winners for each of the five categories: a 1958 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe wins Queens on Wheels; a 1961 Ferrari 250 TR Lucybelle takes the Le Mans 100 class; a Ferrari 500 Mondial from 1955 is awarded the Barchettas on the Lake prize; the Open Wheels category goes to the 1958 Maserati 420M/58 “Eldorado Special,” as driven by Stirling Moss; and the 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero takes both the Concept Cars and One-Offs award and Best in Show.
If I were judging, however, I’d have given the gong to the 1951 Jaguar XK120 and its flamboyant driver. Seemingly on the brink of a spin on every lap, with the his arms flailing and the passenger clinging on for dear life, the Jag’s was the most entertaining drive of the weekend.
Here are five more of our favorite performers on the ice.
This 1925 Bentley 3 Litre was the British brand’s first-ever entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the rules of the day required, the driver had to erect the fabric hood for the first part of the race, so that’s exactly what the owner did at St. Moritz. Even better, he had no fear of sliding it around on the lock-stops.
It may be one of the last Ferrari Daytonas ever made and hold the honor of a 12th-place finish at Le Mans, but this 1975 365 GTB/4 pulled some quite alarming angles on the ice.
Fully deserving its class win, not just for its seventh place in the 1958 Le Mans, but for the way it slid gracefully across the lake, is this 1961 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa “Lucybelle.”
It wasn’t so much about the shapes it was making in the snow, but the sound of the Wankel rotary engine echoing off the mountainside that made Mercedes-Benz C111 concept car of 1969 such a cool customer.
While other struggled for traction the Valkyrie Racing Porsche 356A driven by Renee Brinkerhoff made it look like a walk in the park. That’s because its last outing was in the ice fields of Antarctica where she drove 356 miles in some of the most challenging conditions on the planet. The cat tracks and huge skis may have been overkill for the St. Moritz, but there was a lot of love for the car and its driver.
If given your pick, which of these vintage rides would you have wheeled on the frozen lake?
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