The Pearl Collection’s Fritz Burkard announced as ‘The Collector’ at Concours of Elegance 2023
This year’s Concours of Elegance will welcome one of Switzerland’s most prolific classic car aficionados, Fritz Burkard, as ‘The Collector’. Presented by A. Lange & Söhne, the concours will take place at the prestigious Hampton Court Palace near London, UK from September 1st-3rd, 2023.
Burkard’s wonderfully diverse Pearl Collection spans the decades from the dawn of the automotive age to the current day. The ever-growing, Switzerland-based collection includes everything from historic Grand Prix machinery to idiosyncratic 1960s one-offs and 21st century hypercars.
Burkard is passionate about all his acquisitions, firmly believing that a love of such machinery comes from the heart. In fact, he doesn’t even think of himself as a collector, in the traditional sense: “I see myself more as a custodian, as somebody who has fun for myself and the people around me,” he told film-maker Luca Pieri Pilotti. “I get very emotional around my cars, especially when I can see their history, when I can smell it.”
The Pearl Collection is known for using its vehicles enthusiastically, rather than just leaving them on static display, as Burkard explains: “Cars combine several passions: history, design, innovation, the feeling when you drive them, the sound… a car has its own aura. You feel it or you don’t. We at the Pearl Collection love quirky and unusual models. We show them, we race them and we use them.”
This year, the Concours of Elegance will celebrate such an admirably open-minded approach, by highlighting an eclectic selection of Fritz’s cars dating from 1897 to 2022.
1897 Prinetti & Stucchi Tricycle
Established in Milan in 1883, Italy’s Prinetti & Stucchi was a big name in sewing machines, bicycles and, eventually, by way of production of licenced DeDion tricycles, motorised vehicles. But it was also the starting point for one Ettore Bugatti, a teenaged apprentice destined for automotive excellence.
Exhibiting innovation and mechanical skill beyond his years, at the behest of the Automobile Club of Italy Bugatti developed a two-engined racing version of the tricycle – namely, the inaugural Bugatti Type 1. In 1899 it won its first race in Reggio Emili against very stiff competition, at a world-record average speed of 64kp/h over 90km. This was a remarkable feat – one that set the tone for many more incredible cars and motor-racing victories to come for Ettore.
1933 Alfa Romeo 8C Monza
Moving forward several decades, the next display car from the Pearl Collection is the 1933 8C 2300 Monza running a 2866cc straight-eight engine. Designed by the legendary Vittorio Jano, this supercharged, Brianza-bodied competition machine was registered to Scuderia Ferrari. It was raced in the Monaco Grand Prix by Tazio Nuvolari, and went on to win the Swedish GP in August 1933. It also competed in the Mont Ventoux and San Sebastian hillclimbs.
After mechanical upgrades, and now renamed SF28, it took part in the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio, and at the Circuito di Varese. Over the succeeding decades the Alfa moved between several owners, and eventually it underwent a full restoration. Since then it has been a regular in historic motor sport, and in 2012 it was driven from Germany to the Goodwood Revival. It duly won its race, before being driven back to Germany.
1934 Bugatti Type 59
Returning to the Bugatti story is the Pearl Collection’s Type 59, produced in 1934 in answer to increasing competition from Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-Benz. With its dropped body, lower centre of gravity, longer wheelbase and supercharged straight-eight, it is considered both a technical marvel and a masterpiece of industrial design. Only six were built, and this example took third at the Monaco GP and overall victory in Belgium. The T59 was Bugatti’s last GP car, and is considered to be the most elegant of all pre-war competition machines.
This example was then redeveloped for sports car racing, with the supercharger removed, a dry-sump gearbox installed, and heavily revised chassis and bodywork. Through a series of successes it became France’s fastest sports car. It even had a stint in the ownership of King Leopold III of Belgium. Endlessly fascinating this historic, singular machine, which is presented in very original condition, embodies the ineffable magic of the Bugatti marque, ‘le pur-sang des automobiles’.
1939 Maserati 4CL Monoposto
While the Maserati marque was still relatively new by the time the 4CL arrived in 1939, it had already built a name for itself in competition circles. With its four-valves-per-cylinder straight-four engine, the model debuted at the Tripoli GP, and just seven were built before the start of World War Two. This particular 4CL Monoposto, chassis 1564, was the prototype. It would see ‘Works’ team action at Naples, Abbazia and Livorno, with the likes of Carlo Felice Trossi, Franco Cortese and Luigi Villoresi at the wheel.
It continued to race post-war under the command of such names as ‘Raph’ and Maurice Trintignant, before starting a less frenetic career as, variously, a hillclimber, a VSCC trials machine and a museum exhibit. At the turn of the millennium it resumed its rightful place on the circuit, and it eventually joined the Pearl Collection in 2019.
1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental
The Phantom II Continental moves the focus of the collection’s display cars from mainland Europe to Britain. Proving a glorious swan song for Rolls-Royce’s venerable six-cylinder side-valve engine, this Continental boasts unusual wind-tunnel-honed Streamlined Saloon coachwork from Park Ward. With a boosted compression ratio and high-lift camshaft for its 7,668cc engine, the car could reach a very swift 92mph in period.
After taking pride of place on Park Ward’s stand at the 1934 Olympia Motor Show, the Phantom II had a distinguished ownership career, eventually settling across the Atlantic. In the early 2000s, after a full restoration, it appeared at both the Pebble Beach and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance events.
Further Pearl Collection exhibits at the 2023 Concours of Elegance will include the stunning 1936 Bugatti T57S Atalante, along with the super-slippery, Pininfarina-designed Abarth 1000 record car ‘La Principessa’ from the 1960s. Bringing the collection up to date is the limited-edition 2022 Bugatti Centodieci, built to celebrate 110 years of the marque’s exceptional design and performance.