Duccio Lopresto is the Director of Business Development at RM Sotheby’s, one of the most prestigious car auction houses in the world. Additionally, he is the son of the famed classic car collector Corrado Lopresto, hailing from Italy.
“I was born surrounded by cars, we were breathing and talking about cars every single day.”
Born and raised surrounded by family’s car collection Lopresto must have been quite an experience. What is your first memory that you can recall with car? (Duccio Lopresto, Director of Business Development at RM Sotheby’s) My dad is an architect and the founder of the Lopresto Collection. He started collecting in 1978 when he was very young, around 18 years old, and I was born in 1992. Of course, I was born surrounded by cars, so you know, we were breathing and talking about cars every single day. The very first memory I have with classic cars is funny enough, going to the Concorso Villa d’Estein Como, where we’ve been displaying cars for more than 23 years since I was very little maybe around 6 years old. That was one of the first time my dad joined the event, and it’s a fantastic memory because the whole family was there, including our dogs. I remember basically sleeping in the car in the afternoon because I was so tired from being at the event with so many people. I have this beautiful memory of me and my sisters being in the backseat of this Alfa Romeo 62.5, a beautiful car that we displayed there. I have anther beautiful memory of going to the Monza GP in Italy, and attending it wearing a full Ferrari overall when I was around 5 years old. I also have fond memories of the small local events where my dad used to go, like the rallies around Milan, and the Piedmont Region. These are some of the very first memories I have.
What was your favourite car in the Lopresto collection and why? (DL) It’s very difficult to choose one, but if I had to, I would say the Alfa Romeo Giulietta SS Bertone prototype, for various reasons. First of all, to me, it’s one of the most groundbreaking and beautiful design of the 50s. When you look at it, the car resembles a spaceship that came out of out of space. The designer of this car is the same as designer of the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, which in my opinion, is the most beautiful car ever made. Additionally, the designer also worked on the Alfa Romeo B.A.T. Berlinetta Aerodynamic Tecnica. These cars from the mid-50s completely revolutionised design with their new aerodynamics and groundbreaking lines. They don’t really look like cars; they appear more like Bat mobiles. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta SS Bertone prototype is essentially an evolution of the design with more economical and less extravagant appearance. We found it in the US, where previous owner had kept it for many years, and he even raced it. However, the car was not in a beautiful condition when we acquired it; it required some restoration to bring it back to its original stunning shape. Together with skilled restoration shop Nova Rinascente in Padua, Italy, we managed to restore it. In 2017, we displayed the car for the first time at an event the Villa d’Este Concorso, where it won the prestigious Best of Show award. This was a remarkable achievement, considering it has a small four-cylinder engine and managed to outshine big Ferraris and Buggatis.
“They refer to this role as ‘shadow judging’, where you work as an assistant to the main group of judges responsible for a class of cars.”
How did you become a judge of Concours and what does it require to become one? (DL) I became a judge in 2018, thanks to a person called Raoul San Giorgi. He is a highly experienced classic car judge, an expert in the field, and also a restorer who has been attending Pebble Beach Concours for over 25 years. I’ve known him for many years, and in 2018 he asked me if I wanted to assist his team at Pebble Beach as an assistant judge. Of course, I immediately said yes as it is the most important car event in the world. They refer to this role as ‘shadow judging’, where you work as an assistant to the main group of judges responsible for a class of cars. Your responsibilities include taking notes and helping with the practical and operational aspects of judging cars at the Concours. As you can imagine Pebble Beach is very chaotic and very busy, so it was quite stressful for me at the beginning, but it was an experience I loved a lot. After the event I discussed with Raoul and expressed my interest in more opportunities to do this in a more structured way. I received invitations to judge at Salon Privé in the UK, where I have been an official judge for 3 years now. Additionally, I was invited to participate in Audrain in the US, held in New Port, Rhode Island, which is a Concours organised by Jay Leno and Donald Osborne. I was also invited to judge in India at the 21 Gun Salute Concours, which is a fantastic event set in one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever been to, among others.
“To become a judge, you surely need to have a very extensive car knowledge, and it should be very specific.”
(DL) I think to become a judge, you surely need to have a very extensive car knowledge, and it should be very specific. When you’re a judge, you have to evaluate all kinds of cars but in the end of the day, you must have your own expertise in a specific market, brand, designer or era. For example, what I enjoy judging, and what I’m usually invited to judge, are either pre-war or post-war era Italian cars. I have a keen interested in Italian designs by Zagato and Pininfarina among others from both pre-war and post-war periods. If you aspire to become a judge, having extensive car knowledge is essential, but it’s equally important to build the right network to gain access to the classic car community.
“I especially admire the immediate post-war period, featuring designers like Franco Scaglione, Giovanni Michelotti, Marcello Gandini.”
What are the most important aspects in a car for you? (DL) First of all, the car has to be entirely original in all its components. When I say ‘original’, I don’t necessarily mean the exact old components that were there when the car left the factory, as it can be challenging for every car to retain its original parts over time. Things can get ruined, lost, or changed. However, what I consider ‘original’ is bringing the car back to its original configuration and beautify, just as it looked when it was produced. When a car’s body is completely changed or its interior is fully renewed, it loses some of its soul and patina, which are essential aspects to me because cars are living and dynamic objects. Beauty and design are fundamental aspects in any car, and I particularly appreciate coach-built designs. This is where designers could go crazy and propose some really innovative and groundbreaking designs. That’s why I especially admire the immediate post-war period, featuring designers like Franco Scaglione, Giovanni Michelotti, Marcello Gandini and all these great pioneers of design. The key factors for me are, originality, design, and the quality of restoration. A car should be perfectly restored to be displayed at a concourse, or at the very least, almost perfectly. When restoring a car, it’s vital to ensure that every component is of the correct type. If there’s something that can be preserved, it’s even better, as they earns extra points in my judgement.
Pebble Beach, Concorso d’Eleganza, Goodwood etc many prestigious events are still perceived as closed-door events. What is your take on this? What should be changed or shouldn’t be changed to accommodate younger buyers and car enthusiasts? (DL) I think they have to change a little bit because the demographics of people that attend these events are changing substantially. If you look at classic car events, the average age is very high, especially concourses like Pebble Beach or Villa d’Este. It’s an expensive thing to do. This presents a problem because if they don’t attract the younger generation these events will eventually lose their appeal and may decline in the long term.
“Villa d’Este is not going to survive with the same 50 collectorswith same attendees.”
(DL) To be successful, these events need to be more inclusive and open to the public. In today’s world, inclusivity is crucial. They should adopt a broad and universal approach, welcoming anyone who is passionate and enthusiastic about classic cars. The success of events like Pebble Beach or Goodwood is due, in part, to their openness and accessibility. While Pebble Beach may still have high ticket prices, events like Goodwood offer more accessible ticket options of 20 pounds for a ticket, allowing people to experience iconic cars like Ferrari GTO or the McLaren F1 while enjoying a fun atmosphere with other enthusiast. That’s what people want. To survive and thrive, these events should follow the lead of Goodwood and aim to be open and appealing to the next generation. They should also be innovative in the content they provide to attract and engage not only younger generations but also reach new markets in regions like the Middle East, Asia, South America and Africa. The classic car community is huge in Europe but also huge in America, and in Asia; Japan and South Korea as well. To ensure long-term success, these events must adopt and modernise, engaging a wider and broader audience. Villa d’Este is not going to survive with the same 50 collectorswith same attendees.
Do you think it makes sense for those events to occasionally visit the Asia region and hold events there? Or should they remain in the same areaas they have been to remain their historical values? (DL) Absolutely. I think they should definitely consider Asia as a market for growth and include it in their targets. There are already some events happening in Asia, such as the Kyoto Concours in Japan, which takes places every two years during spring and is a great event. Additionally, there are automotive exhibitions in Hong Kong and Singapore, but Japan remains the centre of car culture in Asia. China has tremendous potential for these events to expand further. If they approach it with the right concept and product, people in China would likely embrace and enjoy such events. It’s essential to find the right formula, cater to the right audience, and seize the right opportunities. If done correctly, it could be a win for everyone involved.
How long have you been with RM Sotheby’s, and how did you join? (DL) I joined RM Sotheby’s two years ago as the Director of Business Development for Europe and Middle East. Prior to that, I began my career with Lamborghini’s headquarters in Sant’Agata working in the product and business strategy department. This department was responsible for commercial strategy for the brand. Later, I moved to Switzerland to work at a wealth management firm lead by Fritz Kaiser, a renowned entrepreneur and former owner of the Sauber PETRONAS Formula One team. Mr Kaiser is also a classic car collector and enthusiast. During my four and half years there, I focused on developing family office services for classic car collectors. Together, we launched the Classic Car Trust, which achieved great success, with operations spanning Europe and Asia. Then, an opportunity came, when one of the individuals at RM Sotheby’s, the Director of Sales approached me. He explained that the company was rapidly expanding, with many new team members joining, and they need someone to lead the growth for services in Europe and the Middle East. He asked if I would be interested in joining the team as Director of Business Development. After giving it some thought, despite having a good position before, I found the offer very exciting. Joining the world’s best classic car auction house in this environment of growth was a compelling opportunity, so I gladly accepted.
“The auction of the Mercedes Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé which we secretly organised as a private auction at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart.”
Most memorable sales? (DL) I would like to mention two. The first one was the auction of the Mercedes Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé which we secretly organised as a private auction at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart. It turned out to be most expensive car to ever be sold, with a final price of 135 million euros. It was an incredible memory because, as you can imagine, selling a car of that value privately in a museum with the car coming directly from Mercedes, was an extraordinary and unique experience. And apart from that, I would also like to mention the sale we recently executed at Le Mans during 24 hours of Le Mans. It was a fantastic sale as we organised it to coincide with 100th anniversary of the race. We were the only official auction house conducting a sale during the event at Le Mans, which made it an extraordinary occasion. During this sale we sold 24 cars with fantastic racing history that had participated in 24 hours of Le Mans. We sold over 70% of the lots, totalling 20 million euros in sales. It was truly an incredible auction.
How has car collecting has been changed post-COVID if at all? (DL) I think one of the big disruptions during COVID has been the rise in digital sales. Due to obvious reasons, people couldn’t travel to inspect, buy, or sell cars in person, leading to a notable increase in digital sales. Platform like Collecting Cars experienced significant growth during this time, and they have now become real player in the market. Similarly, auction platform like Atelier has also been growing in the digital space. The shift towards digital sales has become a prominent aspect of the automotive market during the pandemic. Another notable trend during COVID was the concept of revenge spending. When people were confined to their homes for extended periods and accumulated surplus wealth, they eagerly sought ways to spend it. This phenomenon was particularly evident just after COVID, as affluent individuals with substantial liquidity indulged in buying expensive cars and supercars. While it might not have been purely out of necessity or desire, it was driven by the psychological effect of revenge spending. Many wealthy individuals, especially in the Middle East and Asia, were seen making extravagant purchases simply because they had the money and couldn’t wait to spend it.
(DL) Like any other market, the classic car market experiences cycles, with value going up and down over time. Now, we are witnessing a slight adjustment in the values of pre-war cars, as well as cars from the 50s and 60s.This adjustment is driven by new generations entering the market. These generations are not as incline to buy pre-war or 50s and 60s cars. Instead, they are more interested in purchasing cars from their own era when they were very young as cars from the 90s and 2000s.So we see a rise in the popularity of supercars, modern hybrid cars. This is a little big of a trend happening at the moment.
“The automobile represents the ultimate expression of freedom in the world.”
In the age of electrification, what can never be replaced by what we see from classic cars? (DL) Electric cars are fantastic mean of transport, because they release zero Co2 pollution, making them ideal for city centres. However, for me, the automobile represents the ultimate expression of freedom in the world. Cars have changed our society by revolutionising the way we travel, move, experience life. They embody the concept of freedom and evoke pure joy, excitement and passion. Classic cars represent idea of freedom, beauty, engineering excellence, and a sense of disruption that showcases the best of human capabilities. On the other hand, electric cars are more associated with modern, high-end technology, which can feel sterile and less engaging. They are primarily seen as a means of transport rather than a source of exhilaration and passion. I really enjoy driving my old classics and definitely impossible to replace.
What is your daily car? (DL) I have two daily cars. One is BMW 1M, which is great, fast, manual, rear wheel drive. Then I have Fiat Panda 4×4 from the 80s.
If a car represents your life, what would it be? (DL) I would say Fiat Panda 4×4 because first of all, it was my very first car I’ve ever bought, when I was around 20, or 19 years old. I just love the fact that it’s a funny unit. It’s a car that you look at it and you laugh. It’s a car that connects people, it’s a car that speak to every generation. It’s not a car for the younger or for the older, it’s a car for everyone. The values that the Panda represents align well with my own. I consider myself an open, liberal, and kind person who enjoys talking to everyone without any filters. The Panda’s universal appeal and inclusivity resonate with me.