The Art of Bugatti Exhibition at the Mullin Automotive Museum

Father's Day Weekend 2014, Extended

David G. Fox

I've wanted to visit the Mullin Automotive Museum for some time now to see the Art Deco cars usually displayed there. The limited run Art of Bugatti Exhibition happening at this time made the idea of a visit even more compelling. In checking the website (, I found there are occasional opportunities for private tours, and a phone call told me such a tour was available Tuesday morning after Father's Day. Sign me up.

Refreshingly, this exhibition has much more than "just" cars. While wonderful examples of extraordinary Bugatti automobiles occupy the majority of the space within the appropriately spare but elegant museum, also featured are paintings, sculpture, furniture, and items crafted from silver, all created by multiple generations of artists from the line of Ettore's father, Carlo. We might know it just by looking at the mechanical bits and coachwork of the cars of Ettore and Jean Bugatti, but, as the book accompanying the exhibition suggests, "The Bugatti family had art in its blood."

Jean Bugatti (1909-1939)

Jean showed great promise as a designer by the time he was just eighteen years old. Before long, his father, Ettore, made him head of coach building for the company.

Like the centerpiece on an item of fine jewelry, the Type 57SC Atlantic is set, elevated, in the middle of a group of Bugatti automobiles. The beautiful light metallic blue paint highlights the exquisite details of the Atlantic's body.

Type 57 chassis were used under various categories of cars. The S cars are more sporting, and the chassis under them were lowered; C cars have superchargers on their eight cylinder engines. The red and black Atalante is also a Type 57 automobile; the profile suggests hot rod to me.

Jean Bugatti's final conception, a 1939 Type 64 Coupe, existed only as sketches and a chassis until recently. Starting with Jean's drawings, a modern design team and group of craftsmen created this stunning coachwork to honor his artistry. The Type 64 chassis has so far been deemed two cool to cover, so the body has been left in this somewhat unfinished state and shown suspended over the refurbished chassis.

The buck used in forming the body for the Type 64 is something of a work of art itself.

Ettore Bugatti (1881-1947)

It's said that Ettore thought he could not compete, as an artist, with his father Carlo and younger brother Rembrandt. So he took another path. The artistic merit of that choice speaks for itself. He began his own adventure with development of the prototype Type 10, completed in 1909, and founded Ettore Bugatti Automobiles in 1910. Here is one of his early Grand Prix cars.

Looking thoroughly modern, the Bugatti Model 100 unlimited air racer was originally conceived by Ettore Bugatti in 1937. Design work by Bugatti collaborator Louis de Monge was done in preparation for a 1939 race, but construction of the plane was not completed in time. The project was stored through WWII and was never made completely air-worthy. The builders of this recreation expect it eventually to race. The design calls for the pair of counter-rotating propellers to be spun by two engines behind the cockpit; drive shafts and a gearbox are visible through the canopy.

Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916)

Ettore's younger brother began to sculpt as a teenager and had major exhibits in Turin, Venice, and Paris by age twenty.

Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940)

Ettore's father was an accomplished designer and maker of furniture, a painter, and, later in life, a silversmith. Pastels in the photograph are by Lidia Bugatti (1907-1972), Ettore's daughter.

This front-drive Miller, an Indianapolis winner, was traded to Bugatti and served to inspire, so to speak, certain engineering aspects for later Ettore Bugatti Automobiles.

Perhaps this page will be seen by some a bit of a departure from other areas of the site. I don't. Ideas can come from many sources, and artistry is very much a part of automotive culture and the rod and custom experience. This exhibition might only be considered outside the character of the rod and custom milieu to the extent that the Bugattis' level of artistic expression set a very high bar.


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