I am certain that most readers of this Huffington blog will vaguely know the name Bugatti as somehow being associated with exotic cars, but I'm pleased to be able to tell you of the full scope of achievements by a legendary Italian family. They were described to me on Sunday night by Peter Mullin as "Possibly being the most talented family on earth in the past four hundred years, four generations of people with incredible achievements in furniture, sculpture, paintings and musical instruments, cars, trains and planes, jewelry, boats and bikes, and more."
I had traveled west on the Ventura 101 Freeway for about an hour, some 60 miles, to the lovely beach community of Oxnard, California. Readers may recall that four years ago, I wrote about the opening of the Mullin Automotive Museum there: A repository of objects paying homage to the French art deco and machine age design era of 1918 to 1941. It was an era which produced exquisite art and magnificent automobiles. My friends, philanthropists and avid collectors, Peter and Merle Mullin, told me then that "French automobiles of the 1920s and 1930s, for us, represent the pinnacle of 20th century art and design -- the artistic realization in steel, leather and glass of modern ideas, created at a moment when hand craftsmanship embraced the machine, and a spirit of optimism fueled an explosion in artistic and technical development."
Peter explained that the preservation of these "rolling sculptures" was his responsibility and pleasure. Which led me here this week to an absolutely mind blowing exhibition, one which I had been looking forward to for the past year, The Art of Bugatti, the largest-ever assembled collection of Bugatti artifacts and automobiles...paying tribute to the Bugatti family's enduring genius and creativity.
The 1936 Bugatti Atlantic Coupe, one of the rarest and most expensive cars on earth!
...and the Bugatti Royale, a massive and beautiful example of automotive excellence.
Peter and Merle Mullin at the opening of the Bugatti exhibition.
An example of Rembrandt Bugatti's animal sculptures.
As we walked through th exhibition, Merle Mullin told me that the Bugatti family members exerted significant influences in their times and in various fields, representing the pinnacle of excellence and the best of an era. She said the museum was currently housing more than 50 pieces of furniture and also paintings by Patriarch Carlo Bugatti and granddaughter Lydia Bugatti, numerous animal sculptures by his son, Rembrandt, and the largest private collection of Bugatti automobiles in the world created by son Ettore and grandson Jean Bugatti. The Art of Bugatti, this night brought together dozens of Bugatti models, including early 20th century carriages, an early Brescia race car, the race-winning Types 35, 37 and 51, Jean Bugatti's Fiacre and Atlantic Coupe, the Type 57 C Aravis and Atalante and the incomparable Type 41 Bugatti Royale. I also perused select unrestored automobiles from the Schlumpf Reserve Collection...and then admired (and coveted) the new generation of Bugatti automobile prototypes culminating with the record-setting Bugatti Veyron.
The modern Bugatti in the museum.
The Bugatti airplane which I have written about here.
Peter and Merle introduce Caroline, the great granddaughter of Bugatti.
My personal favorite of all the Bugatti cars on exhibit.
Introducing the Bugatti great granddaughter Caroline, Peter Mullin said: "We're so pleased to pay homage and respect to the beautiful masterworks of the Bugatti family. For the first time under one roof we're showcasing the full scope of the Bugatti family's various expertise, creativity, technique, innovation and appreciation of beauty and design."
For me, one great highlight of the wonderful exhibition was an airplane, a very special and absolutely stunning aircraft. Peter told the assemblage the story of how in 1937 Ettore Bugatti and a Belgian engineer, Louis de Monge, created the original Bugatti 100P, considered to be the most technologically-advanced airplane of the decade. It featured cutting-edge aerodynamics, with forward-pitched wings, a zero-drag cooling system and computer-directed flight controls, all pre-dating the development of the best Allied fighters of World War II. Powered by twin 450-hp engines, the plane was designed to reach speeds approaching 500 mph, a feat only previously achieved by aircraft with twice the horsepower. It was also much more compact than most aircraft of the era, with a wingspan of some 27 feet and an overall length of 25.25 feet.
In June 1940, Bugatti had to stop work on the plane and conceal it in a barn on their home site at Molsheim, Alsace, to prevent it being discovered by the German military, After the war, it was found to be in no condition for flight. But in 2009 three Englishmen of Le Reve Blue began construction on the first-ever recreation of the Bugatti 100P. Handcrafted, using largely the same materials, it is identical to the original plane. And here for the first time, the completed plane was sitting in all its glory for me to admire. Peter told me: "We've searched for years to gather the best examples of the Bugatti family's work. They've been best known for their remarkable automobiles, but the 100P is one of the missing pieces that truly shows the breadth and depth of the family's work."
One of the new builders, Scott Wilson, told us that they were planning its initial flight for "later this year," some 77 years after it was initially intended. Knowing Peter Mullin, I wouldn't be surprised if he will be trying to get into the cockpit to pilot it.
For further info on how to visit the exhibit, go to the musem's website at www.mullinautomotivemuseum.com, or call them at 805-385-5400. Visits are by advanced reservations only. It is located at 1421 Emerson Avenue in Oxnard. Trust me, you will be very glad that you made the trip!