Monday, July 28, 2014

Photo Essay: Bugattis, Rusted & Restored at Mullin Automotive Museum

I've made my way around a few car museums...



...but I'd never seen anything like what was at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard a couple weeks ago.



During a show devoted to the art of Bugatti, the multi-generational manufacturer of high performance automobiles, I got to see the aerodynamic 1939 Type 64 Coupe...



...which Jean Bugatti never got to build (or drive) before he died. Mullin had the chassis displayed lifted off of its frame so you could see the intricacies of the design details from the inside-out.



They even displayed the coachwork buck, with all of its wooden ribs (looking a bit more like a musical instrument than a car), which was used to manufacture the Type 64 for the exhibit.



Who knew Bugatti ever designed an airplane?!



But the real point of interest for me...



...was the Schlumpf Reserve Collection...



...an example of a new trend in car collecting...



...which is not to restore the car...



...but merely stabilize it and preserve it in the condition it was found and acquired.



The Schlumpf Collection, originally located in France, features several Bugattis (some very rare) frozen in time...



...from when the cars had been stored in a barn for over 20 years...



...exposed to the elements...



...having been seized by the French government when the Schlumpf brothers had to flee Switzerland in 1977.



Today, it is the largest collection of unrestored classic cars in the world.



They are rusted...



...and dirty...



...their paint peeling...



...and faded...




...their canvas torn and roofs collapsed.



Each one shows the toll of time in its own unique way.



Eventually the rights to the majority of the collection were reverted back to the Schlumpf family, though the brothers had all died by the time of the court decision.



Peter Mullin was able to acquire 17 Bugattis...



...though the original collection was more like 450 models.



Even more intriguing...



...is the museum's own "shipwreck" Bugatti...



...the 1925 Type 22 Brescia Roadster...



...which was abandoned by a lake by a broke playboy trying to return home to Switzerland from Paris, without money to pay for customs at the international border.



The law required Swiss officials to destroy the abandoned car after a couple of years, so they just pushed it in to the lake, attached to chains in case they ever needed to pull it out.



Unfortunately, the chains broke, and the Bugatti plummeted to the bottom of the lake, 173 feet below the surface, too deep to go in the pre-SCUBA era.



After being rediscovered by divers in 1967, the roadster stayed submerged in the lake for another forty years, until being lifted out of the lake in 2009 – nearly 75 years after its disposal there.



For people less interested in the grit and grime of delicious abandonment...



...the exhibit had plenty of shiny cars with a new paint job, like the 1936 Type 57SC Atlantic...



...the 1951 Type 101C Cabriolet...



...the 1931 Type 54 Roadster...



...the 1922 Type 23 Brescia Two-Seater...



...and a rare glimpse of what the sunken and dredged Brescia might've looked like before swimming with the fishes.

It's a little sad that none of these cars will ever run again, but even those in their unrestored condition show off an amazing sense of industrial design and style – one that was shared by multiple generations of the Bugatti family, each with their own unique take on everything from the traditional racecar to the everyday sportscar.

My visit was supposed to be during the last weekend of the Bugatti exhibit at the Mullin, but fortunately it has been extended until December, giving more people a chance to see this intriguing and rare collection.

Related Posts:
Life Is a Highway
Photo Essay: The Cars of the Nethercutt Museum & Collection
Photo Essay: Hike to a Ghost Shipwreck
Photo Essay: The Rusty Ruin of Antique Machinery