Featured: Peter Mullin's Bugatti Atlantic Is A Work Of Art

Peter Mullin’s Bugatti Atlantic Is A Work Of Art

Ted Gushue By Ted Gushue
January 23, 2017
9 comments

I recently had the chance to interview Mr. Peter Mullin about the Bugatti exhibit he curated at the Petersen Automotive Museum. It’s a tremendous show, but there is of course one special car that stands out from the rest of the rolling artwork, the 57 SC Atlantic. Recently, friend of Petrolicious and incredibly talented photographer Drew Phillips shared some images he’d snapped of the car earlier this year. Naturally we have to share them with you alongside a little insight into how this rolling sculpture entered into the collection of Peter Mullin.

TG: What’s the story here Peter?

PM: Well, this car is pretty special in that there are two in the world, the original Atlantics, the 57 SC Jean Bugatti designed. Known as the Mona Lisa of the automobile, but the most extraordinary combination of engineering, performance, and styling that probably even was penned by the hand of man.

 

TG: Explain the Mona Lisa reference.

PM: Well, if you think about paintings and you say, “What’s the greatest painting of all time?,” maybe people say the Mona Lisa. If you say, “What’s the greatest cars in the world?,” you’d point to the two of these. You’d say, “Well, aren’t they then the Mona Lisa of the automobile world?” That’s what a number of people have said, and I think it’s an apt description.

TG: It’s not that the car is looking at you as you walk around it?

PM: [Laughs] No, although you could claim that those headlights are following you. Ralph Lauren has one and this is the other one. They’re pretty spectacular.

TG: What’s it like to drive?

PM: It’s great to drive, handles really well. It’s a classic Jean Bugatti brilliant piece of engineering. Powerful engine, split axle. He originally was going to use aluminum or magnesium for the body and he couldn’t weld that, so he was going to have to rivet all of the fenders, and the hood, and the top. It turned out, ultimately, that he used steel so he could have welded it, but everybody loved that riveted flange so much that he left that on and it gave it a distinctive look.

 

TG: When did it come into your collection?

PM: It came into our collection about 7 years ago. It had been owned by a doctor in the East who sadly died. His family decided that they were ultimately going to sell it, but they only wanted to sell it to someone who knew what it was and who was willing to honor Peter Williamson, the doctor, and to display it for the public. They had not interest in somebody buying it, and tucking it away in a deep vault, and only showing it to friend occasionally by candlelight. The fact that we were prepared to have it on exhibit at the Mullin Automotive Museum and here was so that the world could appreciate it I think influenced the family.

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RockdadStradale33Amir KakhsazCiscovirgilio pellandini Recent comment authors
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Rockdad
Rockdad

Jay Leno owns a Atlantic recreation made from all Bugatti parts. I’m not sure what the serial numbers are but I’ve seen it in his garage. I have photos of it somewhere. Jay also owns multiple other Bugattis that were made by the factory.

Rockdad
Rockdad
Amir Kakhsaz
Amir Kakhsaz

I prefer the RL car because it takes on a totally different character in black, but I’m totally splitting hairs here. Either is totally freakin badass and truly is the Mona Lisa of the automotive world. So perfect and yet so absurd at the same time, you just can’t help but stare endlessly.

Francois Cisco
Francois Cisco

Simply sublime, and so much attention to each parts in all bugattis.

virgilio pellandini
virgilio pellandini

steel? i understand that only the prototype aerolithe was bodied in elektron (a magnesium alloy), but the other atlantics must have been aluminium bodied, certainly not steel? any comments?

Stradale33
Stradale33

Definitely made of aluminum not steel. I don’t think Peter Mullin would have made this mistake…

Rockdad
Rockdad

You are correct. Bugatti didn’t make any steel bodies for the few Atlantics they made back in the day. https://jalopnik.com/why-ralph-laurens-40-million-bugatti-is-worth-every-511238056

Rockdad
Rockdad

I can’t figure out why Mullin would say his Atlantic had a steel body unless it has somehow been rebuilt from the original, which was aluminum.

Frank Barrett
Frank Barrett

Some years ago Dr. Williamson drove this car on the Colorado Grand.