Peter Mullin’s Bugatti Atlantic Is A Work Of Art
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.