Through July 6, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia features a display titled the, “Jewels of the Bulgari Collection.”
The display includes 12 select cars from the collection of Nicola Bulgari, whose name graces a family business that has rightly gained the reputation as the world’s foremost purveyors of fine jewelry.
Nicola Bulagri has an eye for design and quality refined by a lifetime in the jewelry business, but he also has a keen sense of history. Able to afford the finest of exotic cars and the most stylized of automotive creations, he instead prefers the often overlooked and underappreciated creations of the United States automotive assembly lines.
Bulgari is well known for his love of Buicks.
“To me, they were a symbol of America,” he has said.
His sizable collection that spans two continents is about half Buicks, but the display at the Simeone includes only four of them: An all-original 1932 Model 91 sedan, the 1935 Model 96S sport coupe (1 of only 41 produced and the only known survivor), the 1940 Super Estate Wagon gifted to Bette Davis by Warner Brothers after it appeared in a number of films of the era, and a 1963 Riviera.
The remaining cars were chosen for the display to illustrate the broad range of cars in the collection and the focus on both historical connections and preservation that binds many of the cars together.
Notable non-Buick cars included in the display are the 1930 GMC Yellow Cab Taxi made famous by its key role in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a fantastic example of art deco styling – the 1934 Studebaker Commander Land Cruiser sedan — and an example of the finest the American automobile industry offered in the late 1930’s — a 1938 Packard V12 Convertible Sedan.
The Simeone Museum was chosen as the Museum of the year by The International Historical Motoring Awards committee and rightly so. The museum features the finest collection of sports racing cars, not focused on a single marque, in a publicly accessible museum anywhere in the world. You don’t just come to the museum and see a Bugatti like the one that won LeMans in 1937, you see the actual winning car.
But, secondary to the amazing racing history on display is the overriding emphasis on historical preservation. The cars are not all restored jewels looking like they belong in a display case in a Bulgari store. Many are in well-preserved original condition while others have been sympathetically restored to make them look much as they did when they were actively campaigned.
It is the attention to historical correctness and the history of the cars themselves that bind the visions of The Simeone Museum and Nicola Bulgari together. They both insist on their cars looking and functioning correctly, preserving the originality wherever possible and restoring cars in need with an eye toward saving them for the ages.
For more information about the museum and the Bulgari display go to http://simeonemuseum.org/events/jewels-of-the-bulgari-collection.