On October 14, Savannahs Everard Auctions
will go back to the future with an online-only boutique auction of wildly imaginative cars and sculptural art from the Estate of John Bucci. A visionary artist whose work was decades ahead of its time, Bucci crafted fiberglass fantasies that drew widespread media recognition and praise from the highest echelons of the custom-car world. Two of his Space Age vehicles are featured in Everards auction: the 1962 car known as La Shabbla, which was the rage of the 1964 New York Worlds Fair; and La Trieste, which created mob scenes and was pulled over by curious Polizia when Bucci drove it around Italy in 1967.
Even today, more than half a century after they were fabricated, John Buccis unconventional automotive prototypes look futuristic enough to be parked in the Jetsons garage. They are already attracting the interest of both new and long-time fans of avant-garde and automotive art who know and respect the legacy of John Bucci, said Everard Auctions co-owner Amanda Everard.
John Bucci was a dreamer even in his youth. He grew up in Italy, in an area that became part of Yugoslavia after World War II. After immigrating to Chicago in 1959, he worked at Radio Flyer, Zenith and Sun Electric. But his true gift was being able to visualize the fantastical, then create it out of fiberglass. He became renowned for his spectacular replicas of the Trevi Fountain, which he supplied to trade shows and Italian festivals around the country.
Around 1962, Bucci found himself without sufficient funds to buy a car, so he did what came naturally he made one, a car of the future that he named "La Shabbla," or "Sword." Its futuristic fiberglass body sits on a Fiat chassis with an Arbath 750 engine. It features retractable headlights, a working steering wheel, electrically powered hood cover, oscilloscope, and blue woven leather seats. The car was displayed at the Calvacade of Custom Cars at the 1964 World's Fair in New York City where it was mobbed by fairgoers and even caught the eye of singer Paul Anka, who hopped inside for a photo opportunity.
In as-is condition, La Shabbla is a show car that can run off AC/DC current when in static display mode. On AC current, it can perform limited operations that include opening the hood and extending/retracting the steering wheel and passenger windscreen. The engine turns freely when rotated by hand. The pre-sale estimate is $50,000-$75,000.
La Trieste is believed to have been constructed around a Porsche 356 floor pan and is powered by a Porsche 4-cylinder (1600cc super) engine capable of hitting a top speed of 160 m.p.h. Bucci created it with a five-layer fiberglass body that received five coats of paint. Its windshield and side windows are made of polycarbonate, and the door-locking mechanism appears to be electromagnetic. In 1967, Bucci took it on an extensive tour of Europe, then exhibited it around the Midwestern United States. A May 1972 article in the Chicago Sun-Times Business News section described La Trieste as resembling a land-bound missile. It went on to say:
even if it didnt run which it does very well it would have to be considered somewhat of a milestone in auto styling. Currently in fair condition with an engine that does not turn, La Trieste will be offered at auction with an $8,000-$12,000 estimate.
Bucci worked from a studio in Chicago and, later, Savannah. His design oeuvre included functional but avant-garde tables, console bases, and freestanding sculptures made from plexiglass, steel, found objects and wood. A curated selection of his original furnishings is entered in the auction with estimates ranging from $120 to $1,500. Each is a unique work of art that may remind some of the 1980s postmodern designs of the Memphis Milano group.
A nearly-3ft-tall fiberglass replica of the head of Michelangelos David is estimated at $300-$500. Also noteworthy are Buccis scale models, including a pyramid-form nightclub/restaurant complex, $150-$250; an amazing 25- by 24-inch 12-sided house with circular stairs, $100-$150; and three electric concept car models (1 finished and 2 unfinished), $100-$150.