John Bucci couldn’t afford to buy a sports car, so the self-taught artist, designer and engineer decided to build one. In fact, he built two, one of them featured at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
Bucci died in 2019 and his cars — La Shabbla and La Trieste — are among his artistic creations being offered for bidding October 14 when Everard Auctions of Savannah, Georgia, stages “Back to the Future: Concept Cars and Artwork from the Estate of John Bucci,” an online-only auction.
Giovanni “John” Bucci was born in 1939 in the area of Italy that became part of Yugoslavia after World War II. He escaped to a refugee camp, where he began creating art and, in hope of a future career, took correspondence classes in electronics. In 1959, he immigrated to Chicago, where he worked at times for Zenith, Sun Electric and Radio Flyer.
Three years later, he wanted but couldn’t afford to buy a sports car, so he learned how to shape fiberglass and built La Shabbla (the Sword) on top of a Fiat chassis and Abarth 750 engine.
His creation — a swoopy Space Age design with retractable headlamps, electrically powered hood, blue woven leather seats and its own oscilloscope — was invited to be part of the Calvacade of Custom Cars at the World’s Fair in New York, where singer Paul Anka climbed into the cockpit for a photo opp.
Another of Bucci’s automotive creations was La Trieste, named for a region in Italy and built on a Porsche 356 platform with a 1,600cc Super engine. The body comprises five layers of fiberglass and electromagnetic door locks.
Bucci took the car, described by one newspaper as “a land-bound missile,” on tour in the US and in Europe.
The auction company is offering the vehicles in as-is condition. La Shabbla is described as “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 to $75,000.
“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,” according to Everard Auctions.
Bucci’s work with fiberglass led to the work that brought him fame as an artist, reproductions of Rome’s Trevi Fountain that were displayed at festivals around the world. He also did several other automotive projects, including the body designs of formula and Can-Am series race cars.
Eventually tiring of Chicago winters, Bucci moved his studio to Savannah. He died in 2019 at the age of 84.
“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,” the auction house notes.
“Even today, more than half a century after they were fabricated, John Bucci’s unconventional automotive prototypes look futuristic enough to be parked in the Jetsons’ garage.”