In conjunction with its grand opening, LeMay – America’s Car Museum (ACM) presented its “Nicola Bulgari Award” to Ed Welburn, vice president of global design for General Motors. Welburn was honored Friday evening at a gala celebrating the opening of the four-level, 165,000 sq.-ft. Tacoma, Wash. museum, with an award named for jewelry magnate Nicola Bulgari, Vice Chairman of the Bulgari Group and an avid collector of American cars.
The Bulgari award is to be annually presented to individuals who make outstanding contributions to preserving America’s automotive heritage through education, restoration or collecting classic cars.
“Nicola Bulgari loves America: its movies, its jazz and, most of all, its cars,” said David Madeira, president and CEO of ACM. “He has devoted his life to preserving, showing and driving them, so it is very fitting that this award be given in his name.”
Award recipients must be widely recognized in the automotive community for outstanding contributions to the preservation of America’s automotive heritage and for promoting the active use of historic cars today. Welburn was selected to receive the 2012 Nicola Bulgari award for his commitment to maintaining, perpetuating and sharing GM’s design heritage.
“I firmly believe that in order for our designers to create great new vehicles, they need to understand the rich history of our brands,” said Welburn. “Our own collection – the GM Heritage Center – maintains a rich history of GM concept and production vehicles. Furthermore, we have a special staff and facility at GM Design dedicated to the restoration and maintenance of our historic concept cars. These include vehicles like the Y-Job, Stingray Racer, Mako Shark, and Firebirds I, II and III, to name just a few.
“The GM Heritage Center opened in 2005 to retain the company’s historical and concept cars, instead of allowing such vehicles to be sold or scrapped. During the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, the GM Heritage Center was maintained by the company, and it continues to operate today with more than 400 vehicles in its collection.”
In addition, Welburn continues to maintain strong ties to the enthusiast community, overseeing stellar displays of heritage vehicles, concept cars and modern cars at the Amelia Island and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. He also served on the board of America’s Car Museum for six years.
“Ed Welburn has long been a champion in the collector car community, and his contributions have been frequent and significant,” said Madeira. “Here at ACM, we have been fortunate to benefit from his experience and expertise, and this museum is a better place because of Ed’s knowledge and enthusiasm.”
Welburn was presented with a trophy made by one of Bulgari’s own silversmiths in Rome, Italy. A personal version of the trophy is given to each recipient, and a perpetual trophy will remain at ACM.
Like many car enthusiasts, Welburn’s passion started in childhood. Growing up in Philadelphia, he loved the Cadillac Cyclone concept and Chevrolet Corvettes of the late 1950s. He wrote to GM when he was 11 years old, saying he wanted to be a car designer. GM wrote back with steps for achieving his dream. It worked: he was hired by GM in 1972, and in 2003 he was named vice president of GM Design North America, assuming the mantle once worn by Harley Earl, father of American automotive design. In 2005, Welburn became the company’s first vice president of global design, and today he oversees more than 1,900 individuals in ten Global Design Centers in seven countries.
“It is just as clear today as it was in the past—design is still the great differentiator,” said Welburn. “It is my strong belief that so long as the design teams at GM and all the car companies around the world continue to create vehicles that have an emotional connection with customers, there will continue to be great car collections like LeMay – America’s Car Museum.”
ACM will house more than 350 vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles and is dedicated to preserving and highlighting America’s love affair with the automobile. Sitting on a nine-acre campus overlooking the Foss Waterway, the nine-acre campus will host concerts, collector car shows and drive-in movies, and is already serving as the site for conventions, corporate meetings and events.
About America’s Car Museum (www.lemaymuseum.org)
State Farm Presents LeMay – America’s Car Museum, which opened June 2, 2012 in downtown Tacoma, Wash., explores how the automobile has fulfilled a distinctive role at the core of the American experience and shaped our society. The spacious Museum with rotating exhibits is designed to be the centerpiece for automotive history as well as an educational center and library. The campus, located adjacent to the Tacoma Dome, also contains a 3.5-acre show field, theatre, café, banquet hall and meeting facilities. To get information on museum hours, becoming an ACM member, volunteer opportunities or to make a donation, visit www.lemaymuseum.org.