By Tom Travis
Car collector and local surgeon Bobby Mukkamala says every one of the 75 classic cars in his collection has a story explaining why he was attracted to it–and those stories are entertaining. In an upcoming fundraising event for the Sloan Museum and Flint Institute of Music (FIM) Mukkamala will take visitors on a virtual tour of his massive collection and share some of those stories.
“For example,” he says, noting just one, “You’ll hear about how I ended up with the 1986 Ferrari Testarossa that Sonny Crockett drove in the popular 1980s TV series Miami Vice.”
Cars & Bars, an annual event to benefit programming at the Sloan and FIM, was forced into a virtual format in this, its fourth year, by the pandemic; Funds are raised by ticket purchases to view Mukkamala’s classic car collection.
The event runs from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28. Tickets cost $25 per person. VIP tickets, available at $100 each, include an exclusive sneak peek at 5:30 p.m. that evening. Tickets must be reserved by Oct. 21. More information is available at SloanLongway.org/CarsBars or you may call (810) 237-7391.
“This is a very important fundraising event for us, especially this year,” says Rodney Lontine, Flint Institute of Music CEO. “The money really makes a difference for both of our organizations’ programming so we can offer more educational opportunities to our youth.”
Sloan Museum’s Executive Director, Todd Slisher, added that the partnership with FIM and the type of event make perfect sense.
“Sloan Museum’s mission focuses on science/STEM and history education, and the fundraiser supports our operations. Right now, Sloan Museum has traveling exhibits about the science and history of treasure hunting, deep sea exploration, and hands-on physics exploration. We also have a variety of Science Workshops for kids,” according to Caitie O’Neill, marketing manager at Sloan Museum and Longway Planetarium.
Storied car collection displayed in virtual event this year
Mukkamala, an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor) said in an email with EVM that he began collecting cars 20 years ago when he moved back to Michigan to begin his medical practice. Mukkamala spent seven years at The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor for undergraduate and medical school. He then spent five years in Chicago doing his residency before finally coming back to Michigan.
In a press release from the Sloan Museum, Mukkamala said, “I want people to have fun and enjoy themselves, and see the car collection they might have heard about from friends. Each car has a story as to why I was attracted to it and the stories are entertaining.”
That Ferrari Testarossa, for example, stands out to Mukkamala, as a special car in his collection because his mom bought the car for him out of gratitude for “saving her colon.” Mukkamala promises he will share the full story about saving his mother’s colon at the fundraising event.
There are more Mercedes in the car collection than any other brands, Mukkamala says. He explains that early on he helped a childhood friend set up his Mercedes repair shop in Oakland County. His friend used to do work on Mukkamala’s cars to repay the debt.
The most valuable car in the collection is the 1985 Prosche 911 Turbo. Mukkamala adds that it was worth about $200,000 a few years ago. He bought the car for $25,000.
Asked which car is his favorite, Mukkamala says “That’s like asking who’s your favorite kid. So I answer by saying, if I had to get rid of all but one, which one would I keep?”
His answer is, a 1959 Corvette which he says is his favorite car to go for a drive in on a warm sunny or any one of his other convertibles. Depending on the weather conditions, if he’s in the mood for speed he picks his Testarossa or 911 Turbo to take out for a spin.
About the 1959 Corvette, “It’s like a work of art,” he asserts, “Even if it didn’t have an engine and never moved.”
In addition to his 75 “collectible” cars, Mukkamala said he owns a few more that are “sentimental” to him but “probably not to anyone else.”
No more selling, just collecting cars
Mukkamala says he used to sell his cars. He explains, “every time I saw someone drive away in one of my cars, I regretted it instantly. So after going through that a few times, I decided to just collect more slowly and just buy and hold. My kid will have to figure out what to do with these things when I am six feet under.”
The Cars & Bars event is named for Mukkamala’s vast car collection and also for the musical jargon “bars of music.” Mukkamala explains that he got a lot of requests to give tours of his cars. Many of those requesting to see the cars were willing to pay him.
“I did not want to take money for sharing my hobby with others, but I realized that there was a potential for fundraising this way. I wanted to support the cultural center and wanted to see the organizations there collaborate on something so the work with Sloan and FIM became Cars & Bars.”
“I walk through my building by myself on most weekends working on things and it’s not nearly as fun as it is to share the cars with other people, tell my stories, and hear their stories about similar vehicles.” The garage that stores the nearly 100 car collection is a 25,000 square foot building located at 1111 James P Cole Blvd in Flint.
Mukkamala says his wife enjoys cars and “tolerates” his hobby. He adds that, of his two sons, one loves the cars and just learned how to drive a stick shift. The other son isn’t that interested in driving them but enjoys being seen in them, he says.
“Flint is my home and has welcomed my immigrant parents when they were 25 years old. I feel a deep desire to express our family gratitude by doing service and this is just another way to express it,” Mukkamala says.
Virtual walking tour with local DJ and Dr. Bobby
Sloan Museum’s press release said local radio DJ Lisa Marie from CARS 108 is joining Mukkamala as guest host for the virtual storytelling.
“Lisa and I will be walking through my garage and having a dialog the entire time. Anytime anyone logs into the event, they will have an opportunity to ask questions and be part of it. I also expect to get a lot of out-of-town guests logging into the event, including a few celebrities. It’s going to be fun for everyone.”
Cars & Bars is sponsored by Applegate Chevrolet, Victor and Inga Rabinkov, the Victor Victor Foundation, the View Newspaper Group, and Eric McCormick, Lawyer.
The proceeds from Cars & Bars benefit the Sloan Museum and Flint Institute of Music’s programs, engaging future generations in STEM, history and the performing arts.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com.