image: Autobild.de via Myles Kornblatt
Bruce Mohs was obviously a visionary, anticipating future automotive trends long before they took root. That probably explains why no one actually bought any of his Ostentatienne Opera Sedans back in 1967; it was just too far ahead of its time, although I could well see the Beatles driving a psychedelic-painted one in their Magical Mystery Tour movie. It had all the requisite features of a blinged-out Escalade: a genuine truck chassis by International, giant 20″ wheels, over-the top styling and gobs of bling and gold. But the Ostentatienne went even further than that; it had such an overwhelming presence, one that would make it the ultimate “look-at-me-mobile” today. Maybe its time has finally come.
Mohs owned a seaplane service company in Madison, Wisconsin. Just how he happened upon the idea of a the Ostentatienne Opera Sedan is a matter of wild speculation; but then LSD was still legal in 1967.
The Ostentatienne was built on an International truck chassis with a 119″ wheelbase, and measured a massive 90″ wide, 69″ tall, 246″ long, and weighed some 6100 lbs. As best as I can tell, its front axle was also a truck solid beam unit. The Opera Sedan must have been a leisurely affair, as it was powered by a 250 hp 304 CID V8; why Mohs chose the smallest of International’s V8s, and not the 392 inch version is a mystery. For that matter, the Ostentatienne deserved to have had the really big 549 CID big International V8; now that would have done the massive hood justice.
The only entrance was a fold-up central rear door, which allowed heavy steel girders to be placed on the sides of the body as a safety feature.
The actual seating space for such a monstrous car is not all that generous. But the visibility is splendid. Given the lack of real pillars, the roof appears to be cantilevered. Mohs was a bit obsessed on safety, which explains some of the protuberances and such. But the cantilevered roof probably didn’t give much roll-over protection.
But there’s genuine walnut on the dash. There’s also 110V power, a fridge, and other amenities not customary in mere automobiles, like “isle lights” (SIC). Maybe that’s something seaplanes have, to light up an island?
Was the Mohs the true inspiration for the whole pimp-mobile/Superfly era that soon came to dominate our urban automotive culture? It certainly seems that way, given the timing. Let’s stop giving the Mark III or Eldorado the credit for that. Who would have imagined Madison, Wisconsin being the source of such a major design trend.
I remember reading about the Mohs in 1967, in a Car and Driver article. It left an indelible impression, needless to say. Only this one prototype was ever built, which given its original asking price of $19,600 ($135k adjusted) is not too surprising. But nowadays plenty of blingy luxury cars cars sticker for that and more, which makes the Ostentatienne look almost like a bargain. Where can one buy this kind of exclusivity for that?
The prototype, still owned by Bruce Mohs, was looking something less than ostentatious after being stored for decades, so in 2009, two Wisconsin high schools undertook a restoration.
The 20″ truck wheels are very obvious without their wheel covers. And the Mohs is still riding on its original 20″ whitewall truck tires; good luck finding replacements for those. But the Ostentatienne Opera Sedan is roadworthy again, and Bruce Mohs can once again ply the ‘hoods of Madison in the style that he is accustomed to. I’d suggest keeping the speed down a bit, given those 47 year old tires.
If that wasn’t enough, Mohs was back at it in 1973 with the Safarikar. The front end looks rather familiar, but the rest was a cornucopia of the absurd. Just what did they put in the water up in Madison? The Safarikar was less ambitious, obviously based on an International Travelall. It was a “dual cowl phaeton, with “skin” of Naugahyde stretched over foam padding. A safety feature? The doors opened outwards on sliding rods, again for alleged side-impact protection. Must have been fun stepping over those rods to get out or in. Not very safe…
I’ll let this poster speak for itself. I thought the Safarikar was a bit of a let-down after the Ostentatienne, but how could that possibly be topped? Mohs should have quit while he was ahead; there was simply no way to top the Ostentatienne, then or now.
More Ostentatienne Opera Sedan images found at autobild.de