As Jeff hinted, we ended up on the
guest media invites list for the grand opening of the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California. To put it directly, if there’s a finer collection of pre-war French cars out there, you’ll need a passport and a transatlantic flight to see it. As a Southern California resident, I’m used to seeing impossibly rare mind-blowing machinery on a regular basis, but my jaw literally dropped as I walked in and gazed upon The Collection.
How far would you go to make a point in an argument about cars? Peter Mullin believes art deco era French Cars represent a zenith in automotive design and engineering, that these are true rolling sculptures. He’s assembled this collection to prove it. The main floor of the museum holds a collection of Bugattis, Talbots, Delahayes, Voisins and even the more plebeian Citroens and Pugeots. You want flawless mechanical gauges set in dashboards made of wood that no longer exists? You got it. Ostrich leather interiors? Check. There’s also a Hispano-Suiza woody wagon that looks like it was made from the better part of a forest.
You’ll find the car we teased you with last week hidden in its own cove. The 1925 Bugatti Brescia was purchased at auction early this year after being pulled from Lake Maggiore on the Italy-Switzerland border in 2009. To anyone doubting the authenticity of the example on display, we suggest smelling it. Seriously, it’s like the underside of a pier once you get close. A bittersweet note surrounding the Brescia: one of the divers on the recovery team was killed in a senseless act of street thuggery (unrelated to the car). Proceeds from the sale (to Mullin) went to the Damiano Tamagni Foundation, a charity dedicated to eliminating youth gang violence, named after the slain diver. Tamagni’s parents were in attendance at the opening, where the Mullins announced they’d also be funding a scholarship program for the Foundation.
As awesome as the downstairs collection is, things get better on the second floor. That’s where they keep the race cars. If for some reason you’ve ever come to the conclusion that you’re a tough man’s man, one good look at these old racers will disabuse you of that notion. Jeff and I spent a few minutes with one just trying to figure out where one’s feet were expected to go, as clearly no sane person would jut their leg into the tiny cavity offered between the top of the transmission and the bonnet.
We’re not done with the upstairs. You see, the Bugatti family and Mullin are close. So close, that when they heard about the museum, they suggested to Mullin “wouldn’t it be great if you had some of our newer cars?” “Yeah…I suppose…” he replied. As such, you can see four Bugatti prototypes that lead up to the Veyron 16.4.
Those modern prototypes sit right outside Club Bugatti. Pull the “EB” handles on the etched glass doors to and you’re greeted with a lounge (and bar!) area furnished with high-end art deco furniture worth more than the entire contents of my driveway. There’s a set of carved wooden doors from the Bugatti estate. The tiny electric Baby Bugatti centerpiece (perfectly restored, of course) was a childhood toy for Ettore Bugatti’s son. In case you’re not picking up on it, I spent the whole night with Wayne and Garth’s “We’re not worthy!” replaying my head. Of course, the ice sculptures, ’20s-era haute-couture clad models, armed guards, lobster corndogs and Veyron Grand Sport #1 can generate that effect. Over-the-top-ness aside, Mullin’s unequivocally succeeded in his goal of recreating the feel of the French Auto Salons of old. On the newer side, the museum draws from roof-mounted solar panels and soon-to-be-installed wind turbines. The goal is to have the museum be entirely energy independent.
Want to visit? Of course you do. Unfortunately, for now the museum will be open on weekends by reservation only. Fitting, really. If you’re in the greater Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Clarita or Santa Barbara areas, the Mullin Museum‘s Oxnard location is a perfect driving distance for a corporate event or one hell of a first date. Your best bet is to keep any eye on their information page for contact info and regular hours, once they’re established. In the mean time, check out our flickr set of the event: