Mullin Automotive Museum

Talbot Lago T26

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.

Mullin Automotive Museum

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.

Mullin Automotive Museum

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.

Mullin Automotive Museum

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.

Mullin Automotive Museum

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.

Mullin Automotive Museum

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.

Mullin Automotive Museum

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:


  1. Is the Brescia going to remain in as-is condition? I remember reading about it when it was recovered, and I thought they were talking about trying to restore it.

    1. Based on what I saw, there's no feasible way to restore this car. You could more easily recreate it from raw materials.
      While I'm sure Mullin could make it happen if he so desired, there are plenty of perfectly restored Bugattis to be seen. This one's unique as is.

  2. I read the entire post and looked closely at the gorgeous photos. I will probably never go to this museum or see any of the cars in real life but there is one thing I can enjoy in the flesh. I must ask how good does a lobster corn dog taste? I must be hungry.

  3. Great for corporate events you say…. I say send all the designers from Chevy , Ford, and Chrysler there to take notes. Make cars stunning works of art. Jelly beans and used soap bars aren't cutting it.

    1. Ah, but you see, Lincoln has not only been taking notes, but producing vehicles that are so Art Deco that their exhaust smells of unbridled opulence. Ok, maybe that last bit is a stretch, but Lincoln’s line-up is right there, infused with the panache of the Roaring 20’s, yet reviewers pan the styling, and buyers shy away as a result.
      I never really put the Art Deco movement and Lincoln’s new styling direction together until recently, but when I did it hit me like a brick and I became increasingly fonds of the upscale Fords. I even wrote an article about Lincoln and some of Chicago’s Art Deco buildings.

      1. Me being a Chicago native, Art Decco is not lost on me. Lincoln has the details alright, but maybe it is the marketing. Too space age techno. Nice article and flickr stream. I see those buildings daily.

        1. Well, thank you.
          I think you’re spot on about Lincoln’s marketing. As is too often the case, marketers find a way to mess everything up. Take the BMW 5GT as another example, it’s really a 7-series wagon that is (against industry trends) less expensive than the normal 7, yet it’s marketed as some kind of yuppie niche-buster and the whole effect is ruined. Marketers should stick to toothpaste and bubblegum.

  4. Mrs. engineerd will be thrilled to learn there's another automotive museum in the greater LA area. Since, you know, I was telling her I wanted to go to the Petersen Museum, Nethercutt Collection, Automotive Driving Museum, Marconi Museum and the new Riverside International Auto Museum.
    On second thought, maybe I should just go out there on my own and buy her a week at a spa.

    1. So, if you could only hit one auto museum in LA, which would it be? I have done the Petersen and loved it. Mullin, however, looks amazing.

      1. I would probably put Mullin at the top of my list right now. The period it covers is probably one of the most droolworthy periods of automotive design imaginable. Truly the peak. After the war, Europe was in shambles and the cars that were produced didn't have the same panache. The US went in a direction of making autos affordable to nearly everyone and moved away from the panache and opulence of the pre-war era.
        @Tomsk: I've heard of the Justice Brothers collection, but never paid much attention to it. I'm glad to hear someone speak up for it. I'll have to add it to my list.

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