Mullin Automotive Museum – Worth the Trip from Anywhere
Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor
There are number of great automobile collections around the world. I’m far from an expert on them, but the best of the best have to very good to be better than the collection and facility that Peter Mullin has put together in Oxnard, California.
Although the Mullin Museum is focused on great French coachwork and competition cars, it is much more than an automobile museum, with an extensive display of some of the furniture, sculpture and art of the Bugatti family. It is a celebration of the great industrial design and art movements of the early 20th century, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and the art of the Machine Age.
The facility is awe-inspiring, not only the fabulous detail and luxurious materials but also in its mechanical facility with solar collectors. The building itself is a multi-unit industrial building and its transformation from Otis Chandler’s Museum of Transportation and Wildlife into the Mullin is nothing short of amazing.
I admit to getting hung up on details, like the detailed cladding on the center support columns which transform utilitarian columns into replicas of the riveted iron beams used in late 19th and early 20th century construction. They look like something Gustave Eifel employed in building his tower in Paris and are subtly emblematic of the merger of art and function which made early 20th century schools of design so effective and important.
The Mullin is choice. Its design and execution offers new impressions at every turn. The elevator to the mezzanine and roof is surrounded by an Art Deco cage that looks like it came from a Forties Film Noir flick. I could go on, but it’s about the cars, the designs, the concepts and the designers.
The ground floor is arranged like one of the fabulous Paris Salons of the Thirties and Forties. While Bugattis hold the limelight Mullin may have the best collection of the cars of Gabriel Voisin in the world – and certainly the best collection of them displayed with such panache – on top of Delahayes, Delages and Renaults sporting the most flamboyant, extravagant, sweeping, voluptuous coachwork for Figoni and Falaschi, Chapron, Saoutchik and their counterparts.
The Bugatti recovered from the depths of Lake Maggiore is worth a visit all by itself.
On the mezzanine the Museum has re-created the pitlane at Le Mans as well as a few curves, lined as they were a half century ago with barriers woven from thin branches. Lined up as if in the race are Voisins, Delages, Bugattis, Delahayes, even a Chenard et Walcker and a U.S. built Cooper-Miller emblematic of Bugatti’s twin cam epiphany.
From there a brief walk through the recent history of the resurrected Bugatti marque leads to the lounge, a tasteful club of the Forties with an unparalleled view over the main exhibit floor.
Open by appointment on selected Saturdays, the Mullin Automotive Museum is worth a trip just to experience it and its insightful presentation of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Machine Age Design expressed in automobiles and in the fabulous creations of the Bugatti family.
Contact the Mullin Automotive Museum on their website, www.mullinautomotivemuseum.com or by phone at 805.385.5400. Admission is ten dollars cash and reservations must by confirmed by the Museum.
Mullin Automotive Museum – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture)