A collection worthy of a museum
Carefully assembled over several decades, the Peter W. Mullin collection was certainly worthy of a museum. The opportunity arose in 2006 when the building in Oxnard, California that had previously housed the cars of the late Otis Chandler became available. Before moving the collection in, the building was completely refurbished to match the style of the cars, most of which were built in the Art Deco era. Responsible for the re-design was architect David Hertz. Modifications were also made to the building itself to make it more environmentally friendly by adding a solar photovoltaic roof system and by planting a green roof. The work was completed early in 2010 and on April 25th of that year, the Mullin Automotive Museum opened its doors for the first time. Surrounded by the Art Deco decor, most of the cars on display rotate following the temporary theme based exhibitions. Some of the absolute highlights like the Schlumpf Reserve Collection and the Bugatti that was retrieved from the bottom of the Lago Maggiore remain on permanent display. At the time of our visit there was no special exhibition, so we were treated to a cross-section of the collection as can be seen in this 80-shot gallery
The creations of the Bugatti family certainly take centre stage in the Mullin Collection. These not only include the automobiles built by Ettore Bugatti and his son Jean but also some of the furniture, sculptures and paintings created by other members of their family. The most talked about of all Bugattis on display in the museum is certainly the Type 57 SC Atlantic formerly owned by renowned Bugatti collector, the late Dr. Peter Williamson. When it changed hands in 2010 for an undisclosed sum of over $30 million, it was the most expensive car ever sold. It is one of just four built and generally considered the finest Bugatti, combining Ettore's well honed underpinnings with the achingly beautiful body penned by Jean. Another Bugatti in the Mullin Collection that grabbed headlines in recent years was the Bugatti Type 27 Brescia, which was at the bottom of the Lago Maggiore in Switzerland for over seven decades. It was finally raised in 2009 and sold to the Mullin Collection in 2010 with the proceeds benefiting the Damiano Tamagni Foundation, who fight youth violence. In addition to these high profile Bugattis, the Mullin Collection boasts a fine array of models including several competition cars and also more recent examples like a post-War Type 101 and an EB110 SS of the early 1990s.
Of all cars built in France during the 1920s and 1930s none stand out quite as much as those produced by Gabriel Voisin. One of the world's aviation pioneers, Voisin had an absolute knack for combining cutting edge technology and materials with influences from the arts. It was no surprise that many designers like architect Le Corbusier owned Voisins. Following his passion for the Art Deco era, Mullin has also managed to collect a remarkable number of Voisins of which just very few remain today. The best known of these is the C25 Aerodyne, which was won the highly coveted 'Best of Show' award at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Among the last Voisins built, it is a perfect example of Gabriel Voisin's design and engineering philosophies from the striking aluminium body to the sleeve-valve engine and the vacuum-powered sliding roof. Also very impressive are the pair of C27s, one fitted with a coupe designed and built in-house, while the other sports a very elegant cabriolet by Figoni. The collection also includes a C28 replica built for the 2004 movie Sahara.
It goes without saying that other French marques like Delage, Delahaye and Talbot Lago are also very well represented. One of the most impressive displays is the line-up of no fewer than four V12-engined Delahayes of which only around a dozen were built. Among them was the famous 'Million Franc' competition car, which was built with support from the French government to fight the dominant German manufacturers. Of the same era is the 1938 Le Mans-winning Delahaye 135 CS. Like many of the competition cars in the collection, this very important machine is regularly raced in historic events by Peter Mullin. Further highlights include one of the Talbot Lago T150s clothed by Figoni & Falaschi with the legendary 'Goute d'Eau' or 'Teardrop' Coupe bodywork. One of the most striking cars in the collection is the Hispano Suiza-based 'Xenia' created by engineer Andre Dubonnet and coach-builder Jacques Saoutchik with a Jean Andreau designed body. It was built for the 1938 Paris Auto Salon to showcase Dubonnet's advanced engineering ideas.
Regardless of which cars of the collection are on display, the Mullin Automotive Museum is well worth a visit. With its broad focus on not only the automobiles but also the art of the 1920s and 1930s, it offers a unique insight in what was quite possibly one of the finest eras of automotive design. Visiting does take some planning as it is only open on select days, which can be found on the museum's website. Private visits can also be arranged on other days.