More sad news to start the year is that the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, is closing in two weeks. Founder Peter Merlin opened the museum in 2010 with a mission “to educate guests about 20th-century French automotive styling and design.” This was done beautifully — literally and figuratively — with a focus on vehicles spanning from the Brass Era (1896-1915) to the early postwar period, some taken from Peter Mullins’ personal collection. The heavy focus was on French automakers during the interwar period, Art Deco to the Machine Age (1918-1941), namely, Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Talbot-Lago, and Voisin, supported with automobilia, sculpture, a theater, and archives.
A lot of enthusiasts might not be familiar with the museum, but the fingerprints of founder Peter Mullin and wife Merle can be found throughout the car world. Peter, who died last September, had amassed the world’s largest private collection of Bugattis. Back when a $40 million vehicle sale was enough to be crowned a record sum, Mullin opened his museum with the display of the record-breaking 1936 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic, on loan from the purchaser. He won Best in Show at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance with his own 1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne. The museum put on the shows you’d expect of a private Bugatti collector, like Art of Bugatti in 2014; shows you’d expect of a Francophile institution, like “Citroën: The Man, The Marque, The Mystique” in 2017; and surprises like last year’s “ArTexture” exhibit of fine art and tapestries by artist Keith Collins. And he was one of the founding board members of the Petersen Automotive Museum, helping the museum through the renovation that turned it into one of the coolest car spots in LA.
Speaking of which, four of Mullins’ personal rides will go on permanent display at the Petersen: a 1937 Talbot-Lago T150 CS “Teardrop,” a 1938 Delahaye 145, a 1938 Hispano Suiza H6B Dubonnet Xenia, and a 1939 Delahaye 165.
The museum is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, its last day open being Saturday, February 10 — leaving three more visits for anyone who can make it. Said Merle, who continued keep sharing the collection at shows from Amelia Island to Villa d’Este during Peter’s illness, wrote in a statement on the closing, “Sharing these ‘rolling sculptures’ and beautiful art with others was Peter’s truest passion, and the museum helped bring that vision to life. We are deeply indebted to our staff, docents, volunteers, visitors, and supporters who have dedicated their time and passion over the past 13 years. I hope past and first-time visitors will have a chance to say goodbye before we close.”
Twenty vehicles in the collection are headed to the Gooding & Company Amelia Island Auction running from February 29 to March 1. Gooding has posted the lots on offer but hasn’t finished the auction’s online catalog yet, so it’s not clear what’s coming from the Mullin collection. Searching for lots from 1918 to 1941, however, pulls up some prime suspects in the forms of four Bugattis, two Avions Voisins, a Citroen, and a Talbot.
Those who can’t get to Oxnard should take a gander through the Mullin Museum’s online collection or take a few guided tours on YouTube.