Mullin’s ‘Rolling Sculptures’
Art On Wheels and More
By Gordon Durich
Bugatti, Delahaye, Voisin - names European and historic. They conjure up images of a magnificent era of exquisitely engineered classic cars all on display in the Mullin Automotive Museum.
The racers, roadsters, and coupes are in the new Mullin Automotive Museum which pays homage to Art Deco and the legendary Bugatti family’s unequalled marriage of design and technology. The sprawling museum features a superlative collection of some 50 cars circa 1920s to 21st century. Car aficionados and art lovers alike will appreciate the scope of craftsmanship and imagination. There is much to behold, plus sculpture, paintings, photography, ceramics, glass, and furniture. Important, too, is the Schlumpf Collection of cars.
Nestled between sprawling Los Angeles and Ventura, the museum is tucked away in un-urban Oxnard. Its industrial park location obliquely testifies to the car’s permeation of life.
“The Museum is unlike any other collection in the world. We show an array of conditions from unrestored to restored,” said Andrew Reilly, Deputy Director and Chief Curator. “This was the golden age of the auto, 1920s to 1940s… there are a lot of people who believe the single most important development of the 20th century was the car.”
Sleek, elegant, curvaceous, these cars –“rolling sculptures” as Reilly called them–were for the elite, with the chassis alone costing $20,000 at a time when a house was $3,800. The chassis would move to a coach builder to customize the interior and exterior body. One car sported cut-glass light features.
The museum’s motor cavalcade evokes the spirit of French Grand Salons. Visually arresting are rare treasures such as owner Peter Mullin’s favorite, a chic 1938 Talbot Lago T150CS Goutte D’Eau, or Teardrop. Other showroom stars include a 1939 12-cylinder Delahaye. Historically significant are models such the Laborotoire, and a 1925 Bugatti type 22 Brescia Roadster chassis, lifted after 75 years of submersion in Lake Maggiore. The “Lake Bugatti” is displayed with accompanying photographic images of the remarkable recovery.
An Angelino, entrepreneur, and visionary, Peter Mullin collects fine automobiles. His passion fueled the establishment of a foundation dedicated to studying, preserving, and showing classic cars. Chairman emeritus of Mullin TBG and founder of M Financial, Mullin serves on boards including the Gene Autry Heritage Museum and UCLA Foundation Board of Trustees, and is chairman of the Music Center Foundation. He is past president of the American Bugatti Club, and member of the Bugatti Trust which celebrates the historic movement incorporating sublime style and engineering.
“When I saw my first custom built French car about 30 years ago, a Delahaye, and for the first time realized that engineering masterpieces could also be sculptural “rolling art,” I was hooked
from then on and have passionately pursued these Art Deco creations from then on.”
Also superb is the museum building, which once housed the Otis Chandler collection. Acquired in 2006 after the newspaper magnate’s passing, the “vintage” museum was redesigned by architect David Hertz to be “green.”
The environmentally conscious design features a solar photovoltaic roof system and lighting.
Picture yourself behind the wheel of a 1925 Bugatti, or driving the 1929 Voisin C28 Cabriolet resurrected and used in the 2004 movie “Sahara.” Linger in the state of the art theater for a short film tour, or lounge in the second-story bar. Do that on Saturdays, since the museum is open to the public (admission is $8) by reservation only. Call 805/385.5400, or visit www.mullinautomotivemuseum.org.
The Mullin Automotive Museum is at 1421 Emerson Avenue, Oxnard.