French curves, fine lines at Mullin Automotive Museum

Peter Mullin purchased the Chandler Transportation Museum in
Oxnard, Calif., to create a state-of-the-art museum to house his

The date was April 15, 2010, but the venue looked more like the 1936 Paris Auto Show. The occasion for the paradox was the grand opening of the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, Calif., and it was as grand as an opening could be.

Hobby VIPs, including Bugatti family members and Julius Krota, a current executive of Bugatti, walked among artwork on four wheels and also on the walls of the new museum. In the background, models dressed in period-correct garb swirled around Classic-era French automobiles displayed in a fashion similar to the original Parisian event. They included the long-forgotten cigarette girl who circulated throughout the event with wares limited to chocolate candy cigarettes and Black Jack (a licorice-flavored chewing gum of the era) by the standards of the 21st century.

Mullin’s concentration has been on European cars from the art
deco era

The affair was hosted by Peter Mullin, a man with plans to keep the 1936 Paris Auto Show continuing in perpetuity. Mullin clearly has a passion for European cars, and it started at his first sighting of what he described as “the rolling sculptured lines” of the French-built Delahaye. He soon became smitten with the engineering and design of many of the other great French makes, among them Delage, Talbot-Lago, Voisin and Hispano-Suiza. Thus he began a quest to obtain a racing version, touring sedan and cabriolet version of each of these makes, along with various models of Bugatti.

Mullin believes these examples of French cars manufactured from 1918-’41 are the apex in automotive state-of-the-art, not only in design, but in terms of power, speed and general engineering design. This generation of design between the first and second World Wars is known as art deco and also the machine age, and in addition to his collection of cars, Mullin has also amassed a collection of furniture and artwork from this period. And now it is on display, to be shared with the collecting community.

Model in 1930’s attire next to a 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante
which has Jean Bugatti-designed Atalante coachwork.

Unfortunately, many great private collections cease to exist upon the owner’s passing or retirement. Otis Chandler, publisher of The Los Angeles Times, and William Harrah both had collections of exotic collector automobiles, and upon their deaths, the bulk or entire collections were sold. Ironically, Mullin’s museum is housed in the very building (albeit exceptionally remodeled) that once held Chandler’s collection, but Mullin has made plans to keep his collection of furniture, art and automobiles of the art deco era intact now and well into the future. He created a public foundation with Bruce Meyer, Richard Adatto, Stewart Reed, and David Sydorick as additional trustees to keep the 100-car collection and other pieces of artwork available to the public long into the future.

To create this state-of-the-art museum, Mullin had the 50,000-sq.-ft. building that once housed the Chandler Transportation Museum completely remodeled into a “green” building, bringing it up to 21st Century standards. Electrical power is generated by a “green” power supply, with ducted wind turbines that take advantage of the steady breeze from the nearby ocean, and solar panels to generate electrical power. The remainder of the roof has a white surface, which will remove 20 percent of the interior heat. This is supplemented by superior construction methods and materials. There is also a garden located on the roof. These features not only help reduce the building’s energy consumption, but assist in maintaining the ideal storage environment to preserve these priceless vehicles, furniture and art objects.

Several unrestored vintage Bugattis are part of the Schlumph
Reserve Collection on display at the Mullin Automotive Museum
in Oxnard, California.

In addition to displaying exotic restored vehicles with magnificent coachwork designed by long-forgotten names such as Capron, Figoni et Falaschi, Vanvooren, Labourdette, Letourneur et Marchand, Gangloff and Saoutchik, there is a 90-foot diorama exhibiting “barn find” vehicles. Here, there are vehicles with patina from the famous Schlumph Brothers Collection, as well as equally well-known French beauties once owned by famous collector John Shakespeare, a noted American sportsman. 

A flash-back to the deco era included this long-forgotten cigarette
girl who circulated throughout the event with candy cigarettes and
Black Jack licorice.

A pre-World War II Grand Prix and LeMans racing exhibit is proposed to be placed in the almost 11,000-sq.-ft. mezzanine. Included in that future exhibit are Gabriel Voisin’s incredible “Laboratorie,” an experimental racing car with innovative safety features. Here will also be a diorama giving visitors an inside view of pit activity during a Grand Prix or Le Mans-type race, something few outsiders of the racing elite have viewed. The second floor is “Club Bugatti,” which features various Bugatti vehicles as well as artwork and sculptures from various members of the Bugatti family. [SEE RELATED ARTICLE ]

The Mullin Automotive Museum is located at 1431 Emerson, in the coastal community of Oxnard, located in between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Admission is $8. For additional information, go to its website at


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