Discovering Oxnard’s Mullin Automotive Museum

What did Sonny and Cher, Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin have in common? At some point in their lives, they all had a home in the somewhat sleepy town of Oxnard, California.

Located 30 miles west of Los Angeles, along the southern U.S. coast, the city of Oxnard had just over 2000 inhabitants, back in 1903 when it was incorporated.
The city was famous for its strawberries and lima beans until the movie Sideways put it on the map for wine lovers; broadening its horizon so to speak.Nowadays with a population of over 200k, It is home to over 20 miles of scenic coastline with un-crowded soft, sandy beaches like the famous Silver Strand and Mandalay Bay.

Oxnard and its surrounding areas have several museums, historical places and attractions to explore with kids of all ages and as this was not our first time in town we decided to skip the beaches and visit a unique Mullin Automotive Museum.

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After having our breakfast at our Residence Inn hotel, we set out to the Mullin for a private tour that was pre-booked several weeks in advance.

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The Museum

This museum is truly a hidden gem that more people should know about and visit.
Situated in a nondescript industrial area of town not far from the neighboring city of Ventura, it would have been a bit of a challenge to locate had it not been for our car’s GPS system.

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The building that used to house a different museum now contains the private collection of business mogul and philanthropist Peter Mullin; an avid Art Deco and French automobile era expert who has managed to put together an impressive assortment of cars – mostly Bugatti.

The museum’s main exhibit called ‘The Art of Bugatti’ is centered around the family’s vision and legacy.The semi-private tour lead by the knowledgeable Rick Eberst strives to shed light on the multi-talented Bugatti patriarch and sons.

The introductory section featured several pre-1930 cars on display including a Peugeot Type BP1 Bébé; one of Ettore Bugatti’s first designs that he sold to rivaling car manufacturer Peugeot.

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The next stop showcased some of the jewels in Mullin’s collection like the 1938 Talbot Lago T150SS Coupé “teardrop”, the Delahaye Type 135 roadster and 1941 Type 41 Royale with the elephant statue in front designed by the sculptor of the family Rembrandt Bugatti on giant turntables.By far the most noteworthy in this section is the metallic light blue 57SC Atlantic nicknamed the ‘Mona Lisa’ of cars.There are only two left in the world; the first is owned by fashion designer Ralph Lauren while the second is featured at the Mullin’s.

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Right behind the turntables we saw the Type 64 car, which was just a concept chassis for sixty years until the car loving millionaire assembled a team of designers and car historians to recreate what the car might have looked like since its creator Ettore Bugatti’s son passed away in a tragic car crash before completing it.

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But the museum doesn’t only display impeccably shiny vehicles – it also features rescued Bugatti cars in different stages of deterioration like the controversial Schlumpf collection and the 1925 Bugatti Brescia once owned by car racer Renee Dreyfuss.
According to stories, this car was deliberately sunk to the bottom of Lake Maggiore over a tax dispute and was brought back; corroded and rusted to its final resting spot at the museum by the current owner.

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The second level of the museum was considerably smaller and paid homage to the two largest European car racing courses; the Grand Prix and Le Mans.It featured the replica of a pit stop and displayed many famous race cars; some which still participate in races.

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The highlight here, was undoubted, another of Renee Dreyfus’ cars.   Unlike the decrepit one pulled out of Lake Maggiore, the Million Franc Delahaye T145GP looked very much like it did on the day Dreyfuss received it from the factory all polished and ready for a spin.

According to our guide, this is the very car, which the French Jewish racer drove at the Prix de Pau beating Hitler’s auto union team and winning the million Francs prize.
The car was dismantled and hidden from the Nazis during WWII and only reassembled after the war ended.

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Completing the exhibit was the room housing numerous art objects such as statues, paintings and small pieces of furniture created by during the golden age of the Art Deco proving that creativity and vision were deep rooted in the Bugatti family and that the brand expanded way beyond the realm of just designing cars.

Autism travel tips.

  • This museum is well planned, beautifully laid out and maintained. In fact, even the restrooms are dazzling in their fixtures and lavish settings.
  • I would recommend the Mullin for older children and young adults who are fascinated by cars. The museum presents a rare opportunity to learn about the history of automobiles from a unique perspective in a quiet non-intrusive environment.
  • The tour takes anywhere from 2-3 hours to complete if one wants to hear the detailed stories told by the docent, who is, by the way, a very gifted story teller!
  • It is important to bear in mind that though this is a car museum; the intention here was to maintain the cars as works of art and pay homage to masterpieces so there are no hands-on or interactive areas where visitors can touch anything.

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Disclaimer: Special thanks to the Mullin Museum that provided us with complimentary tickets for the review. However, the tips and opinions shared are always our own.

 

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