Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mullin Automotive Museum review, part 1: the old cars

Part 2 of museum visit here.
Museum souvenir reveal here.

The Mullin is a private collection of pre-war art deco French cars housed in Oxnard, California.  Oxnard is about an hour north of L.A. and half an hour south of Santa Barbara.  In Part 1, I will give an overview of the museum and show you the pre-war cars on display.  In Part 2, I will show you the modern (1990s to present) Bugatti production cars and prototypes at the museum, along with my take on how it compares to other car museums on the West Coast.

The museum just opened this spring and is only open once a month on a reservation basis.  It cost $10 per adult.  There are plans to eventually have the museum open twice a month.  It was open yesterday so that it coincided with all the folks going to Pebble Beach/Monterey this week.  Journalists from Germany and Switzerland were also there.  That's a huge deal for the city of Oxnard, which was previously famous for being an hour north of L.A. and half an hour south of Santa Barbara.

The museum is located at 1421 Emerson Avenue, in the middle of a sprawling office park.  There is a large church resembling Wernham-Hogg's Slough office across the street.  The facility covers about 50,000 square feet.

There are about 30 cars on the ground floor.  The vast, vast majority are pre-war French art deco cars, plus a Tatra (weird).  Visitors are urged to first watch a short video on the collection (the narrator sounds like Alain de Cadenet).  The first floor also contains a diorama of a Delahaye found in a Fresno barn, in its as-found condition; cars from the Schlumpf Reserve Collection (more on this later); and that rusty Bugatti Type 22 that was salvaged from the bottom of a lake.  Interspersed throughout the first floor are pieces of art deco furniture, like these:

Here are some overview shots of the first floor:

The main attraction on the day of my visit was the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe.  It became the most expensive car in the world when an anonymous person bought it recently for $30-40 million.  I'm sure all of us have wondered whether any car is worth that much.  Well, here it is.  It is quite stunning.  I really dug the five exhaust pipes.

Here is the engine compartment of the Tatra:

I like to call this 1939 Delahaye MS 165 V12 Figoni & Falaschi roadster the Woody Woodpecker car.

Here is the Type 22 that was at the bottom of a Swiss lake for 70 years.  Cliffs Notes version of the story: Guy didn't want to pay taxes on it so he pushed it into the water.  It was recently pulled out and was sold for $350,000.  Crazy.

At the far wall are cars from the Schlumpf collection.  Cliffs Notes version of the story: Two French industrialist bros in Alsace secretly buy hundreds of cars.  When workers take over the factory during a strike, they find the hidden cars.  Bros flee.  France nationalizes cars and turns collection into museum in Mulhouse.  France does not find/seize all the cars.  Widow of one of the bros sells these to Mullin:

Here are my other favorites on the first floor.

1938 Talbot Lago T150CS "Goutte D'Eau":

1939 Panhard ET Levassor X81 sedan:

New and old.  I appreciate the mix of cars presented.  Some are in concours condition (like the Blackhawk museum in the U.S.) and there are quite a few that are in their original, unrestored condition-- a la the Mulhouse museum collection:

This specimen is the most "art deco" of the bunch.  Just look at the shape of the window, door, roof, and fenders:

This Hispano-Suiza's boat/wood finish reminds me of the H-S in Blackhawk:

The second floor is divided into three areas: a lounge for private events, a collection of five contemporary Bugattis, and about a dozen race cars that were in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1932.  The lighting was less than ideal so I didn't take too many pics of the racers.  P.S. I don't know who the lady in the red pants is.

Part 2 will contain a write-up of the five modern Bugattis (my personal favorites).

Finally, there is no gift shop per se.  However, the ladies at the ticket desk do sell four items: two posters, a book, and this box.  What's in this box?  Stay tuned...


Edvin said...

Wow, great stuff! I wish we had museums like that over here.

Jamie said...

Great stuff, that's on my must-see list now, as a US trip is my next overseas destination. My wife thinks we're going to Louisiana and Texas for the music she loves, so when she sees a day devoted to "Oxnard, California" I'll sit her down at your blog and all will be explained.