Iconic Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard closes after founder's passing

Dave Kunz Image
Friday, February 16, 2024
Museum celebrated automobiles as art
The Mullin Automotive Museum was a passion project for founder Peter Mullin. Now, the museum is closing after Mullin's death.

OXNARD (KABC) -- There's only the slightest hint from the outside that there was something special inside an Oxnard industrial building. But something even beyond special: the Mullin Automotive Museum.

It opened in 2010 by the late Peter Mullin and his wife Merle. Peter Mullin wanted to celebrate rolling beauty -- automobiles as art.

"Because they spoke to him, for their design. He was an art major in college, and he only turned to business when he realized if he became an artist he would probably starve to death," said Merle Mullin.

Successful in business, Peter Mullin prized French cars from the Art Deco era of the 1930s. Fittingly, the museum space was like stepping into a glamourous auto salon in Paris nearly a century ago. There are cars, of course, but also every detail embodies the era. The lighting, the signage, the décor. And the museum didn't just feature automobiles, but artwork, furniture -- and an overall celebration of another time and place.

"The Grand Palais is one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris, and that was the inspiration for this museum," said Merle Mullin before the museum closed. "We've had many French visitors who step inside and they're overwhelmed. They didn't know what to expect, and they say they feel like they're back in France."

The space was formerly the Otis Chandler Museum, featuring the automobiles of the late publishing magnate and car collector. That collection was dissolved in 2006 after Chandler's death.

The Mullins then took over the building and transformed it, in grand style. Now, with Peter Mullin's passing last year, this museum has closed too. And what about all these elegant automobiles?

"We view ourselves as the custodians of these cars. And they will pass on," said Merle Mullin.

Fittingly, some of the cars are being donated to the Petersen Museum. Others are being sold to dedicated collectors who will provide proper stewardship moving forward. And the rest will be auctioned over the coming months by Gooding and Company. All this beauty, being sent elsewhere in the collector world for others to admire and enjoy.

The Mullin Museum had a short time of existence as museums go. But the Mullin Museum left its mark, and indelible impressions in the minds of thousands of admirers of both automobiles and artistry.