“The Pinnacle of 20th Century Art and Design”

A Museum Dedicated to the Art of the French Automobile 1900-1940

A Museum Dedicated to the Art of the French Automobile 1900-1939

Oxnard, California, is blessed with two world-class automobile museums less than a mile from each other. Martine and I had visited the Murphy Auto Museum twice so far this year. It was a little more difficult to visit the Mullin Automotive Museum, mainly because it is open for tours only twice a month by reservation only.

The Mullin Automotive Museum was founded by Peter W. Mullin, an American businessman and philanthropist, who, early on, fell in love with French autos, particularly the Bugatti (which was 100% French despite the Bugatti family’s Italian origins).

Bugatti Hood Ornament

Bugatti Hood Ornament and Grill

The cars at the museum were a revelation. According to the museum’s founder:

For me the French automobiles of the 1920s and 1930s represent the pinnacle of 20th century art and design—the artistic realization in steel, leather, and glass of a modern idea created at a moment when hand craftsmanship embraced the machine, and a spirit of optimism fueled an explosion in artistic and technical development. As an avid collector, the preservation of these rolling sculptures for the enjoyment of future generations is both a responsibility and a pleasure. I relish the stewardship and preservation of their exciting histories.

Surrounding the automobiles along the outer walls is a world class exhibit of art nouveau and art deco works, including paintings, sculptures, and furniture—to to mention some of the neatest hood ornaments I’ve ever seen.

Flying Hood Ornament

Flying Hood Ornament

I was so impressed not only with the cars and the artwork that I plan on doing one or more follow-up blogs. Martine and I showed up at opening time (10 AM) and had to be ushered out at closing time (3 PM). We plan on returning in a number of months, when they have changed their exhibits.

Below is view of the exhibit floor, which is designed to resemble the original Paris automobile salons of the early 20th century, complete with signs indicating the major “exhibitors.”

The Exhibit Floor

The Exhibit Floor


To avoid getting stuck in beach traffic, we returned home via California 126, stopping at Cornejo Produce in Fillmore for some fresh locally-gown produce.

 

A City Named After a Raven?

Martine Communing with Bob’s Big Boy

Martine Communing with Bob’s Big Boy

For those of us who grew up in Cleveland, Oxnard is the name of TV Host Ghoulardi’s pet raven. For residents of Southern California, it is also a nondescript agrarian city in nearby Ventura County famous for its strawberries, and home to the Murphy Auto Museum.

Now that tax season is over, Martine and I decided to take a road trip to Oxnard, driving along the coast through Malibu past Point Mugu until we reached distant Oxnard. There, we located the Murphy Auto Museum near the corner of Statham and Oxnard and spent three hours looking at the old cars, exhibits of nostalgic memorabilia, and a huge HO model railroad setup that made me green with envy. (Of course, if I had a model railroad setup in my apartment, I would have to construct tunnels consisting of books.)

1930s Packard Hood Ornament

1930s Packard Hood Ornament

Unlike the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar and the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A., the Murphy has cars that are more likely to have been driven: There is no “Mint in Box” feeling about the displays. There is no plethora of Rolls Royces, Talbot Lagos, Duesenbergs, Bugattis, and Bentleys—but there are lots of great American cars from the 1920s onward, plus specialty items such as early camping trailers and an intriguing collection of Volkswagens.

My guess is that we’ll probably be back later this year. I guess we were swayed by the charms of Oxnard.