By Jan. R. Wagner
One of the many perks to living in Southern California is our wealth of nearby auto museums. In addition to the large, well known ones, there are many more incredible private collections that tend to remain almost invisible unless someone tells you about them. That is one of the things that I try to do for you in AutoMatters.
These museums are often hidden in plain sight in industrial parks, in non-descript warehouses alongside everyday businesses. You could easily be driving past them and not even notice, but they are there.
Such is the case with the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard. I found out about it through word of mouth, while I was covering the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. It was shortly before their preview of an exhibit entitled “La Vision de Voisin.” The exhibit sounded interesting, so I decided to go and check it out.
The collection at the Mullin Automotive Museum could best be described as exquisite automotive art. The museum itself is stunning, with art deco period furniture and stunning displays.
The day that I visited, the collection included the feature Voisin exhibit, as well as a selection of race and road car Bugattis, the likes of which I had never seen before. The attention to detail in each of these vehicles is impeccable. As an example, consider the collection’s 1935 Voisin C25 Aerodyne, which won the Best of Show trophy at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Northern California. To see so many of this caliber of vehicles in one place is almost overwhelming. The significance of this collection hits you as soon as you walk through the museum’s front door, and you don’t want to leave.
Upstairs, vintage racecars are displayed on a life-size diorama depicting a section of a vintage racing circuit. Several of the Mullin Automotive Museum’s collection of race cars have won historic races, including Le Mans.
Other French-built cars in the Mullin collection include Delages, Delahayes, Hispano Suizas and Talbot-Lagos.
The “La Vision de Voisin” exhibit is the most extensive ever assembled in one place in the United States, and includes vehicles, artifacts from around the world and panels explaining the history.
More than 10,000 Voisin automobiles were built in Paris from 1918 to the late 1930s. Of these, less than 150 are known to still exist. They were at once aerodynamic, well engineered, luxurious and ahead of their time.
Their creator, Gabriel Voisin, began working in architecture but by 1900 his attention had turned towards aviation, as was evidenced by his design for a flying machine. In 1908, one of his biplanes officially completed a one-kilometer circuit. The French government commissioned Voisin aircraft for use in World War I.
Not long after the war ended, Voisin’s efforts turned towards automobile design and manufacturing. His designs were influenced by aviation. He was also interested in the broader themes of civic infrastructure and mobility. By the late 1920s, international celebrities, royalty and politicians were driving Voisin automobiles. His cars were successful in racing and had set 37 world speed records by 1928.