My Car Quest

July 17, 2024

Peter Mullin Has Died

by Wallace Wyss –

Peter Mullin (aged 82) has died at his home in one of the most scenic places in California– Big Sur. He had been ill for over a year, absent from Pebble Beach, many other events and his own Museum. His wife gamely continued to show some of the cars from their collection.

Mullin’s obsession with collecting French Art Deco era cars led to his founding of his own Museum in Oxnard, California. The most famous car here was the ex-Dr. Peter Williamson 1936 Bugatti Type 57 SC Coupé Atlantic, co-owned with friends and fellow collectors Rob and Melani Walton.

Peter Mullin

Mullin Automotive Museum

In 2010, they took the Museum location over from the late newspaper publisher Otis Chandler but where Chandler had American cars and German cars as well, Mullin made it into exclusively a French car museum. The New York Times described the museum as a “Collection of gemlike structures… displayed just as you might have seen them had you attended one of the Paris auto salons in the Art Deco era between the world wars.”

Mullin had a lifelong love for automobiles, which he got from his father, an oil company engineer. He was a strong supporter of the Pebble Beach Concours and other concours around the globe. He was a strong believer classic cars should be driven and entered his cars in vintage races and rallies around the world.

When a huge sum was needed to get the Petersen Museum going, he was the key man instrumental in raising the $100m needed for the highly successful rebuild and relaunch of the Los Angeles museum.

Bugatti was his favorite marque and he was president of the American Bugatti Club; owning more than 30 Bugattis, the most in single ownership. The Museum in Oxnard wasn’t enough, because in the last five years, he was creating a new museum in the Cotswolds, UK to be called The Mullin Oxfordshire. He was quoted as saying “My aim is always to illuminate, innovate and educate.” “My particular passion for the automobile is not about top speed or horsepower, but about the extraordinary impact that the car has had on mankind; the mobility, the ingenious design, the engineering and the beauty of art in motion.

“By any conventional measure this will not just be another car museum. In the 6000+ years of recorded human history, we have had the automobile for just 133 years, since 1890. Our great grandchildren will probably never drive a motor car – at least not as we know it. Instead, they will travel in secure autonomous pods controlled by a computer.

“The wonder and awe of the automobile – that today we may take for granted – will be an experience they will only ever be able to share by coming to a destination like The Mullin.”

Peter’s interests stretched far beyond all things automotive though. Art, music (he was chairman of the Music Center Foundation), wine and even bonsai trees have been passions of his, and he was also a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters for contributions to preserving French history and culture. At a former home in Italy, Peter and Merle wee master of the oil as well, producing olive oil, wine, honey, and raised Cinta Senese pigs. The family includes six children and eleven grandchildren.

His splendid business career started with earning a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). His whole career was helping devise compensation and benefit issues for many companies. He and his wife Merle, who he met in 1994, invested heavily in ArtCenter College of Design in his hometown of Pasadena and made a substantial monetary gift to ArtCenter, the premier school for the auto industry. They were in the planning stages of building a new school within the college – the Mullin School of Transportation – focusing on the future of transportation design.

I only met him once, when I showed him my painting of his burgundy Delahaye. The painting is now on the wall of the Board of Director’s meeting room at the Museum.

I like the example he set by his actions–driving his cars in events around the world–giving both connoisseurs and newcomers to classics a glimpse of the glories that once were…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

WALLACE WYSS is a fine artist specializing in painting portraits of classic cars on commission. He can be reached at


1939 Delahaye 165M Figoni et Falaschiin

1939 Delahaye 165M Figoni et Falaschiin

Peter Mullin Has Died
Article Name
Peter Mullin Has Died
Peter Mullin's obsession with collecting French Art Deco era cars led to his founding of his own Museum in Oxnard, California.


  1. RIP Mr Mullen and thank you for your support. My condolences to his family and friends.

  2. Thank you Mr. Mullin for the great contributions to the classic car world.

  3. WALLACE WYSS says

    More about Mrs. Mullin from Art Center
    s website:

    Merle Mullin
    Philanthropist and Director, Mullin Automotive Museum

    Merle Mullin enjoys showing, driving and racing Vintage cars along with her husband Peter. She is a co-founder/co-organizer of a biennial vintage car rally for women only. It’s All About the Girls! is an exciting, much publicized event in which 60 women from 14 countries drive 30 collectible (and fast!) vintage cars, in beautiful, rural locations in the world. In addition to female camaraderie, this rally has successfully raised a great deal of money for important, not-for-profit causes.

    Mrs. Mullin is a graduate of UCLA, with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She has enjoyed a lengthy career as an expressionistic figurative painter, having shown her work in many venues, including the Newport Harbor Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

    Mrs. Mullin has a lifelong passion for Italy. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Trust of Italy (Fondo Ambiente Italiano), whose objective is to preserve and restore important historical monuments, gardens, Palazzi and works of art in Italy. During 15 years of part-time residency in Umbria, Italy, the Mullins raised bees, from which they made artisanal lavender and sage honey. They also produced excellent organic olive oil and prosciutto from their own rare, black Cinta Senese pigs.

    She has traveled extensively throughout the world and is particularly interested in the more remote regions of the world, such as Myanmar, Borneo and Papua New Guinea, where she wrote and co-produced a documentary film for PBS, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: The Women of Papua, New Guinea.

    Mrs. Mullin serves as a director of the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, a museum of vintage French Automobiles and Art Deco Objects d’Art founded by her husband.

    Mrs. Mullin currently serves on the Executive Board of The Blue Ribbon, the support group of the Music Center of Los Angeles, where she is very involved with the performance arts, classical music and the Children’s Festival of Music.

    A recent gift from the Mullins to Art Center College of Design will help fund the new Mullin Center of Industrial and Transportation and Design at the College.

    The Mullins have created Mullin Plaza and Mullin Gardens at St. John’s Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, California of which it has been said, “The Mullins’ passion for creating beauty and preserving historical designs for future generations has inspired them to create these important gardens and plaza as an integral part of St. John’s healing process.”

    At Occidental College, where Mr. Mullin has been a long time Board Member, the Mullins, along with the noted landscape designer Art Luna, have re-envisioned the once beautiful entry garden. The Mullin Gardens now offer a soothing respite, a place of reflection and renewal for students and professors alike.

    Mrs. Mullin is on the Board of Visitors of the University of California at Davis school of Viticulture and Enology, one of the most notable wine schools in the world.

    She serves on the Council of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

    The Mullins are Fellows of the Huntington Library and Gardens, in San Marino, California, where Mr. Mullin is Trustee Emeritus.

    The Mullins are co-owners of Ram’s Gate Winery, Sonoma, California, selected in 2017 as the Best Winery in California by Wine Connoisseur. Their Hyde Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay has also recently been selected by Wine Connoisseur as the number one white wine in California.

    The Mullins share a passion for gardens, traveling extensively to view gardens in the far corners of the world. At their home in Big Sur, California, the Mullins have created lush, hydroponic vegetable gardens, fed by an aquaponic, infinity edge lake. This pioneering garden has stirred interest around the globe, as it promises fruitful production of fruits and vegetables in parts of the world where good soil and water are practically non-existent.

    Mrs. Mullin and her husband reside in Los Angeles, in the residential area of Brentwood. Together, they have five children and 13 grandchildren.

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