Last Friday, Gooding & Company had a very successful auction of the majority of the Mullin Collection. (Click here for the results.)

I didn’t know Peter well, but he was on a panel I once hosted at Hilton Head. He also allowed me to drive one of his Bugattis down Highway 1 from Monterey to Los Angeles on a Bugatti tour one year.

What set the Mullin Automotive Museum apart was the completeness of its presentation. When you walked through the doors, you were in “Mullin’s France.” In addition to the cars, there was relevant French furniture, paintings and advertising material.

I’m not sure I have ever been in a museum where there was such a completeness of vision.

And now, in accordance with Peter Mullin’s wishes, the collection has been dispersed to the corners of the earth. While at least four of the most significant cars are headed to the Petersen Automotive Museum, the rest have been sold to private collectors who probably never imagined they would have a chance to own a piece of this collection.

In terms of helping us understand this period of French automotive history, I can’t help but feel the closing of the museum is a loss to us all. Others have pointed out, however, that breaking up the Mullin Collection might lead to more of the cars being restored, shown and used. That would be a benefit to the larger collector car world.

What do you think?

When someone builds a significant collection, should the cars be permanently enshrined in it with none of them ever coming up for sale? Or should the cars be sold off for others to enjoy?

If you had a significant collection, what would you do? Keep it together or sell it off piecemeal? 


  1. In giving a response let me say I am biased because I intended to go to the Mullin museum when I had another opportunity to visit southern California (I live in New England). I regret that I missed my chance to see it. So, with due respect to Peter Mullin’s ultimate wish for dispersing the collection – and in the long run that might be the best thing – I wish that he had stipulated that the museum remain open for two years before doing so, giving the greatest number of interested people the opportunity to see it before it was forever gone.

  2. I think the museums are a great asset for the car enthusiast. They are the only place we can see collector cars in one place for a small entry fee. I saw my first Talbo Lago at the Brooks Museum near Milwaukee 40 years ago. This started my love of the classic European cars of the late 30’s. That Museum along with the Tupelo, Harrods, and others are now gone. The owners pass on but the cars can live forever. It is apparent the Museums don’t last forever either so visit them while they are still around.

  3. I often wonder about Dr. Simeone’s Museum and hope it stays intact.

    Definitely a loss as Mullins was like you mentioned a complete vision, like the Trumpf Brothers had in France.

    • Dr. Simeone’s museum is a wonder. As a former museum member I also hope it holds court for years to come.

  4. I find myself in two worlds…. Short term desires vs long term reality,

    I always owned and restored my Alfas to drive them. To me, the combination of my own sweat and blood, mixed with the glory of experiencing them in the fashion intended…was their highest possible existence.

    On the other hand, some people are not equipped to do, so they spectate. They deserve equal respect for their natures.

    However, at some point, a car will be beyond the possibility of driving it in the manner intended. It may be that parts cannot be had. Gasoline no longer in production. Roads no longer allowed to human-driven operation.

    I’m not bothered by the future. I’d rather be in the group that attempts to keep up and participate than be among those resisting progress.

    Perhaps there are a number of healthy cycles in automotivedom.

    New and used cars for daily operation.
    Old cars rusting.
    A few survivors retrieved and restored for reflective joy
    A few extraordinary examples in museums
    Museums are closed with cars redistributed for another cycle of reflective joy.
    The last survivors consigned to mausoleums, forever dead.

  5. I used to travel for business a lot all over the country, and scheduled one trip so I could visit the Mullin Museum. I was in awe of the way the museum was constructed and laid out, and the combination of restored and unrestored cars was very unique. Just to have a museum dedicated to French automobiles was an outrageous idea by itself, but the setting made you feel like you had traveled back in time to Paris.

    Upon hearing of Mr Mullin’s passing, I immediately wondered what would happen next. My favorite museums in the country are all the vision of one man-Revs Institute, Simeone, Barber, and Mullin. I’m hoping the rest will survive long enough for my kids and grandkids to see.

  6. I don’t understand why the museum was dissolved so quickly ? He only passed away 7 months ago. What was the big hurry? Wouldn’t the estate want to honor his legacy by keeping the museum open? So many questions and probably no keen answers.

  7. My great regret is not having taken the opportunity to have visited the Mullin Museum. I have been to the Schlumph in Switzerland and Lowman in The Hague. The latter was the most beautifully presented exhibition I have ever seen. The former was more like a warehouse. I am very sad that I won’t be able to see the Mullin.

  8. It would have been nice to keep it together. I didn’t know that his wishes were for the collection to be broken up, that was his decision, and I will respect it.

    But a selfish part of me would like to have seen it kept intact. I toured the museum about 13 years ago and it was flat out impressive. I am glad I saw it, I just wish everyone had.

    Another perspective… by breaking the collection up, more people will get to enjoy them, either by owning or showing. Perhaps that is a win, too.

  9. I have conflicting feelings about the sell off of the contents of the Mullin. It is, of course, Mullin’s decision as to how to conduct the operation of the business which reflects on why many museums are organized as government entities or some type of foundation. These types of museums can be interpreted as an ego extension of the owner to do with as he pleased. And, now many ppl will not see the great collection as a whole.
    Sidebar; I met Mr.Mullin at Pebble a number of years ago while he was showing the blue Voisin which we had actually seen at the Museum being detailed when the Director took us in the back to see the work in progress. At Pebble, I mentioned to Mullin that the Museum was great but the bathrooms were spectacular. He had a good chuckle and said he would relay to his wife who had designed the bathrooms!

  10. The closing is sad, but looking ahead, the next best collection of French cars in the U.S. is the Tampa Bay Auto Museum, run by the Cerf family.

  11. Everyone who visited the Mullin will miss not only the extraordinary collection but also the spaciousness with which it was displayed. For various reasons, so many other worthy collections are a little jammed together. Sigh.

  12. It’s a shame – they should have left it together…..

  13. Gone but not forgotten. As I recall he sent 3 or 4 Bugatti’s to a major car show in France that had not been in France since they were built. He had the swept wing, bubble topped, counter rotating prop, mid engined, V Tail Bugatti air plane too. Sad that it got crashed. I’ve been there many times and will miss it but glad I saw it many times.