We are saddened to announce that Peter Mullin, founder of the Mullin Automotive Museum, passed away on September 18 at his home in Big Sur. He had been seriously ill for over a year, absent from the many car events and museums that he loved so much. He leaves behind his wife Merle, five children and 13 grandchildren, and an indelible legacy as a renowned automobile collector.
Peter had a lifelong romance with automobiles catching the car-collecting “bug” at a young age from his father, who was a chemical engineer for Mobil would take him along to car- and boat-related shows, not really to look at the cars and boats but to look at the viscosity of the oil. He would say “Dad, why are you talking about that? Look at this gorgeous thing here.” It was symbiotic relationship him helping his father appreciate what that were looking at, and his father helping Peter appreciate how they worked. Peter’s first car was a 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible – the genesis of a collection now features several hundred cars.
In October 2021, we were given a rare look into the cars Peter and his wife Merle kept at their Brentwood, CA home; https://citroenvie.com/a-glimpse-into-the-mullins-at-home-car-collection/.
Peter rose from humble beginnings in Southern California to found a financial empire that allowed him to pursue his artistic enthusiasms, particularly with French cars. He started out in college at the UC Santa Barbara as an art major but came to a realization early on that made him change his major to economics. He founded Mullin Consulting in Los Angeles when he was just 28 and cofounded M Financial Group 10 years later. His businesses were successful enough to allow him to pursue his first passion, French cars of the 1930s.
For 40 years years, Peter has collected the finest of French cars, starting with Delahayes and then Talbot Lagos, Delages, Hispano-Suizas, Avio Voisins and, the “king of French marques,” Bugattis.
In 2010, Peter and Merle opened the Mullin Automotive Museum in a near-47,000 square feet building previously owned by legendary newspaper publisher Otis Chandler in Oxnard, California.
In the past decade Peter acquired a vast array of Citroëns and created the “Citroën: The Man, The Marque, The Mystique” exhibit at the Mullin Automotive Museum that ran from March 11th, 2017 through the spring of 2018.
Since 1984 when he and Merle presented a 1948 Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet, he had become a regular at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The Mullins presented 65 cars there, winning 35 class prizes as well as 13 special prizes. In 2011, they won Best of Show, the most coveted trophy, with a 1934 Avio Voisin C-25 Aerodyne.
The car has interior fabric that is the original pattern, as Mullin found the original machine that made it and had a new set made for the C-25. A two-cylinder hydraulic pump in the rear retracts the sliding roof. As the roof recedes, it can be parked in one of three positions to allow the openings in the roof to align with the rear window so the driver can see out back.
The following year, they exhibited ten masterpieces from their collection at Rétromobile.
They showed many of his cars at events around the world, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and were frequent entrants at international Concours events, They took “Best of Show” honours in 2018 at Valletta Concours d’Elegance held in the baroque city of Valletta, Malta with a 1960 Citroën ID19 Le Paris.
Peter Mullin twice received Peninsula Signature Event’s “Best of the Best” award and was the recipient of the Historic Motoring Association’s “Personal Achievement Award” in 2016.
A founding board member of the Petersen Automotive Museum, Peter was asked to rejoin the board as chair by Bruce Meyer and David Sydorick in 2013 in preparation for the museum’s renovation. He envisioned a campaign, which he christened “Bold Moves,” that drove the focus, fundraising the $100m needed for the museum’s total renovation inside and out. He became a fixture at the museum during that time, leading the board, museum staff, designers and contractors to complete the project on time and on budget. Peter’s passion for the automobile will live on at the museum through the Mullin Grand Salon, where he once proudly displayed some of his prized Molsheim masterpieces in the “Art of Bugatti” exhibition.
Peter was also president of the American Bugatti Club; with more than 30 Bugattis, the most comprehensive selection of early 20th century Bugattis in single ownership,
He also displayed a passion for preservation, displaying at the Mullin Automotive Musuem a Bugatti Brescia, which spent seventy years at the bottom of Lake Maggiore and the lot of Bugattis he purchased from the estate of Arlette Schlumpf, Fritz’s widow. Better known as the “Malmerspach reserve”, these vehicles displaying decrepitude due to several decades of abandonment will never be restored.
With wife Merle, who he met in 1994, Peter invested heavily in ArtCenter College of Design in his hometown of Pasadena (the couple made a substantial monetary gift to ArtCenter in 2013, the largest in the college’s history). A number of the auto industry’s leading designers, who currently work for top luxury automakers such as BMW, Mercedes and Volvo, are ArtCenter alumni.
The Mullins have also been in the planning stages of opening up a new school within the college – the Mullin School of Transportation – a programme focusing on the future of transportation design. They’re hoping to bring in students from around the world to learn how to develop new generations of cars and other modes of transportation.
Over the last five years, Peter has been involved with the creation of a new museum in the Cotswolds, UK – a project that, after further public consultation, is still very much ongoing. It will continue in honour of Peter, named The Mullin Oxfordshire.
His legacy will be continued by Merle, who has become an avid car enthusiast.