An interview with Peter Mullin

A star among vintage car collectors.

In the rarefied world of vintage car collectors Peter Mullin commands an undisputed star status – not only because he has amassed the most important collection of French pre-war ArtDeco automobiles but also because he has founded a museum where they are exhibited.

The 1920s and 1930s are widely known as the Belle Epoque or, colloquially, as the Gatsby era. Mullin explains his life-long passion for it:

“The 1925-1935 era is the most influential design period in history and cars were its centrepiece. Nothing comes close to it in terms of beauty, engineering, craftsmanship …”

He is known as THE Bugatti collector and so it comes as no surprise that his Bugatti Atlantic 1936, one of only two in the world, is a firm favourite. Another favourite is the 1935 Teardrop Talbot-Lago. Both are outstanding examples of craftsmanship, rarity value and aesthetic artistry.

Mullin remains an active collector. The cars are not just restored museum pieces – he does drive and race them regularly, and takes part in rallies around the world.

peter mullin car collection 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia
Bugatti Type 22 Brescia 1925

Mullin is the President of the American Bugatti Club and on the board of trustees of the Passadena Art Center College of Design which offers a degree in transportation systems and design, and where some of the most iconic cars of the 40s and 50s were designed. He sees the latter appointment as an important one.

How does he reconcile his passion for vintage cars that are notorious air polluters with his interest in the future of transportation? Quite simply, he is focused on “embracing the future, with its emphasis on alternative energy, autonomous cars, “mind-bending new technology”, and generally reducing carbon emissions.”

Who are the makers of the iconic cars of tomorrow? He names Porsche, Bentley and of course, Bugatti.

As for the car he drives daily, it may come as a complete surprise that this is a humble, low emission Mini Cooper.

The Mullin Automotive Museum is located in Oxnard California, but may soon be joined by a sister museum in that “automotive centre of the world”, the Cotswolds, UK where Mullin is also planning to build a race track for rare car enthusiasts and owners.