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Quirky French classics at the Mullin Automotive Museum

In a nondescript industrial park, surrounded by the verdant farmland in Oxnard just north west of Los Angeles, sits an unexpected gem: The Mullin Automotive Museum. The outside has a few hints about what’s inside, like a swoopy relief of a curvy, art deco, classic car. Once inside you’re greeted by a flying Citroen DS, wheelless, looking every bit the spaceship it probably did when it was launched… over 60 years ago.

Next to it is one of my favorite cars, the SM. The product of an odd alliance between Citroen and Maserati, it was one of the most expensive cars in its day, and one of the most bizarre cars ever built. Move farther into the museum and a you’re greeted by other legendary Gallic motors like the DS, several Bugattis and more.

Here’s how it looks inside.

Mullin

The Mullin opened in 2010, named after its founder Peter Mullin, who is also the Chairman of the Petersen Automotive Museum. Where that museum covers cars in general, the Mullin focuses on French cars, especially Citroen. Though that brand dominates, there is no shortage of rare Bugattis (are all Bugattis rare?), along with several other long-gone French brands like Voisin, Delage, Talbot-Lago and more.

Most of the cars are immaculate, as you’d expect, and many are still drivable.

SM

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many SMs in one place. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s truly an incredible car to behold. The iconic modernist design, with its long hood and tiny cut-off back end, looks vaguely like other cars on the road.

Underneath, though, there’s a whole host of oddities. The Maserati V6 is mounted behind the front wheels, notably rare not just for its 90-degree V-angle, but how it delivers its power forward in this front-wheel-drive car.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The hydro-pneumatic suspension was auto-leveling and height-adjustable. In European models the headlights would turn with the car and stay level at changing speeds.

There’s no brake pedal, only a floor-mounted button to modulate the powered system. The variable assist power steering was so bizarre is scared some drivers. This is a strange and wonderful car, and to me, the epitome of why this museum exists.

Or maybe it’s because of the far more beautiful Citroen DS. Either way, there are multiple examples of both here.

Quirky French classics at the Mullin Automotive Museum

Three 2CVs

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Gallic glory

The Mullin is usually only open by reservation only. It’s open to the public twice a month, usually on the second and fourth Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for £15.

It’s a great look at cars that were rare on American roads in their day, and almost nonexistent now. If the hike out to Oxnard isn’t in your plans, check out the gallery above.


In his alternate life as a travel writer, Geoff does tours of cool museums and locations around the world including nuclear submarines, medieval castles, iconic music studios and more. You can follow his exploits on Twitter, Instagram and on his travel blog BaldNomad.

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