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Mullin Museum auction hits the heights

Sporadically frenzied bidding guaranteed that the Gooding & Co auction of cars from the now-closed Mullin Museum in Oxnard, California lived up to the pre-sale hype. With Gooding having sold an initial batch of 20 ‘Mullin’ cars during its Amelia Island sale in February, a significant quantity of the contents of the museum – more than 100 lots, but a mere amuse bouche for what is yet to come – went under the hammer on location on 26 April. In truth there was only one blockbuster car from the collection up for grabs on this occasion – the Type 57 Aravis Cabrio – but this was the sale where project car hunters hoped to get a bargain, and a few of them did.

As soon as the sale got underway there was little time for wistful nostalgia about the loss of the museum or the breaking up of one of the world’s greatest car collections following the death of Peter Mullin last autumn, but is was still sad to see a French- and Deco-focused collection built up over decades scattered so rapidly to the winds.

It got off to a fairly slow start with a 1984 Citroën 2CV raising $22,000 and then a 1926 Renault Type PG topping out at $28,000. The first ‘big’ lot was a $160,000 1935 Bugatti Type 57 Galibier (above) formerly of the Schlumpf Reserve Collection and in need of total restoration.

After that the pace picked up pretty rapidly and the first big shock came when another ex-Schlumpf car, a 1937 Bugatti Type 40 shooting brake, trounced a $100-150,000 reserve to make $400,000. Just four lots later, sale fever kicked in properly when the star lot, the 1938 T57C Aravis cabrio, sold for $6 million. 

Big bucks bargain of the auction might have been lot 44, the 1937 Delage D8-120 cabrio that made $660k against an $800,000-1m estimate. At the other end of the scale, a multicoloured 1928 Citroën B14 coupé (estimate $20-30,000) looked excellent value at $12,000.

Mullin’s beloved 1957 Mercedes-Bens 300SL, which he drove regularly, made a square $1m, as did a 1930 Bugatti Type 46 semi-profilée coupé, while the well-known and super-elegant 1933 Hispano-Suiza J12 Vanvooren cabrio (two below) made a below bottom estimate $2.1m. 

There were a good few non-car lots including a replica multi-tube Bugatti bicycle by Art Stump ($4-8000) that made $15,000 and a 1946 Bugatti Type 75 You-You boat, which sold for $50,000. 

The cheapest lot most likely to re-emerge as the most expensive was a repro Bugatti Type 41 ‘Royale’ chassis, which made just $3500. Maybe it went to the same bidder who bought the Bugatti Autorail engine (which was a modified Type 41 motor) for $56,000. 

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