Carcentric Museums in Southern California

All-American muscle on display at the Murphy in Oxnard, California.

There’s no shortage of museum space devoted to things that run on engines in Southern California.  Here’s our curated list.  If we missed one, let us know so we can include it.

AUTOMOBILE DRIVING MUSEUM, 610 Lairport Way, El Segundo. Wide range of years and types of vehicles, from turn of the century to modern.  Home of Shirley Muldowney’s dragster.  Small collection of British race cars. Every Sunday, guests are given rides in selected historics. Monthly themed events spotlight certain vehicles and draw in private collectors’ show cars – check the website as they are added frequently and to sign up for displaying yours.  On-site vintage ice cream parlor.  Old Packards and Lincolns are displayed in a very nicely recreated 1930s-1940s sales salon.

CALIFORNIA ROUTE 66 MUSEUM, 16825 South D St., Victorville.  760-951-0436.  Where to go to learn about the history of the Mother Road.  Free admission.

CREVIER CLASSIC CARS, 365-B Clinton St., Costa Mesa.  Many 1930s and 1940s Packards and other classics – both permanent collection and for sale. Free admission.

ESTRELLA WARBIRDS MUSEUM, 4251 Dry Creek Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446.  Off highway 46 near the Paso Robles airport.  Anything that flies, whether in the air or on the highway, can be found here. Beginning May 12, the museum starts an exhibit called “Warbirds Wings & Wheels” which features classic and vintage cars on display, an automotive swap meet, and a beer garden (why not).  Later this year there will be a show of vintage rail dragsters from the likes of Jack Gillett and the Schrank Brothers.  While you’re up there, taste some pinot noirs! (I suggest Justin….cheers!)

JUSTICE BROTHERS RACING MUSEUM, 2734 East Huntington Dr., Duarte.                  Tribute to the Southern California racing brothers Ed, Gus and Zeke.  More than 200 cars and racing memorabilia.  626-359-9174.

LYON AIR MUSEUM, 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana.  Not just planes – cars too.  Highlight may be the 1940 Helms bakery truck, used to deliver bread and pastries to homes in Southern California, back when such things were ordinary.  Sigh.

MARCONI AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM, 1302 Industrial Dr., Tustin.   Former racer Dick Marconi’s pet project.  70 vehicles in a nice open setting in a low-key industrial area. Lots of Ferraris, his favorite marque.

MINIATURE ENGINEERING CRAFTSMANSHIP MUSEUM, 3190 Lionshead Avenue, Carlsbad.  Authentic and faithful miniature reproductions of cars, planes, engines, ships, and more.  They even have my favorite – a rotary (Wankel) engine in small scale to demonstrate how it generates power.  Friendly docents are on hand to answer questions.  Free admission.

MOTO TALBOTT COLLECTION, 4 E. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley (No Cal).  Founder Robb Talbott got out of the winery and necktie businesses, and opened this museum in 2016 as a house for 140 vintage motorcycles, including flat track racing bikes, as well as vintage posters and motorcycle-related historical pieces and art.  $12 admission.

MULLIN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM, 1421 Emerson Dr., Oxnard. Founder Peter Mullin’s art deco-inspired home to vintage Bugattis and other one-of-a-kind classic cars, with an emphasis on European marques.  Visiting hours are second and fourth Saturdays and tours are set up during weekdays, by appointment only.  805-385-5400.

MURPHY AUTO MUSEUM,  2230 Statham Blvd, Oxnard.  Launched by founder Dan Murphy in 2012.  Variety of classic cars, vintage trailers, American muscle cars, a model railroad,  and vintage clothing displays; and red,white and blue motorcycle signed by Evel Knievel.  $9 suggested donation for entry fee.  (805) 487-4333       

NHRA / WALLY PARKS MOTORSPORTS MUSEUM, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona (at the Fairgrounds)    Extensive collection of race cars of all types and classics, together with many historical artifacts of drag racing.  Discounts for Auto Club members.  909-622-2133.

NETHERCUTT MUSEUM AND COLLECTION, 15151 and 15200 Bledsoe St., Sylmar.  Over 130 antique, vintage and classic cars, dating back to the turn of the century.  Free admission.

PETERSEN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM, 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.   The largest collection of cars in Southern California, housed in the former May Co. building in the Mid- Wilshire area.  Multiple collections on several floors of everything from Hollywood cars to one of a kind vehicles acquired by the museum.  Multiple ongoing exhibits, check the website.   Themed events monthly.   A must for anyone visiting the area.  Allow an entire morning or afternoon.

RIVERSIDE INTERNATIONAL AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM, 815 Marlborough Ave., Riverside.  Collection of race cars and memorabilia related to the former Riverside race track, Ontario speedway, and other California tracks that are gone with the wind.   [NOTE:  the website says that the museum is temporarily closed and the collection is being digitized, with the owners trying to arrange a permanent display location for the artifacts in the collection.  Check the website before going.  The plan is to have the collection on the website.]

WOODLAND AUTO DISPLAY, 4251 Dry Creek Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446 (same location as ESTRELLA WARBIRDS MUSEUM, above); (805) 238-9317.  Owner Dick Woodland has racing in his blood and a passion for cars. He can still be spotted and about out taking in a race. His passion shows in the cars on display.  He has Indy cars, including an original AAR Eagle built by the Gurneys, a Parnelli Jones roadster, dirt car racers (midgets and sprint cars), turn of the century concours-worthy grande dames, and hot rods. Not open every day, so check the website and call to confirm.  



updated 7/28/2019


TEST DRIVE REVIEW – California Crusin’ in the CX-5 to Mazda Raceway

By Michele Spencer

Road trip to Central California from Southern California, in six hours? It was no problem in a 2017 Mazda CX-5.  We’re talking about a Mazda, after all, with its “Driving Matters” mantra. I’m reminded of the children’s book about the little train engine that rallied to pull all the other train cars up and over the hill, called The Little Engine That Could.  I consider Mazda to be the Little Car Company That Does. This mid-size SUV crossover glides through the rough patches of the highway like they were nothing. Its quiet and roomy cabin, appointed with plenty of cup holders and bins for snacks and bottled water, front and rear USB ports, a telescoping heated leather steering wheel, and heated front and rear seats, made it an oasis of comfort for the drive up the 5 and the 101.  Five people would be very comfortable for a long drive in the CX-5.

Enhanced safety features that made it a worry free drive included the dynamic stability control and traction control systems, brake assist, back up camera, and the wonderful lane departure warnings – all standard on the top-of-the line tester, a Grand Touring.  (The base model is Sport; the mid-level trim is Touring.)

When I stopped for gas and snacks on the road, the cargo cover (optional, $250) snapped right into place over my suitcase so there would be nothing to see through the back hatch window, so there was one less thing to worry about as a solo traveler.  The infotainment system was easy to learn, with a combination of touch screen (7-inch pop up color display, nicely placed on the dash) and knob commands (in the console) for Bluetooth phone operation, music, navigation, and monitoring fuel consumption.

In stop and go LA traffic leaving town, I got 29.6 mpg, beating the sticker of 24 city, and on the open road, I got 33.5 mpg, beating the sticker of 31 highway, courtesy of the Skyactiv technology that is available on all trim levels.  I could have gone the entire drive without stopping for gas, which is a credit to the 2.5 liter four cylinder Skyactiv engine.

Active driving display on the front windshield shows the driver real time miles per hour and street signs in a holograph type display, but can be turned off easily if the driver finds the prompts annoying.  Climbing up the Grapevine, which takes a good 20 minutes, putting the CX-5 into sport mode enhanced the 187 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque for a strong ride up without hesitation or vibration, even with the air conditioning running. On-ramps were a breeze, as the Mazda DNA is all about handling.

As far as size, it’s between the Mazda CX-3 crossover and the CX-9 luxury grade SUV.  It is roughly the same size as a Lexus RX-350.

Base MSRP on the tester is $29,395.00, plus $1,830.00 for the premium package, $250 for the cargo cover, and the $940 delivery fee from Hiroshima, bringing the total MSRP to $32,785.00 as tested.  Compared with others in this segment it’s a bargain, considering the great ride quality, want-for-nothing interior amenities, and the five star government safety ratings.

The CX-5 proves once again that Mazda truly is the Little Car Company That DOES.

2017 Mazda CX-5

  •  Manufactured in Hiroshima, Japan.  Japanese parts=- 90%.
  • Warranty:  60 month/60K mile powertrain; 36 month/36K mile bumper to bumper
  • Also included, all trim levels:  24 hour roadside assistance
  • Spare Tire:  Temporary spare
  •  Wheels:  19 inch alloy.

Other interesting features, standard on the Grand Touring:  G-vectoring control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear wiper, heater power mirrors, LED headlights with auto on/off, rear roof spoiler, electronic parking brake, steering sensor, power open/close rear hatch, Bose 10 speaker system, split fold down rear seats.

Premium Package (on tester, $1,830): Driver seat memory with 2 positions, 6 way power front passenger seat, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, active driving display, and windshield wiper de-icer.