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