Murphy Auto Museum, Oxnard, to Close in July; Dozens of Antique, Vintage Cars Will Drive Off

Hard on the heels of the shuttering of the famed Mullin Museum, another Oxnard automotive landmark will be closing its doors. The nearby Murphy Auto Museum will cease operations in July after struggling with declining revenues for the past several years.

As reported by Brian Varela in the Ventura County Star, car enthusiasts have only a short time to take in the grandeur that is the Murphy.

The museum announced this week it will close for good July 7, so you still have a few more months to visit. Fortunately, last year LCOC members were able to join with their friends from the Great Autos car club to tour both the Mullin and the Murphy on a pleasant summer day. Little did we know at the time that, like the 5-cent candy bar, both would be fading into history soon.

Varela described the Murphy as a place that eases guests into its collection of antique and vintage vehicles. Visitors are first made giant by entering a room filled with die-cast cars and a large model train set that emits smoke and sound while moving through miniature cities and tunnels.

A collection of mid-20th century travel trailers then prepares visitors to witness about 40 vehicles kept in near-mint condition by private collectors and the museum.

David Neel, executive director of the Murphy Classic Car Collection, has led the nonprofit that operates the museum since 2014. He said it’s time for him to retire.

Oxnard Mayor John Zaragoza remembers the beauty of the cars and was saddened by another museum closure in the city. 

“For individuals who like cars, that was the place to go,” he said.

David Neel, left, executive director of the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, talks with Fireball Time Lawrence, director of automotive art, on April 15. The museum has been open since 2002 but will close in July. It is the second car museum to shutter in Oxnard this year.

Neel said he has tried to find an individual or a car club to take over the Murphy museum, but no one wants the responsibility. He also approached Oxnard and Ventura County staff about leasing one of their buildings at an affordable price.

Again, no one was interested.

“That would have allowed us to continue our mission without having to chase rent every month,” Neel said.

The museum has seen a decline in revenue in recent years, according to the nonprofit’s online tax filings. In 2020, the museum had a total revenue of nearly $281,000. That number fell to about $188,000 by 2022, according to the tax documents.

The museum is only open on the weekends and tickets cost $10 so most of its revenue comes from storage fees.

The museum features about 40 cars and trucks and seven travel trailers but most belong to private owners who pay to park their vehicles in the 14,000-square-foot building.

Once the facility closes, the collectors will pick up their vehicles. The four cars and two trailers that the nonprofit owns will be sold to pay off final expenses, Neel said.

Murphy Auto Museum’s sleek and shiny collection

Every year, the museum has seen about 10,000 visitors.

Some are enamored by the 1962 Volkswagen Beetle that has been restored into a replica of Herbie, the lovable Bug from the movie franchise of the same name.

Others see visions of Cruella de Vil from Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” cartoon chasing puppies when they see the white 1981 Excalibur that looks like a 1920s roadster.

The collection also features a 1931 Rolls Royce Phantom I Boattail Roadster with wooden paneling and whitewall tires that was owned by automotive designer Carroll Shelby.

This list goes on: a cheery 1969 Morris Minor Traveller Woodie, or what some guests call a “cartoon car,” and among the travel trailers: a one-of-a-kind 1927 Holt prototype still outfitted with original furniture, fixings and fittings. It’s dubbed “the oldest travel trailer in the world that has never been used.”

A 22-year-old vision

While the facility has been at its current location since 2019, Daniel Murphy started the concept in 2002 in Ventura. 

Noticing a lack of automotive museums in the county and a growing Packard luxury car collection in his garage, Murphy invited others to put their antique and vintage vehicles in a 13,000-square-foot museum.

Murphy eventually moved the museum to Oxnard and grew its square footage to 45,000 before reducing its size in the late 2000s. He later turned over the museum to Neel in 2014.

David Neel, executive director of the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, sits inside a 1948 Airstream Wee Wind on April 15. The museum is expected to close in July.

Murphy said the museum was a destination spot in the county because it attracted people who were restoring vehicles, typically those that belonged to family members. 

“It’s everyone’s kind of museum,” he said.

The Murphy Museum will continue to open on weekends from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. until July 7. It also hosts its regular car show on the third Sunday of every month.

The museum is located at 1930 Eastman Ave. near the corners of Rose Avenue and Fifth Street in Oxnard.

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