Throughout his life, Richard “Dick” Marconi has always carried a phrase his mother regularly said to him when he was growing up: “Being second in anything is being first in a long line of losers.”
In 1959, Dick Marconi had $500, his degree, and a ’54 Chevy to his name; he used the last item to haul himself and his young family from his hometown of Gary, Indiana, to California to pursue his career aspirations. Once he arrived in the radiant Golden State, he started working—and quickly excelling—as a salesman for a pharmaceutical company. Dick worked tirelessly at business, eventually founding and building one of the top nutrition-based companies in the world.
Marconi then set about forming one of the finest car collections in the world, which eventually encompassed more than 70 classic, high-performance, exotic, vintage, and racing cars, as well as motorcycles and racing memorabilia. Adding to a growing list of accomplishments, Dick Marconi qualified and raced professionally in the 1994 Long Beach Grand Prix. He finished in eighth place and was the oldest driver to ever compete.
Another important mantra Marconi has lived by—instilled in him by his father—is “Learn, Earn, and Return.” The words formed the basis of his decision in 1994 to donate his entire car collection and the building housing it to establish The Marconi Automotive Museum and Foundation for Kids. The nonprofit (whose CEO is Dick’s wife, Priscilla “Bo” Marconi) serves at-risk children’s charities both in Orange County and throughout Southern California, including ALS Guardian Angels, Boys and Girls Town, and Covenant House California, among many more. The museum generates funds by hosting annual fundraisers, accepting visitor donations, and renting museum space for special events. MFK’s goal is to raise $1 million annually to donate directly to children’s charities.
At the museum entrance, you’re met by a colorful stable of motorcycles, with Ducatis being the most plentiful—fitting given Marconi’s Italian heritage. When you get past the main corridor and walk into the warehouse, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, American muscle, and Formula 1 race cars await. Among the rarities inside are a 1991 Cizeta Moroder V16T (1 of 8), 2010 Lamborghini Murciélago SV, 1996 Ferrari FX (1 of 6), and a 1974 Maserati Bora.
Another interesting find is boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya’s custom 1991 GMC Sierra, a pickup truck he customized to celebrate his gold medal win at the 1992 Olympics. The truck has a 24-karat-gold-plated sound system built into the bed, an airbrushed portrait of the champ on the hood, and hydraulics. One of the coolest items at the Marconi, though, hangs in a glass case: an orange Gulf jacket worn by Steve McQueen during the filming of Le Mans. There’s also a horse sculpture by Chicago artist John Kearney called “Bumpers”; it was constructed from, well, bumpers and inspired the museum’s logo.
The Marconi Automotive Museum is located in Tustin, California, and is the most special car museum I’ve had the pleasure to visit. The staff’s dedication, hard work, and fundraising for childrens’ charities puts the facility in a league of its own. No admission fee is required to take a tour, however there is a suggested donation of five dollars per person. (Kids 12 and under get to visit for free, of course.) Museum visiting hours are Monday through Friday, except on days where there is an event being held. If you plan to stop by, it’s important to note that the Marconi is not open to the public on weekends.
Get inspired by browsing the photo gallery below!
Marconi Automotive Museum
1302 Industrial Drive
Tustin, CA 92780