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The Petersen Museum ... closed until the end of 2015

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso


The Petersen Museum is situated at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard in northern Los Angeles, very close to Hollywood and Beverly Hills. However, don’t try and make a visit there until the end of 2015, as it closed on 19 October 2014 for a major multi-million dollar refurbishment programme, but don’t worry, the majority of the cars that feature in the gallery of images will still be there, and will probably be joined by some additional exhibits. Thus this article is a last chance to see the museum the way it was just before its temporary closure, and at the same time provides an idea of what one will be able to see in different surroundings in the future. One of the features that won’t be in the revised layout was a temporary exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, along with the “Arriving in Style” town cars display.

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A 20th anniversary celebration dinner was held on Saturday 18 October, with a concert featuring The Beach Boys, who played a selection of their most well known songs, including motor themed ones like “Little Deuce Coupe”. At the charity fund raising dinner, the museum Chairman, Peter Mullin, said that the museum would re-open on schedule on 01 December 2015. Part of the refurbishment programme is to install a 1500 square feet Forza Motorsport Experience feature, which will allow visitors to choose a car from the museum, match it to a race track, and have a simulated race driving experience in the car.

The museum was founded in 1994 by Robert E. Petersen and his wife Margie, who died in 2007 and 2011 respectively, and is run by a non profit organisation, the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation. Part of the work of the foundation is to provide educational tours of the museum free to school children, including transport for the visits, so that they can understand the history and culture of the automobile, and its effect on everyday life, both then and now.

Robert E. Petersen was co-founder of Hot Rod magazine in 1947, when he noticed a gap in the market for this then new trend. As the saying goes, “from little acorns mighty oaks grow”, and his Petersen Publishing company then went on to produce a variety of related titles like Car Craft, Rod & Custom, Sports Car Graphic and a number of other titles, not all car related, but which were essential reading for the enthusiasts of the day. From the nature of the magazines that he produced, it can be seen that the art of the hot rod and custom car are staple produce of the museum exhibits, similarly, given its location, cars of the stars also feature heavily, but not to the exclusion of other historically significant vehicles. As the museum guide brochure states, “The Petersen Automotive Museum is dedicated to the exploration and presentation of the automobile and its impact on American life and culture using Los Angeles as the prime example”....... “The vehicles on display reflect decades of period styles interwoven with technological developments”.

Photography is not normally permitted in the vault, as the cars aren’t prepared for display, and they are parked in rows, which doesn’t show them in their best light. However, we were given permission to take pictures to emphasise the breadth of the cars in the collection, and there were certainly some interesting cars with equally interesting stories. As an example, both the Jaguar XKR and the Aston Martin in the James Bond film “Die Another Day” were built on Ford Explorer 4WD chassis’ to cope with the dramatic chase scene across the ice. There is also the only example of “the car that never was”, in as much as that it was built as a bright yellow mock-up 3 Wheeler, solely with the intention of getting people to invest money in the project, after which it was a case of “take the money and run”! Another oddity was a gold plated De Lorean, one of only three examples built, because the cost of the gold plating raised the price so much, that there were barely any takers for the idea. Then there was the stretched Cadillac Convertible built as a Popemobile, but never used, a customised Ford Mustang with faux zebra skin upholstery, used by Nancy Sinatra in the 1965 film “Marriage on the Rocks”, a trio of Indy cars, the ex-Steve McQueen Jaguar XK SS, and the list goes on.

In its present form it certainly succeeds, with a variety of permanent and temporary exhibitions, normally with around 150 cars and motorcycles on display, plus a similar number in the basement vault, which are periodically cycled with those in the main display areas, to provide a fresh look for visitors. Due to the large number of vehicles in the vault, optional tours are available to visitors who want the full experience of what the museum has in its inventory.

Further information on the refurbishment work and re-opening can be found at www.petersen.org


Keith Bluemel