The Petersen Automotive Museum, January 2016

David G. Fox


Sunday of the Grand National Roadster Show was projected to be quite wet. I had done pretty much all I could with the primary show inside the Fairplex buildings on Friday and Saturday, and I felt the rain would likely keep cruise in attendance outdoors down, so it seemed like a good idea to head west and visit the Petersen. I had been there numerous times in the past, usually for a quick sprint around the facility, visiting familiar displays and viewing the special exhibits available at the time. This visit, including a guided trip through "The Vault," I spent the entire day. Argue as you will about changes made inside, outside, and to focus, there is no question that the Petersen is now a world-class museum.

To learn about what is currently happening at the Petersen, the extent of the museums holdings, etc., please visit their website. Exhibitions at the Petersen change; expectations were that the major exhibits described below would likely be in place throughout 2016.

Special Exhibit Precious Metal

The defining feature of this exhibit is silver paint. Well, silver paint plus extreme rarity, extreme value, etc. The group was assembled from museum collections (e.g. the GM Heritage Collection and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and individual owners.


1954 Mercedes Benz W196. One of fifteen Grand Prix cars with 290 HP fuel injected inline eight cylinder engines. Fangio and Moss won 9 of 12 races in 1954 and 1955 driving W196s.






1959 Chevrolet Corvette XP-87 Stingray Racer. A Bill Mitchell idea car, this is one of one.






1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic. One of eight Ghia-bodied cars built, it is powered by a 125 HP two-liter aluminum V8.






1957 Ferrari 625/250 Testa Rossa. Originally powered by a 2.5 liter, four cylinder grand prix motor, this car had a factory built three liter Colombo V12 placed within the beautiful Scaglietti body in 1958. It is considered to be the winningest Ferrari ever.






1964 Aston Martin DB5. One of two original Bond movie cars.




1954 Ferrari 375 Mille Miglia. First owned by Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman, this car began life as a 375 MM barchetta, but was rebodied as a coupe by Scaglietti after suffering damage.






1933 Duesenburg SJ Arlington Torpedo Sedan by Rollston. The car called "Twenty Grand" because it was the first to command that price when new. The engine is a 320 HP supercharged straight eight.






1937 Horch 853 Sport Cabriolet, with coach work by Voll and Ruhrbeck.




1938 Hispano-Suiza Dubonnet Xenia. One of one constructed.




1995 McLaren F1. This is one of 64 road-going F1s. Low weight, low drag, and 627 HP equals 243 MPH.




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Special Exhibit Nearburg Selection

The selection of vehicles from the Nearburg Collection of storied race cars begins with a 1926 jewel from Harry Miller. It has front wheel drive and a supercharged 1.5 liter inline eight registering 250 HP.




Fangio's 1953 Lancia D24R Panamericana winner.




1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ with tube frame (T) and Zagato aluminum body (Z). One of ten factory competition cars.




1969 Porsche 917K.




The Nearburg exhibit is augmented by a theater-in-the-round presentation of film clips (projected on the walls) celebrating all forms of automobile racing.


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Special Exhibit Rolling Sulpture



Everyone did Art Deco automotive design, but the French, in the 1930s, took it to the highest levels. The Rolling Sculpture exhibit gathers cars from several collections, and a few of the cars are not so French. Many are prestigious award winners.


1939 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante.




1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. Pardon my indulgence with "Jean Bugatti's masterpiece."












1938 Delahaye Type 135M by Figoni et Falaschi.




1939 Delahaye Type 165 by Figoni et Falaschi. Cheat the drag by winding down the wind screen.




1939 Bugatti Type 57C by Vanvooren. This Petersen-owned car originally was a gift to the Prince of Persia (the future Shah of Iran) by the French government on the occasion of his first wedding.






1953 Delahaye Type 178 by Chapron.




1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet by Pinin Farina.




1938 Bently "Streamlined for Speed."




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Rods & Customs

Yes, there still are hot rods and custom cars in the Petersen Museum. You know 'em, you love 'em. I'm calling the Round Door Rolls a custom; it is the only one ever built.














One of many teaching moments available in the museum before and after on the early Merc convert.






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More Road Art

1947 Cisitalia 202 Coupe. A certified work of art designed by Pinin Farina.




1913 Mercer Type 35-J Raceabout.




1954 Plymouth Explorer by Ghia.






1975 BMW 3.0 CSL with paint by Alexander Calder from the BMW and the Art of the Automobile exhibit.




1967 Ford GT40 Mark III road car, followed by the 2017 Ford GT.






Ford flathead hot rod motor, followed by a circa 1965 Ford Indy motor.






This 1927 Indian Big Chief, a former Steve McQueen bike, is now part of the Petersen Collection.




1970 Triumph Bonneville T120RT. One of 206 special motorcycles built for racing homologation in the U.S.




Robert E. Petersen the publisher's tribute wall.




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Special Exhibit Precious Metal

Special Exhibit Nearburg Selection

Special Exhibit Rolling Sulpture

Rods & Customs

More Road Art

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