Petersen Automotive Museum

Editor’s Note: Our “expert of the auctions”, Bob Seidler, recently visited the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and sent in this report. This was only after texting me far more photos than I can run and making me extremely jealous in the process.

For all of us car buffs out there, be sure to add the Petersen Automotive Museum to your must-see list.  Over the years, I had heard it was a pretty cool place, and I can now confirm…it is the best automotive viewing experience I‘ve ever had.  While many of us have visited museums where the cars are lined up and little ID plates tell the basic facts, The Petersen takes visitor engagement to a new level.  Lots of detail and the cars are displayed in a manner that you can walk around them.  Most are on raised platforms that really aid in photography.

Petersen Museum Steve McQueen 1956 Jaguar XKSS

The Petersen Automotive Museum is the creation of Robert E. Petersen of Petersen Publications.  While they produce magazines on many topics, we all know then as publishers of Hot Rod and Motor Trend.  Many of the cars are from his personal collection, there are many others on loan or donated by collectors and philanthropists.

As for the British influence, let’s remember The Peterson is located in Los Angeles and Petersen’s personal collection tends to the American car industry.  However, for us Anglophiles, there were two stunning vehicles from the other side of the pond.

First, how many of you are familiar with the 1925 Round Door Rolls-Royce?  Well, neither am I…it’s a 1 of 1, the only one of its kind.  While originally purchased for an American heiress, it was soon back on the continent and re-bodied in 1934 by a Belgium coachbuilder. Its round doors, sloping radiator and large fin were stunning for the day; it won the Concours d’Elegance of Cannes in 1936.

Petersen Museum - Rolls-Royce Round Door

And like so many cars of the era, war and economic hardship took its toll.  It was found derelict in a New Jersey wrecking yard in the early 1950’s.  Fortunately, it was rescued and is now a star in the Petersen Collection.  What the pictures cannot fully reveal is its presence… it is a very large vehicle that belies its massive size with elegant and graceful lines.

Petersen Musuem - Round Door Rolls-Royce

And at the other end of the automotive scale is Steve McQueen’s stunning 1956 Jaguar XKSS, reported to be his favorite car.  And for a guy that had a virtually unlimited appetite for cars that says a lot.  Many of us know the story of the XKSS as a thinly-veiled race car and a predecessor to the beloved XKE.  McQueen was a capable mechanic and did most of his own work.  And apparently his test drives garnered him quite a reputation among the police patrolling Mulholland Drive; multiple speeding tickets in the first year of ownership nearly cost him his license.  Now I’m no Steve McQueen, but the story reminds me of my first TR3 with headers, exhaust cut-out and velocity stacks…three tickets in the first 90 days!!

Petersen Museum Steve McQueen Jaguar

Finally, just to prove that God must be British, there was a meeting of the Los Angeles MOG, which is as we all know, is the Morgan Owners Group.  As you might expect, it was a fairly eclectic group of mature men of a certain age, and the aroma of over-rich SU carburetors hung heavy in the air.  Rule Britannia!!

Petersen Museum - Morgans

So while there are many reasons to visit California, be sure to add the Petersen Automotive Museum to your LA itinerary.

Bob Seidler
Business Consultant
Bob is a classic car fan and long-time British car enthusiast. His areas of expertise range from hotel and resort management to automobile auctions and car values.