Almost 7 years after our last visit it was time to get back to LA in January and see the refurbished museum
that became a new landmark of the city within a short time. The former concrete outside of the building was
modernized to give the museum a new futuristic design for the years to come. But not only the outside was
changed also the inside was redesigned exchanging the permanent exhibition of the dioramas into modern
space for temporary exhibitions. Looking over the members board and the name of the rooms it is the
who-is-who of the Californian collectors scene with the names of Mullin, Walton, Meyers and Sydorick proudly
gracing the exhibition space.
Just over the last two years two major sports car manufacturer turned 70 and both of them were honoured with
a special exhibition in the Petersen. In 2017 it was Ferrari to celebrate their 70th with Porsche to follow in
2018 and just like Ferrari had a big party in their hometown Porsche celebrated among other venues at the
Rennsport Reunion in California. At the Petersen early in January the Porsche exhibition was just around the
corner replacing the selection of Bugatti from the Mullin Automotive Museum that was shown on the lower
level in the “Peter and Merle Mullin Artistry Floor”. Beside the furniture of father Carlo Bugatti and the
sculptures of Rembrandt Bugatti certainly the creations of Ettore and son Jean Bugatti took the centre stage
of the exhibition. Although the “holy grail”, the Bugatti T57 SC Atlantic, was already gone at the end of the
exhibition the display featured great cars ranging from an early T23 Brescia, a wonderful T44 Fiacre and
several T57 including the flamboyant Vanvooren Cabriolet from the Petersen’s own collection. Jean Bugatti’s
masterpiece, the Type 55 Roadster was there as well as was one of the very last cars to grace the name
Bugatti, the Type 101 that tried to resurrect the brand after the war. The Type 101 stayed a short last chapter
of the brands history just as the EB 110 manufactured in Italy should also become a footnote on the way to
the modern time of the Volkswagen group.
Going up to the second floor the Ferrari exhibition was still up with several very interesting cars in a very well
set up presentation. Just as at the lower floor the cars were displayed on own platforms, surrounded by
historical pictures of the glory racing history of the marque with the prancing horse.
The very first Ferrari, the 125 S was on display, although this is a replica as the original car did not survive
followed by one of the most important and also most beautiful Ferrari of all time, the 166 MM. Beautiful
because of the masterful creation of the Barchetta body by Carozzeria Touring and most significant because
this very example from the Robert M. Lee collection did not only win the Mille Miglia in 1949 but also gave
Ferrari the very first Le Mans victory the same year.
But not just the very first but also the last Le Mans winner was present in the exhibition, the 250 LM brought
over from the Indianapolis Museum was the last car from Maranello to win first overall in 1965, this time
entered by Luigi Chinetti’s NART team, the very same man who gave Enzo the first victory 16 years earlier as
a driver leading to a long and successful partnership.
The US always was a very important market for Ferrari, be it for the sale of road cars or destination for their
racers. The 857 Sport for example left the Scuderia Ferrari after the 1955 season to go on racing on the other
side of the Atlantic in the hands of McAffee, Masten Gregory, Richie Ginther and Carroll Shelby who should
become a rival in the years called the Cobra-Ferrari war as well as later the battle with the Ford GT40s. One
of the most famous Ferrari racers is certainly the Pontoon fendered Testarossa although the body on the car
on show is recreated as the car lost its original body in the 1960s to be fitted with a Drogo Body.
But as said, also the street cars were imported in the US with some of them even carrying the name
Superamerica clearly showing the targeted market. Just like the 166 MM coming from the Lee Collection was
a one-off Boano bodied 410 Superamerica with fins, a very rare appearance on these Italian sports cars. Also
targeting the sunshine state the 250 GT California was introduced in the late 1950s. Just like the Porsche
Speedster this was actually the cheaper version compared to a Series One Cabriolet delivering less weather
protection in a sunnier environment. Today the California Spyder is one of the most sought after models of the
250 GT range and just like the GTO most examples are in the very prominent collections all around the world,
this one in the one of Rob and Melani Walton who are name giving for the second floor in the museum as well.
But not just open cars were on display but also a duo of GT cars including the 330 LMB and to represent the
GTO name the 599 GTO as the newest car. Furthermore a F248 F1 from the Schumacher era and the Chip
Connor collection rounded of the small but very interesting selection.
Leaving the two main exhibitions one could see further special displays of the Indian vs. Harley Davidson
history as well as children´s cars and the history of the low riders on the ground floor. Permanent exhibitions
include the very popular movie cars including Batmobile, “Herbie” and the Ferrari 308 GTS from the 80s series
“Magnum P.I.”, but also the alternative powered mobility of the past and the future.
Currently among others the “Porsche Effect” exhibition is still going on until April next year but the Petersen
Museum is not only worth a visit for the Porsche fans as there are few museums around the world that are as
elegant both outside and inside.
For more information please visit www.petersen.org
Report & Images ... Peter Singhof