The Coolest Cars of the New Petersen Automotive Museum

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After a 14-month, multimillion-dollar redesign that included shrouding the exterior with ribbons of stainless steel and rebuilding 95,000 square feet of exhibition space inside, L.A.’s famed Petersen Automotive Museum has reopened its doors to reveal a breathtaking new collection of cars and motorcycles. The quality and diversity of the vehicles chosen for the opening support chairman Peter Mullin’s desire to make the Petersen one of the world’s greatest automotive museums. Here are some of the highlights. Precious Metal Exhibit Curated by L.A. car collector and Petersen Automotive Museum benefactor Bruce Meyer, the “Precious Metal” exhibit features a mouthwatering collection of exotic cars, all painted silver. In the foreground is the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 grand prix car fitted with the streamliner body used on high-speed tracks like Monza. Immediately behind it is the 1959 Sting Ray concept designed by legendary GM design boss Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda that previewed the iconic 1963 C2 Corvette. And in the background is a McLaren F1, plus one of the Aston Martin DB5s used in the James Bond film “Goldfinger.” 1932 Ford Hot Rod by Doane Spencer Built in 1944 by Doane Spencer, this 1932 Ford is one of the seminal hot rods and is regarded by many as the quintessential expression of the form. The Doane Spencer car became the blueprint for countless ’32 Ford hot rods built over subsequent decades. Special features include a DuVall windshield and Lincoln brakes. BMW Art Car by Alexander Calder One of three BMW art cars on display, this 3.0 CSL was painted by American artist and sculptor Alexander Calder at the request of French race car driver and art collector Hervé Poulain, who drove the car in the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Calder car became the first of 17 BMWs painted by leading artists including Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Esther Mahlangu, and Michael Nelson Tjakamarra. McLaren M8 One of the greatest racing categories of all time was the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, or Can-Am, series of the late ’60s and early ’70s, and one of the greatest Can-Am race cars of them all was the McLaren M8 driven by New Zealanders Bruce McLaren and 1967 F1 world champion Denny Hulme. This M8D, which used a powerful Chevy V-8, was developed for the 1970 season. 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe With its emphasis on flamboyant French and French-bodied cars of the 1930s, the impeccably curated Peter and Merle Mullin Artistry gallery features a stunning array of beauties, including the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic coupe in the foreground. This is one of just two supercharged Type 57SCs originally built and is worth about $40 million. 1954 Plymouth Explorer (with body by Carrozzeria Ghia of Turin) Detroit automakers harbored an infatuation with Italian designers and coachbuilders during the 1950s and built a number of Italian-bodied concept cars during the period. This is one of them, the 1954 Plymouth Explorer, with body by Carrozzeria Ghia of Turin. Ford Motor Company bought Ghia in 1970, and by the mid-’70s the storied Ghia name had sadly been reduced to a trim level on mundane models such as the Mustang II. Hirohata Mercury Coupe Like the Doane Spencer ’32 Ford hot rod, the Hirohata Mercury coupe is a touchstone vehicle of the hot rodding and custom car phenomenon that exploded into life in California in the 1940s and ’50s. A 1951 Mercury, it was customized for owner Bob Hirohata in 1952 by brothers George and Sam Barris. Among the key changes: The roof was lowered 4 inches up front and 7 inches at the rear. George Barris, who later created the original Batmobile, died on November 5. 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa Racer In the early 1990s, 85 percent of all Ferraris sold were painted red. Today, that percentage is closer to 45 percent. However, it’s still rare to find a racing Ferrari painted in any color other than the shade that was for decades the official racing color of Italy. Rarer still to find one of the most iconic Ferrari sports racers, the Testa Rossa, in anything but red. This 1957 example was raced by Americans John von Neumann and Richie Ginther, who, in the best hot rodding tradition, replaced the car’s original four-cylinder engine with a Ferrari V-12. 1933 Duesenberg SJ Arlington Torpedo Sedan The Duesenberg SJ and SSJ model were the Bugatti Veyrons of the 1930s: big, powerful, expensive, and, by the standards of the day, outrageously fast. This 1933 SJ Arlington Torpedo sedan, with body designed by the legendary Gordon Buehrig (who also designed the Auburn Speedster, Cord 810, and Continental Mk II), was built as a show car for the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. It was nicknamed “Twenty Grand” because of its price—$20,000, a staggering sum in Depression-era America. Ironically, in today’s money that’s the equivalent of about $366,000, considerably less than the Arlington Torpedo is now worth. 1939 Delahaye Type 165 (with bodywork by Figoni et Falaschi) French flamboyance doesn’t get much better than this: a 1939 Delahaye Type 165 with bodywork by Figoni et Falaschi. The car was part of France’s contribution to the 1939 New York World’s Fair and features Figoni et Falaschi’s trademark teardrop forms, chrome accents, and fully enclosed fenders. 1961 International Scout 60 It’s not all opulence and multimillion-dollar rarities at the revamped Petersen: This 1961 International Scout 60 is part of an exhibit that looks at vehicles that impacted the daily lives of Americans in various ways. This particular Scout is the 22nd ever built and is two-wheel drive. CadZZilla Another iconic custom in the Hot Rod and Customs Gallery, CadZZilla, built for ZZ Top guitarist and passionate hot rodder Billy Gibbons by the late Boyd Coddington in the late 1980s. CadZZilla started life as a mint 1948 Cadillac Sedanette. Its swooping lines were styled by Larry Erickson, who began his career in GM’s Advanced Studio and was later chief designer on the S197 Mustang. The Hot Rod and Customs Gallery also features a tribute to Robert E. Petersen, who founded Hot Rod in 1948 and Motor Trend in 1949 and established the Petersen Automotive Museum in 1994.