Monday, March 31, 2014

On the Road: Los Angeles Museums

Hanging out with the Hannibal from "The
Great Race," at the Petersen Museum
by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Last week I traveled to Los Angeles to attend the 2014 National Association for Automobile Museums annual conference. This year’s meeting took place at the Petersen Automotive Museum and was held in conjunction with the World Forum for Motor Museums. It was a great opportunity to meet with museum professionals from the U.K., Greece, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and around North America. 

Liberace's 1962 Rolls-Royce Phantom V Landau
Limousine at the Petersen Museum. He had it
custom built to match one of his pianos.
The Petersen Museum was a fabulous host and allowed us to tour their Vault and numerous exhibits. It was nice to see their museum and displays before they begin their ambitious renovation later this year. It was hard to choose a favorite car among their displays, but those related to the movies and celebrities ranked high on my list. Their town car display was also fantastic.

1936 Toyota Classic Model AA
(replica) at the Toyota Museum

In addition to a series of presentations (including an excellent one by the National Corvette Museum about their recent sinkhole incident), we were able to tour several other museums and collections. First up was the Toyota Museum, which hosted our Tuesday reception.

 So-Cal Speed Shop belly tank lakester and motorcycles
in the Bruce Meyer Collection.

On Wednesday our first stop was at the Bruce Meyer Collection, located behind a nondescript door in an alley by Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Mr. Meyer has a fascinating collection, including Le Mans racers, hot rods, a wall of motorcycles, and lofty marques like Bentley, Porsche, Jaguar, Duesenberg and Ferrari.

From there we traveled to Pasadena to visit the Transportation Department at the Art Center College of Design. A significant percent of the world's automotive designers graduate from this program, and it was interesting to see the students in action.
Student work at the Art Center College of Design

Next up was the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, where we started our tour in their Lower and Grand Salons. Founder J.B. Nethercutt, who made his fortune with Merle Norman Cosmetics, and his son Jack Nethercutt have amassed a superb collection, housed in the salons and across the street in the Nethercutt Museum. This was my third visit to the Nethercutt, and every trip there I discover something new. I especially enjoyed perusing their collection of Cadillacs this time.

1930 Ruxton at the Nethercutt Collection
On Friday, we cruised up the Pacific Coast Highway to Oxnard, where we toured the Mullin Automotive Museum. I have been here once before and was really looking forward to seeing it again. Our visit was marred, however, by an employee who did a great job at making us feel very unwelcome. She even gave Edsel Ford II a hard time about his tour reservation. It was a reminder about how your museum's front-line employees set the tone for each visitor’s experience, which turned out to be quite negative for me and many others at this stop.

Despite the sour tone, the cars (and Rembrandt Bugatti’s sculptures) were stunning and we had an excellent docent guide. Unfortunately, most of the cars lacked signs, so I don't remember what they were besides Bugattis.

1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic at the Mullin Museum, 
reportedly purchased for over $30 million.

Our final destination was Mike and Barbara Malamut’s private collection, which included a delightful mix of vintage Porches, Volkswagons, Messerschmitts, BMW Isettas, many other cars, and a lot of memorabilia. Alas, they asked that we not post photos on line. Although this collection is not open to the public, hopefully some day you will get to see it as part of a group tour, especially since the Malamuts are very delightful hosts.

Round Door Rolls-Royce in the Petersen
Museum Vault. More info here.
I will post more photos from my trip on our Facebook page later this week. Kudos to Leslie Kendall and the Petersen Museum for putting on such a great conference!

Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying right here at Wedgewood Resort. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!

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