What is happening to our Classic Car Hobby?

The original exterior of the Petersen Museum was arguably not beautiful but it was typical of the architecture at the time of the birth of hot rodding and the car culture in Southern California.

Every time Ford Aero Car enthusiasts get together the topic of the value of our cars eventually comes up. There are mixed opinions about what the cars should be worth compared to other collector cars especially the MOPAR winged cars. Generally, it seems that everyone agrees they will not sell their prized possession for the current going rate but they would like to purchase a car better than theirs for the going prices of the day. What does this have to do with “What is happening to our Classic Car Hobby?”  I will get to that a little later but first some background.

The new facade for the Museum does not have a name on it anywhere and the architecture provides no clue as to what is inside the building.

I think the problem may be just a bit bigger than our Fords and Mercs. Katrina and I recently traveled to California to visit family. Having lived there for over 20 years it really it not a big deal fpr us to travel back there. We avoid all the typical tourist spots such as Disney Land and Hollywood etc. However, there are a couple of exceptions. We always enjoyed visiting the Wally Parks NHRA Museum in Pomona and the Petersen Museum in LA. Pictures and reviews of these Museums can be found on our other web site www.LegendaryCollectorCars.com.

There is one sign on the outside by the entrance to the parking garage that simply says “Peterson”.

Briefly I will say the NHRA Museum was better than I have ever seen it. We had a terrific time there. I wish I could say the same for the Petersen.

As you may know, upon the death of  Robert E. Petersen and his wife Margie the Museum Board of Directors determined that the Museum needed a change. Under Robert Petersen’s leadership the museum that bares his name was about the car culture in Southern California. For many enthusiast, this was where hot rods, custom cars and the car culture were born. The Petersen Museum depicted that history through dioramas and changing car collections and displays. There were always some magnificent examples of the American Hot Rod, Muscle Cars, Sports Cars and even Low Riders and VWs. It was where the ever changing displays captured the youth of the car hobby. You might see an Art Deco French Curve car or a George Barris custom creation but you knew it was S CA inspired and an enthusiasts car.

One of the concept cars by Chrysler.

Unfortunately, it appears the current leadership of the Museum seems to believe that they must look beyond S CA and honor the World of Cars. All cars from all over the World should be represented. There also seems to be a strong influence from certain manufactures who may or may not be helping sponsor certain displays.

Toyota had multiple big displays in the Museum. This is a very historic and valuable Toyota but they were not a big influence in America.

There were but a very few hot rods on display, a few “Movie and TV” cars, no muscle cars and very few American cars. There were a large number of old Toyota’s and other non-American manufactured cars. It was not all a waste, there were some fabulous cars including a couple of Chrysler prototypes from the 50s and an original Ford GT40 along side a new Ford GT.

One of a very few hot rods on display.

However, the Petersen Museum has gone from near the top of our list of favorite car museums to one that we will not again visit.

Now for our take away from this visit and to get back to the question asked in the title of this article, “What is happening to our Classic Car Hobby?”  As we toured the Museum we began to watch the other visitors. Then as we had lunch at a table outside the Museum restaurant it became very clear. The World is changing and the Classic Car Hobby is no longer the same. Car enthusiast are not limited to one ethnic group or one particular race. Our hobby is not shrinking, it is changing and growing. This is not a bad thing it just isn’t the same anymore. There were a very large number of young people and young families present. The crowds were larger than we remember seeing there in the past and they were far more diverse.

Low Riders were and are a big part of S CA car culture. Even these were represented by only two cars as I remember.

Our Ford Talladega and Mercury Spoiler II cars are not just fighting for attention against Daytona and Superbird competitors they are also fighting for attention against collector cars from other countries. You and I may not take a second look at some Toyota performance car we have never seen before but there are Japanese car enthusiasts who grew up lusting over that car as much as we did our Ford products.

Here are some of what we typically found in the Museum that arguably had little to do with historical American Car Culture.

In my humble and somewhat limited opinion, I believe the car hobby will survive. I believe the enthusiasm for our cars will spread and grow. I believe the prices of our cars and the demand for them is significantly more than a few short years ago and is increasing at a healthy speed. I believe “What is happening to our Classic Car Hobby” is that it is rapidly diversifying. There are more enthusiasts out there but they are looking at a much bigger menu of potential Classic Cars than we ever imagined.

I understand why the Petersen Museum has changed. It now has a much wider public appeal and is most likely more successful. But, I miss what it once represented and what it used to be!

Do you agree or disagree?

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About the Author: Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood relate to cars. I still remember when things happened based on what car I was driving at the time. I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I was a Corvette fanatic for years but then re-discovered vintage American Muscle. My wife, Katrina, and I decided we wanted to focus on unique and rare muscle cars. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Ford Blue Oval Aero Cars. These were only built in 1969 and and aerodynamics became an important part of winning races. The only purpose of these limited production cars was to win NASCAR races using the Boss 429 and 427 power plants complimented with a special, wind cheating, aerodynamic body. The Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II are terrific and historic cars. This site is devoted to these car and their owners past and present. We provide an Online Registry for recording the long term history and ownership of every remaining Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II.

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  1. Lou says:

    My take on it is what Elvis said when asked what he thought of the Beatles leading the British invasion-
    “There’s room for everybody”.
    Put another way, President Kennedy said”We’re all breathing the same air”, just like our cars.
    Part of the car guy thing is to think a car is worth more than it is or the rarest of the rare.And what if that’s not the case?The sky’s not going to fall in. 100 years from now I doubt if these cars will even be thought of. The best thing is to just go have fun and not worry about all of this.

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