A Revisit to the Petersen Automotive Museum

Last week my dad was in town, mainly so we could attend a NASCAR race at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (while a historic location and event, it won’t be featured on the blog, but you can see a few snaps on Instagram), however we also went to Disneyland and visited a few museums, including the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Side of the Petersen, which is made up of small red ribs, and a sleek piece of silver metal across, which reads "Petersen" in cut out letters, and "Automotive Museum" below.

The side view of the swooping silver and red Petersen Automotive Museum as designed by Frank Gehry,

This wasn’t my first time to the Petersen, and while my last visit was a couple of years ago, a lot had changed. The Petersen has a lot to offer, and often can’t display everything they have, so they rotate cars, in addition to special, limited engagement exhibits, which during our visit was Bond in Motion, a collection of various cars (and more) seen in the James Bond films.

What is truly great about the Petersen is its depth and range, showcasing very early horseless carriages, race cars, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, various “dream cars” of the 1950s and 60s, including glorious concept art, the rough road of the electric car, stunning hypercars, and much, much more.

The "first practical car" a replica of an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagon, an open, three wheel contraption, with a small vertical handle used to steer.

A unique windscreen, a small circular piece of glass placed just above the steering wheel on the steering column.

A 1900 Smith Runabout, known here as an "early LA survivor" as it was hand made in LA. An open carriage, with four narrow wheels and a small handle to steer.

A 1903 California cycle, which was the first motor vehicle to travel across the United States. It appears more like a bicycle to the average viewer, with a small engine mounted to the center.

An early 50s black Ferrari sits in a wide open space in the museum, other cars visible in the distace.

Concept illustration for a futuristic car that looks more like a rocket boat. A mod looking man sits in the driver's seat, and a woman stands out front.

And early electric car known as "The Shopper" from 1960. A small, almost glorified golf cart, painted blue with a white top, small little fins peek in the back.

The extremely futuristic back of one of the many hypercars on display.

A three-quarter angle of a white 2022 Hennessey Venom FS, with vicious red taillights, a scoops along the side with swift curves along the top.

The front of a black Ferrari peeks in from the left, while the back of a Lamborghini sits to the right.

During my previous visit, I arrived eager to see the Dale prototype that I knew the museum had in their Vault. Sadly, when viewing the Vault then I did not see the vehicle, nor did I see it on the museum floor. My dad and I toured the Vault during this visit and once again I did not see the Dale, and my heart sank. I even said aloud, “I hope it is on the museum floor, especially since there recently was a docu-series and transgender issues have come more to the forefront lately.” As we toured the remaining three floors of the museum I was overjoyed to see the Dale, along with the car that inspired it, on display with great dedication to its area.

The 1974 Clifft Commutercycle Prototype, a red vehicle that almost appears like an odd race car, with wheels set far away from the body, which is of a very low profile.

The yellow Dale prototype, from 1974, which features four headlights, and three wheels. Behind it the wall features a blown up illustration of the concept.

The yellow Dale prototype, from 1974, which features four headlights, and three wheels. Behind it the wall features a blown up illustration of the concept.

Some of you may remember the story from when we went to the car wash promoting the HBO docu-series, The Lady and the Dale, but I’ll give you a brief rundown of what makes this car so very interesting… In 1973 the United States was met with its first oil crisis, and in 1974 Dale Clifft, an engineer living in the San Fernando Valley attempted to create a fuel efficient car, combining motorcycle parts and custom made elements, he dubbed it the Commutercycle. This failed, and when Liz Carmichael met Clifft, she decided to make another fuel efficient car, and name it after Clifft, dubbing it the “Dale” under her Twentieth Century Motor Car Company. With three wheels, and claiming to get 70 miles to the gallon, the Dale received a lot of attention and interest, with Carmichael collected over $2 million from eager investors. After the murder of one of Twentieth Century’s salesmen, the company got even more attention, and soon investigators found out the prototypes were not much more than a fiberglass body with a generator engine, and doors put on with house door hinges. Twentieth Century Motor Car Company was ordered by the California Superior Court to produce a working model, and that is when Carmichael fled. She returned to her home to see her children and was arrested in 1977. Her identity as as a transgender woman was outed without her consent when she was put on trial, where she was found guilty of multiple counts of grand theft, fraud and conspiracy. After posting a $50,000 bail, she disappeared. It wasn’t until a 1989 episode of Unsolved Mysteries aired that she was found. A viewer recognized Carmichael as a woman who had a flower business in Texas, and she was arrested, put on trial, and served 18 months in prison. If you’re curious to learn more about this unique piece of automotive and transgender history, I highly recommend the docu-series The Lady and the Dale on HBO.

I am a big James Bond fan, and was excited that my dad’s visit fell while the Bond in Motion exhibit was going on. My dad introduced me to James Bond when I was ten with Diamonds Are Forever before my first visit to Las Vegas. Diamonds ranks among one of my favorites, so I was happy to see one of the Mustang Mach 1s used in the chase through Vegas, a total of three were used in the film. My mom’s favorite Bond film is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which stars one of my favorite actresses, Diana Rigg, and it was neat to see her character’s car, the ’69 Mercury Cougar XR-7. While the older Bond films are great, I really love Daniel Craig’s Bond, with Skyfall being my absolute favorite, and it was neat to see some of the new Aston Martins from the Craig films, including the 2006 DBS that set a new record for most cannon rolls when it crashed in Casino Royale, as well as the Aston from No Time to Die.

Overall view of the James Bond display, with large text on the wall reading "Bond in Motion"

The classic silver 1964 Aston Martin DB5, as seen in various James Bond films. Behind it a photo of Sean Connery as James Bond.

The classic silver 1964 Aston Martin DB5, as seen in various James Bond films, the two door sports car sits with small taillights that rise upward slightly from the back.

The 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 as seen in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and driving by Diana Rigg's character. The red car features black details on the hood, including the silver head of a cougar in the center.

The 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 as seen in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and driving by Diana Rigg's character. The red car features black details on the hood, including the silver head of a cougar in the center.

The 1971 Ford Mustang Mac 1, as seen in the chase through Las Vegas in Diamonds are Forever. While all red in the film, it later received some black details on the hood and along the side.

The 1974 AMC Hornet Hatchback as seen in the incredible spinning jump in The Man with the Golden Gun. The orange car features small yellow stripes along the upper side.

The 1977 Lotus Espirit S1, which is converted into a submarine known as "Wet Nellie" for The Spy Who Loved Me. The white sports car features small little fins where the wheel wells would be, as well as along the back, and shutters over the windows.

The 2002 Aston Martin Vanquish, driven by Pierce Brosnon's James Bond, seen here outfitted with guns popping up from the hood and missiles from the grill.

The wrecked 2006 Aston Martin DBS as seen in Casino Royale, which made a new record for number of cannon rolls with a car.

The newest Aston Martin from No Time to Die, extremely sleek with very low profile.

One of my favorite LA museums, the Petersen is located along Miracle Mile at 6060 Wilshire Boulvard. Visit the website for further details on the Petersen, including ticket sales. It should be noted that the Vault is a separate ticket, and one I recommend if you are wanting to see Ed Roth’s iconic Outlaw, a real Tucker, and film cars such as Christine from Christine, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and Greased Lighting from Grease, along with many more amazing cars. Sadly, photography is not allowed inside the Vault. Additionally, the website doesn’t state when the Bond exhibit will be leaving, but I recommend a visit sooner rather than later!

What’s Nearby?

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

El Coyote Cafe

La Brea Tar Pits

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