Take 10 priceless race cars from the quintessential car guy’s ultimate man cave, shut down Rodeo Drive in broad daylight and caravan to the Petersen. What do you get? One heck of a show-stopping exhibit. The Petersen staff and Founding Chairman Bruce Meyer have really outdone themselves with this one.

No offense to the good folks at Disneyland, but the Petersen is this car guy’s Happiest Place on Earth. Luckily Pixar built a beautiful education center and placed none other than Lightning McQueen at the Pete, so I don’t think I’ll be black-balled at the Mouse House anytime soon. In my mind Mickey Mouse is to Lightning as Peter Pan is to Bruce Meyer — the Petersen’s Founding Chairman who lends his full support to keep the Petersen rolling.

This month “full support” translated into putting 10 of his cherished race cars on display at the Petersen as the first installment of the three-part “California Collecting” exhibit series that will focus on three prominent SoCal collections. It doesn’t get much more prominent than Bruce’s collection so I pulled in a hall pass with the missus way in advance to make sure I was there for opening night.

Bruce Meyer with his 1957 Ferrari 625/250 Testa Rossa

The Petersen always does it right, thanks to their team (shoutout to Nikki and Heather at Kahn Media, who always roll out the red carpet). This night was no exception with what I presume was delicious food catered by the wonderful Drago restaurant on-site. I presume because the 210 West rarely allows me to make the hors d’oeuvre hour. No matter, because I was in for a much bigger treat— a “fireside chat” between Petersen Executive Director and all-around great guy Terry Karges and Bruce Meyer.

Never Lift

This fireside chat wasn’t just a discussion about cars, this was an insight into life as seen by Meyer. He explained why he loves hot rods (spoiler alert: they are fast, they are cool, and they are engineering marvels) and how he came to own such a varied collection (he buys cars he likes). He also shared the meaning of his “Never Lift” motto (for non-car people, it means never take your foot off the gas, go 1000%) and at the end wrapped with something that struck me about what his car collecting passion has really netted him: amazing friends. “You could take every car out of the gallery, but I’d still have the people,” he said.

“You could take every car out of the gallery, but I’d still have the people.” – Bruce Meyers

To which I immediately turned to my friend Mike Lewis from Michelin and said, “I need better friends, because I think I’d keep the race cars.” Not counting you Mike, I love you man.

The Winning Exhibit

I love race cars of all stripes and this exhibit has variety on hand in spades. It includes Le Mans winners, land speed record setters, dragsters and road racers. Some highlights from the exhibit include:

  • 1957 Ferrari 625/250 Testa Rossa, which claimed first prize in more than half of the 50 competitions in which it was raced
  • 1962 Shelby Cobra, CSX2001, hence the big “1”
  • 1962 Greer Black Prudhomme, which was raced by drag racing legend Don Prudhomme who won 237 of the 241 races in which he piloted the car
  • 1952 So-Cal Speed Shop Belly Tank Racer, which was fashioned from a P-38 Lightning fighter belly tank from World War II by hot rod racing icon Alex Xydias
  • 1979 Kremer Porsche 935 K3 that took first place overall at Le Mans
  • 1929 Ford “747” Bonneville Racer that Meyer ran 204 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats.  Although the 1929 Ford wasn’t the initial qualifier, Meyer is a member of the legendary Bonneville 200 MPH Club.

Photos by Ted7, courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum

I love the Testa Rossa, one of the most beautiful cars ever made. I had a model that my mom gave me when I was 15 and the 1:1 model is just amazing to experience in person. The So-Cal Speed Shop racer is also fantastic, I can’t imagine owning a piece of racing history like that — and made out of a fighter gas tank, how cool is that. Another interesting highlight: the 1965 Iso Bizzarrini which bested the likes of Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans, made by the designer of the Ferrari 250 GTO who was fired by the Prancing Horse. Let’s not forget this is about race cars, it’s not all about unicorns and kitties. Apparently, revenge is a dish best served red.

Apparently, revenge is a dish best served red.

In this day of Instagram and websites (like this one) you’d be tempted to sit back and view the exhibit online. I don’t blame you, the freeways suck and Ted7’s pictures are awesome. But certain exhibits demand that you view them in person, and this is definitely one of them. There is nothing like standing right in front of a beautiful old race car to pick up on the history that emanates from every body panel.

Get down to the Petersen and have yourself a great time. While you’re at it pick up a copy of the Winning Numbers book and “P is for Petersen.”  You will not be disappointed.

“Winning Numbers” will run through January 19, 2020. For more information visit the Petersen’s website.

Photos by Glenn Oyoung