SEMA eNews Vol. 14, No. 17, April 28, 2011

Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation Receives $100 Million Donation

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The Petersen Automotive Museum is dedicated to the exploration and presentation of the automobile and its impact on American life and culture using Los Angeles as the prime example. Encompassing more than 300,000 sq. ft., its exhibits and lifelike dioramas feature more than 150 rare and classic cars, trucks and motorcycles.
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In 2005, the Petersen Automotive Museum presented "Musclecars: Power to the People," an exhibition showcasing a variety of musclecars, both street and racing, built by all four major manufacturers: Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and American Motors. Together, they exemplify the carefree spirit of an optimistic age and today are among the best-remembered and most coveted cars on the road.
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The exotic “Round Door” Rolls-Royce was delivered new in 1925 with a Hooper Cabriolet body to its first owner, Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit. It appears never to have left England and was re-sold when still virtually new to the Raja of Nanpara. In about 1934, a subsequent owner sent the car to Jonckheere of Belgium to be fitted with fashionably aerodynamic coachwork complete with twin sunroofs, round doors, a large fin and a sloping radiator shell. Once thought to have been owned by the Duke of Windsor, the concours-winning car then passed through the hands of several other owners before being discovered in New Jersey in the early 1950s in near-derelict condition. Max Obie later acquired the unusual Rolls-Royce, had it painted gold and charged curious individuals $1 to enter a special enclosure to look at the car. The Phantom I then spent time on the East Coast of the United States and in Japan before coming into the possession of the Petersen Automotive Museum in the spring of 2001.

Steven E. Young, chairman of the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation’s Board of Directors, announced that the Museum Foundation has received a gift of approximately $100 million from Margie Petersen and the Margie & Robert E. Petersen Foundation.

This donation is comprised of a substantial unrestricted financial gift, a matching challenge, the 300,000-sq.-ft. building that the museum has occupied since it opened in 1994, and an important collection of cars assembled by the late Robert E. Petersen during his lifetime—all as part of the museum’s gift.

This gift ensures that the museum will continue to grow in importance as one of Los Angeles’ premier museums and the largest and most acclaimed automobile museum in the nation.

“I am thrilled to make this gift, which continues what Mr. Petersen and I began two decades ago—to build the most important automotive museum in the nation. My intent in doing this is to provide the museum with the necessary resources to continue to enhance its collections, curatorial expertise and exhibitions so that generations to come will be able to forever know the history of the automobile and its role in the evolution of our nation’s transportation system,” said Margie Petersen.

“I am fulfilling a vision that Mr. Petersen and I shared and planned to do someday. I am so happy that this day has come and that I can launch the museum into a new era of growth and expansion. While I expect the resources of the museum to be available to the world, this gift is especially designed to the benefit of the Los Angeles community where we made our lives together,” continued Petersen.

A program of special importance to Mrs. Petersen has been the museum’s Free School Bus Program. Since 2005, the museum has funded transportation that has enabled approximately 8,000 students per year from the Los Angeles Unified School District, grades K through 12, to visit the museum. Teachers use the automobile to inspire student thinking about science, art, design, engineering, fuel supply, transportation and urban planning. Many teachers have stated that without this program, the children would not have the opportunity to explore learning outside the classroom at all during the school year.

More than 150,000 visitors a year tour the Petersen Automotive Museum, which is located on Museum Row on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile. In addition to the automobile and motorcycle collections of Margie and Robert E. Petersen and the Petersen Foundation collection, the museum also displays important cars from many other car collectors who donate or loan their vehicles to the museum.

Robert E. Petersen founded Hollywood Publicity Associates in 1947. His love of cars let him win a contract to publicize a hot rod show at the Los Angeles Armory. He quickly recognized the market for a publication about hot rods, which he parlayed into the legendary Hot Rod magazine launch in 1948.

He grew his business into a publishing empire with more than 36 monthly magazines and more than 50 annual publications and became a household name among car enthusiasts.

In 1963 he married Margie McNally, a model and actress from New York. Together they built a life of business, collections and philanthropy as one of Los Angeles’ most prominent couples.

The Petersen car collection is renowned as one of the largest and most diverse collections in the United States. The Petersens are also known for important collections of wildlife and western art.

The couple’s considerable philanthropic activities in Los Angeles include The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, The Margie and Robert E. Petersen Boys and Girls Club of Hollywood, The Music Center, The Thalians, Cedars-Sinai Hospital, St. John’s Health Center and the John Wayne Cancer Institute, among many others.

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