LA’s Petersen Museum celebrates both in new exhibitions

US greats, Japanese rarities. LA’s Petersen Museum celebrates both in new exhibitions. Words James Elliott.

Two major new exhibitions have opened at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, one celebrating local car culture, the other cars from the other side of the world.


Ol’ Yaller Mark IX is among the last racecars designed and built by Southern California hot rod legend Max Balchowsky, whose well-engineered racecars were regarded as unrefined “junkyard dogs” and compared to the dog in Disney’s film Old Yeller (1957). Besides prevailing over expensive exotics in many races around the country, the IX was also featured in several films. The IX crashed during filming of “The Love Bug,” and after undergoing a full restoration was successfully raced into the 1990s by Ted Peterson and Peter Shea. This donation comes to the Petersen Automotive Museum as a gift from Peter and Lynda Shea

Continuing a year of honouring Japanese motoring, the museum has gathered 19 watershed performance cars from the land of the rising sun. Among the rarities placed throughout the museum are Infiniti Prototypes 9 and 10, a brace of Toyota 2000GTs, the sole 1998 Nissan R390 GT1, a 1978 Dome Zero, a 1969 Mazda Cosmo Sport 100S, two MkIV Toyota Supras and the Mazda RX-7 FD concept, the new additions include expositions entitled The Roots of Monozukuri and Fine Tuning, which showcase everything from Nissan’s first V12-powered racer, the R382 of 1969, to a 1974 Mazda RX-3 built by DNA Garage, as well as a group of Japanese supercars.

Rather closer to home is the Legends of Los Angeles: Southern California Race Cars and Their Builders exhibit. Versatile local, albeit Arkansas- born, legend Parnelli Jones was honoured at the opening of a collection which highlights 12 race cars chosen to epitomise California’s rich racing heritage and engineering innovation.

Cars on show include the 1924 Miller 122, the 1929 Ford 22 Jr Model A Roadster, Max Balchowskys 1963 ‘Old Yeller’ Mark IX, Dan Gurney’s British-devised 1966 AAR Eagle and the 1975 Edmunds Tamale Wagon.

In a further development, the museum has embarked on a massive programme to digitise a million pictures from the Petersen Publishing.

Archive, which consists of 10 million negatives and transparencies from 1940 to 1980. Joining forces with the Motor Trend Group and backed by a grant from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), Source Interlink Media (SIM) conducted an initial digitisation effort of 500,000 images. SEMAs interest in the archive and subsequent generosity have allowed the Petersen Museum to hire three full-time staff members to accelerate the process.

Petersen Museum in Los Angeles
Petersen Museum in Los Angeles From top Max Balchowsky’s ‘Old Yeller’ Mark IX; Nissan’s one-off R390 GT1 from 1998; Parnelli Jones gets another trophy.

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