Friday, July 31, 2009

Classic autos and famous cars at The Petersen Automotive Museum - Part two...

Yesterday I treated you all to a wonderful selection of classic American cars on display at The Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A. and today I have a few more to share, including some vintage motorcycles.
Otis Chandler Motorcycle Gallery at Petersen Museum
Otis Chandler Motorcycle Gallery
Otis Chandler Motorbike Gallery
Otis Chandler Motorcycle Gallery
Aside from the famous cars from Hollywood movies, on the second floor of the museum you'll also find the Otis Chandler Gallery of historic motorbikes, including this amazingly surreal contemporary Skeleton Bike by John Holt.

2006 Skeleton Bike
2006 Skeleton Bike head
The Skeleton Bike was handmade from sheet metal and aluminum by metal artisan John Holt, who designed suits of armour before embarking on this spectacular project.
2006 Skeleton Bike front view
The bones are built to scale and would stand 9' 2" tall if erect. The giant skull holds a headlight in each eye socket, the tombstone on the front holds hydraulic fluid that flows through tubes in the removable spine and front suspension is integrated into the arms and hands of the skeleton frame.
Skeleton Bike 2006 at Petersen Auto Museum
The motorcycle is powered by a 4-cylinder, 2.3-liter Ford engine with variable speed hydrostatic transmission.
John Holt 2006 Skeleton Bike
Ultimately though, it's just a fantastically cool and freaky looking machine.

If you are a motorbike lover, downstairs near the reception area you'll also find two Indian bikes that were owned by Steve McQueen when he was alive.

1912 Indian motorcycle
Steve McQueen's 1912 Indian motorycle
First offered for sale in 1902, a year before Harley-Davidson, Indian motorcycles quickly earned an excellent reputation for quality and innovation. The bikes produced during their tenth anniversary retained the company's well-proven, one-cylinder engine and were equipped with chain drive, an advanced feature during a time when the large majority of motorcycles were fitted with a belt drive.

You'll probably also want to check out the Can-Am Spyder Roadster used in the summer blockbuster movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

In addition to all these marvelous motorbikes there are other quirky transports on display, like the collection of vehicles in the 'What were they thinking display?'

Fascination car at Petersen Museum
The Fascination was the brainchild of Paul M. Lewis, who in 1963 formed the Highway Aircraft Corporation in Lakewood, Colorado with the intention of producing a futuristic, 130 mile-per-hour vehicle.

Originally propeller-driven, the Volkswagen-powered prototype was reconfigured to be wheel-drive following a serious prop malfunction. This Fascination is the second of three pilot production cars built before the factory closed.

Helicron Car at Petersen Auto Museum
Resembling a grounded airplane, the French Helicron was propeller driven and built of sturdy wood planks to be light weight and rigid. With rear wheel steering, but no front suspension, the Helicron was impractical for a number of reasons.

There was the danger it posed to oncoming pedestrians from the spinning prop, it was noisy from the exposed engine and extremely drafty because of the propellor.

Studebaker-Packard 'Astral'
Studebaker-Packard Astral futuristic vehicle
This full-size mock-up was a glimpse at what an atomic-powered vehicle might look like in the future if the technology existed to build it. Intended to have a gyroscopic balancing mechanism enabling it to rest on just one wheel, it would also be able to hover over land or water and be protected by a 'curtain of energy' to make collisions impossible.
Studebacker-Packard Astral vehicle at Petersen Museum
Funnily enough a nuclear powered prototype of the 'Astral' was never manufactured.

Next we go from futuristic looking transports to slightly more practical, but no less exciting, sporty race cars.

1959 Ol' Yaller Mark III
1959 Ol Yaller Mark III car
Ol' Yaller Mark III was the third in a series of ten racecars built by Southern California hot rod legend, Max Balchowsky, in his garage on Hollywood Boulevard.
1959 Ol Yaller car

1998 Gurney Eagle
1998 Gurney Eagle racing car
Dan Gurney is one of the few people in motorsports to have been both a successful racing driver and racecar builder. As a driver he was the first to secure wins in all four major motorsports categories: Grand Prix, Indy Car, NASCAR and Sports Car.
1998 Gurney Eagle race car
Beginning in 1964 he constructed a series of 'Eagle' racing cars. This specimen was driven by Alex Barron in 1998 and later by Robby Gordon in 1999.

Alongside cars built for speed you'll also find classic cars built for elegance and style.

1928 Hudson Victoria
1928 Hudson Victoria car
Although too expensive to produce in large quantities, Pasadena based coachbuilder Walter M. Murphy's Hudson cars, were among the first to be styled by an L.A. area designer and built in a major Detroit manufacturer.

1939 Packard Super Eight Phaeton
1939 Packard at The Petersen Auto Museum
This dignified Packard was believed to be the last vehicle in which Evita Peron, the First Lady of Argentina, ever rode, with her husband President Juan Peron. One of the most highly regarded American cars of the pre-war era and cost $10,000.
1939 Packard car at Petersen Museum
Originally painted a dark colour and fitted with right-hand drive, the car was repainted yellow and the steering position changed during a renovation in the 1970's.

2009 Honda FC Sport
2009 FC Sport Honda car
From refined elegance to a more futuristic style, the Honda FC Sport was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2008.

1949 Delahaye Type 178 Drophead Coupe
Elton John's former 1949 Delahaye car
Finally to round out my visit the The Petersen Automotive Museum, it has to be an absolutely fabulous car.
Elton John's former 1949 Delahaye drophead coupe
Regarded as one of the most sophisticated European automobiles of the immediate post-war era, this striking Delahaye was formerly owned by international music artist Elton John.

There are many more vehicles on display at the museum than I've featured here, so if you're ever in L.A. and stuck for something to do pop along, as I was pleasantly surprised by my visit.

Hmm, I wonder if I could borrow one of their cars to cruise along the coast...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Classic autos and famous cars at The Petersen Automotive Museum - Part one...

On Tuesday I did a bit more exploring of places to visit in L.A. and decided to check out The Petersen Automotive Museum on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax.
Hollywood star cars Petersen Museum
To the casual observer from outside the museum looks like any other featureless building in L.A. (aside from the car sticking to the side of it), but little did I know what wonders lay waiting inside.
Petersen Automotive Museum Los Angeles
I'm not a car fanatic at all and I only started driving over a year ago, but I can appreciate a good looking motor, just like when they had The Gilmore Heritage Auto Show at The Farmers Market in June last year.

The museum is dedicated to the exploration and presentation of the history of the automobile and its impact on American life and culture, using L.A. as the prime example. It has a great selection of classic cars, motorcycles, automobile oddities, vehicles featured in movies and even cars previously owned by Hollywood stars themselves. 
Hollywood star cars at Petersen Automotive Museum
Take for example the car beneath the Hollywood star cars sign, it is a 1956 Jaguar XKSS formerly owned by Steve McQueen. The XKSS was a road-going version of the successful Jaguar D-type racing car and is one of only sixteen built. 

After purchasing the car, McQueen had it repainted from the original white to his favourite green, added polished Dunlop wheels and retrimmed the interior black from red. He sold the car in the early 70's, but eventually bought it back and kept it to his death from cancer in 1980.

Speed Racer Mach 5 car and 
Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie Batmobile
Speed Racer and Batmobile movie cars
In addition to 'star cars' The Petersen Museum also has a great selection of vehicles from movies and TV shows, such as Batman, Speed Racer, Transformers 2, Herbie, Little Miss Sunshine and more. Check out the full collection of movie vehicles at Hollywood Movie Costumes and Props.

The cars displayed throughout the museum reflect decades of different period styles and technological advances, from the early models to the latest looks.

1903 Cadillac Model A Runabout
1903 Model A Cadillac at Petersen Museum
The Cadillac was named after Le Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of detroit and was introduced at the Third Annual National Automobile Show in Madison Square Garden in January 1903. 

Its single-cylinder, ten-horsepower engine could reach a top speed of 30 miles per hour and cost $750, which was considered modest for the era.

1929 Austin Seven 'Chummy'
1929 Austin Seven Chummy car
First introduced in 1922, by 1926 the Austin Seven had proven itself a popular and affordable car for the masses, doubling in production from the previous year. Simple and reliable, capable of over 50 miles to the gallon they were surprisingly quick and nimble.

The car above is a four-seat Tourer with coachwork by Holden of Australia. Manufactured all over the world by licence, by the time they were discontinued in 1939, the Seven 'Chummy' accounted for over 300,000 sales for Austin. The first BMWs and Datsuns were simply re-badged Sevens.

1931 Twin Coach Delivery Truck
Helms Bakeries 1931 Twin Coach delivery truck
This distinctive Twin Coach delivery truck became a trademark for the Helms Bakery company in Culver City, L.A. The low floor and upright driving position enabled the driver to hop in and out quickly at frequent stops and local residents became used to the characteristic 'toot-toot' of the horn which heralded the arrival of freshly baked goods.

1915 Stutz White Squadron Racer
1915 Stutz White Squadron Racer
The White Squadron Stutz engine design borrowed heavily from the 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix car. Designed to compete against the advanced European cars, Earl Cooper's Number 8 raced successfully for several years before being sold to a collector. 

Repurchased and restored by Cooper in the 1930's, he donated the 'Stutz' to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History in 1938.

1945 Bell Special Midget Racer
1945 Bel Special midget racer
This Bell Special has a double overhead camshaft Offenhauser engine, which had a high power-to-weight ration making them ideal for light cars racing on dirt and other slippery surfaces. Bought in the 1950's by Roy Richter, the Bell Special remains in possession of his family.

1960 Peterbilt Model 351 
"Piss'd Off Pete"
1960 Peterbilt Piss'd Off Pete car
This street legal truck, which is a caricature of certain 1960's and 1970's top fuel altered dragsters, was built by monster engine automotive artist, Randy Grubb. "Piss'd Off Pete" took 3,000 hours to complete and weighs 7,500 pounds. 

1952 Agajanian Special
1952 Agajanian racecar
J.C. Agajanian backed many successful racecars and drivers including Troy Ruttman, who at twenty-two drove the Agajanian Special to victory in the 1952 Indianapolis 500.

The Petersen Museum has three floors packed with different car exhibits including these in The Bruce Meyer Gallery.

1927 Ford Roadster
Hot Rod Magazine 50th Anniversary cover car
1927 Ford Roadster car
Chip Fosse designed this roadster to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the first issue of Hot Rod Magazine, published in January 1948. This contemporary roadster evokes the look and feel of Regg Schlemmer's original cover car for the magazine.
1927 Ford Hot Rod Magazine 50th anniversary car

1925 Ford "Golden Star" Altered 'T' Roadster
1925 Ford Golden Star roadster
This colourful hot rod was awarded America's Most Beautiful Roadster accolade an unprecedented two times, in 1989 and 1991. Constructed by Ernie Immerso and Don Thelan from parts of two Model T Fords to create the body, the 'Golden Star' is uniquely made with 24 karat gold plating, truly living up to its name. 
Ford 1925 Golden Star altered T roadster

1927 Ford Hot Rod 
Ala Kart II
1927 Ford Hot Rod car
Ala Kart II was built by Howdy Ledbetter of Fremont, California, as a tribute to the original Ala Kart, the first two-time winner of the AMBR (America's Most Beautiful Roadster) trophy.

1965 Calico Surfer
1965 Calico Surfer car
The Calico Surfer is one of many theme cars built during the mid-1960's. It was specially created for local contractor and surf magazine publisher Calvin Clark and cost $22,000 to construct. A true 'woodie', the car is decorated with genuine ash, with a brass radiator ornament . 

1932 Ford 'Orange Twist' Model 18 Roadster
1932 Ford Orange Twist roadster
This 'Orange Twist' hot rod was America's Most Beautiful Roadster Winner in 1988 and was built by Ermie Immerso.

Next is a slightly more modern car which was immortalised in the Back to the Future movies.

1981 De Lorean DNC 12
1981 De Lorean Petersen Museum
In 1981 and 1982, former Pontiac executive John DeLorean built a stylish, upscale sports car that retailed for $26,175. Although a major selling point was the car's low-maintenance stainless steel finish, three cars were painted for experimental purposes and three were gold-plated.

Created in 1981 for an American Express promotion, the 24-karat gold-plated cars were listed in their Christmas catalogue for $85,000.

This DeLorean car was displayed in the lobby of a Texas bank from 1981 until it was donated to the Petersen Automotive Museum in 2003. It remains in entirely original condition, only having traveled a mere 7.4 miles since new.

And if a DeLorean is considered a 'contemporary' car, then what about this futuristic looking specimen.

Arfons 'Green Monster' Jet Car
Arfons Green Monster jet car
You'll find this amazing looking car outside the entrance to the museum in the car park. Built and driven by Art Arfons, the 'Green Monster' is three-time holder of the World Land Speed Record.

The car was powered by a 15,000-pound thrust General Electric J-79 jet engine from a B-58 Hustler bomber that Arfons bought in a damaged condition for $5,000.
Arfons Green Monster jet car at Petersen Museum
Arfons set his final World Land Speed Record of 576.553 miles per hour on 7th November, 1965, only to lose it again eight days later. After a severe crash in 1966, he rebuilt the car from original parts, but was unable to race the vehicle again and ultimately sold it to Slick Gardner

As you can see the lighting in the museum was varied, which meant it was harder to take great pictures, but I hope you can appreciate just some of the wonderful vehicles on display.

Come back tomorrow for more intriguing autos on display in L.A...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Harry Potter and the simplified Prince...

After five previous films there's a lot of baggage that comes with a new installment of Harry Potter, but I'm glad to say that The Half-Blood Prince is an uncluttered and much more stream-lined movie to watch.
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince movie billboard
Gone are the chocolate frogs, moving staircases and floating headless ghosts, but all the familiar faces and places are back at Hogwarts, from Hagrid and Dumbledore, to mysteries and Quidditch matches. It makes for a much more simplified storytelling by boiling the original source material down to its essence.
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince villains billboard
I'm sure the other argument is that so much has been jettisoned, but when you think of how many characters there are to service now (and introduce) and still move the film allow without getting bogged down in Potter-lore, it's understandable.
Harry Potter 6 film poster
I do wonder what this means for the final chapter in the franchise though (to be split into two parts) as there's a lot of ground to be covered. We did get a glimpse of the sweet Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks relationship in this movie, so when they make the ultimate sacrifice it won't come as so much of a surprise.
Harry Potter 6 Hermione movie poster
Although no look-in this time around for any house elves or Percy Weasley and the Ministry of Magic this time, so lots to re-establish (or totally ignore) for the big showdown in The Deathly Hallows.
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince billboard
There were a few plot-holes in the movies and by now you really do need to be a Harry Potter aficionado to understand everything that is going on, for example the 'Room of Requirement' seems to be reintroduced without much explanation this film.
Harry and Ginny movie poster
The childhood romance at Hogwarts was also handled tastefully and wasn't as awkward as I'd imagined, which helped move the Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny relationships along.
Ron and Ginny Weasley Harry Potter 6 poster
In fact, Bonnie Wright must have loved that Ginny seems to get more to do than Hermione this movie.
Draco Malfoy and Professor Snape Harry Potter 6 poster
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy must also have been laughing with his larger role in this film. Both did admirably well in their portrayals of the characters I thought.

Speaking of acting, it has improved amongst all the lead young characters, although for me the line has now become blurred between 'Harry' and 'Daniel Radcliffe' who plays him.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie poster
He's such an earnest young soul and you can see that he wants to be taken seriously so much as an 'actor', so it was nice to see a bit more range from him, with a slight comedic turn when he drinks the luck serum. He description of the giant spider Aragog's fangs made me chuckle.
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince film billboard
Jim Broadbent was a welcome addition this movie and played Professor Horace Slughorn effortlessly, without making him too much of a caricature.
Hermione and Professor Slughorn Harry Potter 6 poster
When you think of it, 'Half-Blood Prince' is one of the least action-packed Potter movies. There are no giant snakes, dragons or big wand waving battles with Death-Eaters, but the great thing about not having read the books in some time, is that the films can still surprise you. I'd completely forgotten the identity of the Half-Blood Prince.
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince movie billboard
The major problem with the movie is that the ending is quite anti-climatic, after quite a gentle 'romantic' movie, and in my mind the confrontation between Dumbledore and the Death-Eaters would have been much more dramatic and charged with tension.
Professor Snape Harry Potter 6 movie poster
I was also disappointed by Harry's resolve at the end of the movie to leave the school and find Voldemort's Horcruxes, as it seemed a bit weak. I remember reading that in the sixth book and thinking what a great set-up it was for the next and final chapter, but it just felt a bit flat on screen.
Harry Potter and Dumbledore movie poster
Overall I really enjoyed the movie and give it four **** stars (especially because it didn't seem to be as bum-numbingly long as previous installments).
Ron Weasley Harry Potter 6 movie poster
Now I'm all excited for the final films and hope that this time Warner won't keep us waiting as long.

Ahh, poor Dumbledore...

P.S. Don't forget to take a look at these original costumes from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.