Category archives: Museums

Christmas present from the Petersen: The vault is open for tours

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles has a Christmas present for car guys and gals: Starting December 15, the museum opened its vault, the underground section of its parking structure where it stores vehicles that are not on display in the exhibitions inside the museum proper.

There are dozens of vehicles in those exhibitions, but that still leaves two or three hundred hidden away — until now.

“It’s a part of the museum that has become almost legend,” said Chris Brown, the museum’s information and marketing manager. “If you’re an enthusiast, you’ve heard about the vault of great cars at the Petersen. We get more and more people who keep asking, ‘hey, how do I get down in the vault? ”

Cruisin' with LarryYou now can do that by signing up for a guided tour. Each tour is limited to 10 people, runs for 90 minutes and costs $25, plus the regular museum admission.

At the moment, those tours are offered only on weekends. But, Brown promised, “if it proves to be as popular as we hope it is, we’ll extend it throughout the week.”

Brown and the museum’s new director, Terry Karges, recently offered me a pre-tour sneak peek of the vault and it was amazing to see what’s there, including several cars formerly owned by Steve McQueen, a couple of concept cars, the bulletproof limo the White House ordered the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the specially built Ferrari used in the TV show Magnum P.I., specially built so actor Tom Selleck could fit inside the cars tight cockpit.

Auction helps save military museum and creates room for more displays

Dean Kruse may have stumbled in the late stages of his career as a classic car auctioneer, but his dream of a museum preserving American military machinery not only will live on but will be able to expand in scope in the aftermath of an auction at what is now known as the National Military History Center in Auburn, Indiana.

Kruse searched throughout Europe to find tanks, trucks, rocket launchers and other military equipment used in World War II but discarded after the war. He bought nearly 200 vehicles and was ready to ship them to the museum he was building in northeastern Indiana when 911 occurred.

In the aftermath, instead of merely shipping his purchases, Kruse needed an act of Congress to allow the import of his used military equipment. But the bill passed and Kruse’s purchases arrived and his museum opened.

However, along with the rest of his holdings, the museum suffered financial setbacks and faced a mortgage of some $2.9 million. To pay that mortgage, keep the museum operating and to make room for military equipment not only from WWII but from other wars, including the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the museum staged an auction, selling some 80 vehicles — nearly half of Kruse’s collection — as well as WWII uniforms and other military gear from that era.

The auction, managed by Auctions America by RM, generated hammer sales of more than $2.97 million.

The top sales included $200,000 for a Daimler-Benz DB10 half-track troop carrier, $160,000 for a Haromag armored 3/4 track, $150 for a Horch 4×4 cross-country personnel car, and $145 for a Borgward half-track.

Several of the pieces were bought for display at a museum in Europe. Several bidders said they participate in WWII battle reenactments that are becoming popular in the United States. (One man said his son and daughter-in-law are re-enactors — medic and nurse — and that he wants to participate as well, but not as an infantryman and that people who bring veteran vehicles to such events automatically earn higher rank.)

Others bidders said they planned to drive their purchases in parades and to display them at shows and other events. Still others said they simply wanted the 4×4 capabilities of the retired military equipment to enjoy on land they owned.