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On display at the Petersen museum, the best of the worst!

Wed, 25 Feb 2009

They're so bad they're good, these cars, good enough to warrant a museum exhibit.

Starting Feb. 28 and running through the end of September, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles celebrates all that is good about bad car ideas in an exhibit titled "What Were They Thinking?"

Sure, there are Edsels and Amphicars. There's even a Pacer and a Prowler. But the Petersen exhibit brings you truly awful cars from throughout automotive history.

The three-seat, two-wheeled Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo.

Consider the massive, repulsive 1913 Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo, a three-seat motorcycle with outriggers. That's right, three people sit in this Dr. Seussian eyesore and they all lean into the turns. The outriggers swing out at stoplights to keep the whole enchilada from rolling over on its side and breaching.

Then there's the Fantasia, a rear-engined submarine-looking jet pod originally planned with a propeller to chop its way through the air. But after someone ended up in the hospital and subsequently sued the maker, the builders went with a wheezy Renault engine in back.

The 1957 Liberty Mutual Safety Car was an early stab at features we all demand on safe cars now, but packaged in a slab-sided bloater that only a whale mother could love.

The 1947 Gregory features a rear-mounted engine driving the front wheel. Imagine trying to go up a hill.

General Motors made more than 500 Copper-Cooled Chevrolets, with copper fins instead of a conventional radiator, and recalled every single one of them--except the one in the museum.

Then there is the seed pod-like 1947 Gregory, whose ugliness is surpassed only by its ridiculous drivetrain--a rear-mounted engine powering the front wheels. What?

For more on the exhibit, visit

By Mark Vaughn