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The Petersen Museum isn't going belly up

Thu, 18 Jul 2013

I hate writing columns like this, the kind where one media outlet calls out another's mistakes. There but for the grace of God go I and all that…

But the shrieking and hysteria over the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles going to hell in a handbasket -- that's what the LA Times reported -- is over the top, and it's turned into a fiasco.

Here's the background. A few days ago a former Petersen employee sent an email to a few media outlets -- including this one and the LA Times. It said the Museum was about to decimate its classic car collection. The Times ran with it. Dare I say the Times has no idea what's a classic car and what's not. The paper wouldn't know a vintage Packard if one drove through the front of the newsroom.

Anyway, the Times took the email, established a thesis that the beloved Petersen was going to hell and sought out only that information supporting its thesis. That last part is important: These types of reactions are often typical of big media outlets, weighing in on something about which they know nothing. It generally happens in three stages:

1. Get a press release or a study critical of some automotive entity or another.

2. Call an analyst for a doom-and-gloom quote. Keep calling till you find one to support your thesis.

3. Roll the presses.

This approach demonstrates no faith in the media outlet's own ability to judge an “event's” news value. That certainly seems to be the case here.

Drives me nuts. (And don't even get me started on the notion that if this is how they cover cars, is it also how they cover the economy, the Middle East, education?)

We obtained a list of some of the cars the museum is selling. You can see a partial list below. By our count there are between 65 and 100 up for auction and the museum is keeping 300. Not exactly what I'd call a bloodbath. Then we, you know, called the museum to get their side of the story (what a novel idea!!). My colleague Mark Vaughn worked the phones like the reporting madman he is, calling several museum employees. They said the Petersen has several examples of some cars and doesn't really need more than one or two. So there are redundancies. It's kind of like cleaning your house.

One employee told Vaughn that if the museum can clean out some superfluous cars or some it acquired on the cheap then it can get even better cars. “It's more important to look at what they're keeping than what they're getting rid of,” said one guy in the know. “They're keeping the great stuff.”

Listen. Museums sell things all the time. It's one way they make money. Collections ebb and flow. Do people really expect the Petersen Automotive Museum to hang on to its Pacer forever?

Follow me on twitter @WesRaynal

The List

1971 Porsche 914/4

2003 Barris Custom Arnold Palmer Electric Scooter

1978 Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider Veloce

Military Mule X 2

AMC Pacer

1991 Team Knightrider 2000

1981 Cadillac Eldorado Evolution

1960 Ford Galaxie Town Sedan

Morris Mini Minor

1930 Ford “Model J” Tudor Sedan

1984 Porsche 928

1911 Indian Model C Twin Cylinder

1995 Hyundai Elantra Pikes Peak Racer

1912 Buick Model 35 Touring

1915 Chandler Touring

1970 Campbell Promotional V8 Roadster By George Barris

2002 Lexus C5 2054 Concept Car

1967 Boothill Express

1967 Chevrolet Custom Camaro

1958 Edsel Citation Hardtop Coupe

1978 Stage Fright by Jack Keefe

1968 Excalibur Series 1 Phaeton

1959 Ford Custom Thunderbird Convertible

1963 Volkswagen Type 1 Sedan “Herbie the Love Bug”

1972 Cadillac Custom Hearse

1987 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

1983 Plymouth Champ Hatchback Art Car

2000 Grinch Cars

1956 Rainbow Vacationer Travel Trailer

1921 Ford Model T Center Door Sedan

1972 Lotus Elan Sprint Convertible

1930 Ford A Pickup Truck

Baca Top Fuel Dragster

2004 Cadillac CTS Custom

1963 Studebaker Avanti R-1 Coupe

1934 Ford Three Window Coupe “Jado Special”

1999 Bentley Arnage

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1952 Cunningham C-3 Coupe

1999 Shelby Series 1

1932 Ford Li'l Foose Coupe

1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

1954 Edwards America Coupe

1968 Lamborghini Espada

1985 Renault R5 Turbo 2

1967 Chevrolet Camaro Custom

1968 Mercury Cougar XR7

1999 Ford Mustang Cobra

1919 Harley Davidson with Side Car

1954 Rolls Royce Silver Dawn

1957 Chevrolet interactive audio visual

1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II

1960 Cadillac Eldorado

1981 Delorean DMC 12

1951 George Barris Mercury Convertible

1927 Ford T-Track roadster

1964 Calico Surfer

1935 Lincoln Model K Movie Prop

1939 Packard 1705 Super Eight Limousine

1929 Ford Ala Kart II

1932 Ford High Boy Roadster

1958 Dual Ghia Convertible

1955 Ford Thunderbird Doane Spencer

1923 Ford Model T Mail Truck

By Wes Raynal