Walking into the newly renovated Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles along Wilshire Blvd., I noticed a man lovingly dusting an extravagant and exotic 1925 Rolls-Royce. This midnight black aerodynamic coupe glistened and shined. This one-of-a-kind luxury car has two sunroofs, round doors, a large fin and sloping radiator shell. I was drawn to car and the attention this man focused on this car.
“This is the Crown Jewel of the Petersen Automotive Museum,” said employee Erik Dipper, a Collections Technician. As I asked him about the car, I learned that ever since he was a little boy, he had an affinity for cars. He and his father would admire and work on cars in their garage. After high school, Dipper enlisted in the Marine Corps and became a trained aviation mechanic for 10 years during the Iraq war. Both of these experiences gave him a great ear for detecting the condition of an automobile. “When I start her up, she tells me what she needs and if she needs an adjustment,” he said. “She runs and drives like a dream.” I’m sure she does under his care. It’s a love affair and dream come true for this car whisperer.
He carefully drives this car to a custom car elevator inside the museum and down to a vault below. In the vault there are more car whisperers performing their magic to bring out the richness and opulence of these automobiles destined to be showpieces and works-of-art displayed in the multi-level museum.
Dipper along with other Collections Technicians drive, gently wash, tune-up and fill these one-of-a-kind cars with gasoline. “The cars in this museum are hard copies of history,” said Dipper. “They need to be maintained, preserved and protected.”
Before the 14-month total transformation of the museum, there was no automotive elevator. The new design by architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox is pleasing to Erik Dipper. He likes the ribbons of stainless steel flowing in motion and the curves on the outside. The showrooms inside are also spectacular.
The second car whisperer I met was Brynner Batista from Los Angeles. He was in the Peter and Merle Mullin Salon Artistry Floor wearing blue gloves to prevent oils from his skin from getting on the cars he was polishing.
He shared with me that he got his start working at Petersen Automotive Museum last year as an intern. “I’ve always loved cars,” Batista told me. He loves taking tender loving-care of the cars in the museum. One of his favorite car’s is the Shah of Iran’s 1939 Bugatti Type 57C. “It was a wedding gift from the government of France to Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the shah of Persia,” said Batista.
This supercharged Bugatti’s dramatic body was constructed by Vanvooren of Paris. Some of the features on this work of art include full skirted fenders and a windshield that can be lowered under the dashboard by a hand crank. “This car won the French Cup at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance,” said Batista. “It’s the only one in the world.”
These gifted car whisperers are ambassadors of The Petersen Automotive Museum. Be sure to talk to them to enhance your visit and develop an even deeper appreciation of these unique art pieces.
The Petersen Automotive Museum is located on the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire Boulevards in Los Angeles, one mile north of the 10 freeway’s Fairfax exit. It’s one of the most elegant and enriching destinations to visit while in Los Angeles. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students and $7 for children. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.