HomeCar CultureHot rods, customs highlight auction at Petersen Museum

Hot rods, customs highlight auction at Petersen Museum


Historic and period-correct hot rods and customs built in Southern California will highlight RM Sotheby’s auction at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Featured are cars that harken back to Hot Rod Magazine and its publisher and museum founder, Robert E. Petersen.

The auction, the first to be held at the Los Angeles museum since completion of its $90 million remodel, is scheduled December 8 with a diverse range of 70 select vehicles, as well as a selection of art and memorabilia from the region’s unique counter-culture artists of the 1950s and ’60s.

Petersen Museum
Big Daddy Roth’s Rat Fink will be among the artwork

The sale links with the museum’s current exhibits that focus on Southern California as the birthplace of custom-car culture, according to Terry L. Karges, executive director of the Petersen Museum.

“Southern California has always been synonymous with hot rods and custom car culture,” Karges said in the release.  “Our founder Robert E. Petersen played a significant role in fostering Los Angeles’ love affair with hot rods and customs through his specialty interest publishing empire.”

Topping the hot rod contingent is a ’50s icon, the 1932 Ford “Lloyd Bakan” Coupe which was featured in the November 1956 issue of Rod & Custom and the October 1957 cover of Hot Rod Magazine.  In 2007, the deuce coupe won the Historic Hot Rod best in class award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The pre-auction estimated value for this prime example of Southern California hot rod style is $400,000 to $500,000.

Petersen Museum
The ’41 Mercury custom is an example of a pre-war custom build

An early pre-war example of a California custom is the 1941 Mercury “Stengel” coupe by Coachcraft, its modifications completed in the same year that the Merc came off the factory assembly line.

The Mercury “was a design and engineering marvel among custom cars of its era, (and) captures early California custom car culture better than almost any other,” according to an RM Sotheby’s news release. “Nearly every panel on the body was altered from original including its unique three-piece roof which made the car a coupe, roadster or convertible depending on the driver’s mood.”

Built by a Southern California coachbuilder best-known for custom-bodied touring cars crafted for Hollywood stars of that era, the car’s estimated value is $250,000 to $350,000.

Petersen Museum
The 1927 Ford Model T track-nose roadster is an iconic form

Another cool piece of custom ingenuity is the 1927 Ford Model T track-nose roadster created by hot rod builder Jack Thompson, a car that the auction release describes as “a quintessential early American hot rod in both style and performance.”

The roadster, which was featured in period magazines and has a long provenance of shows and appearances, has an estimated value of $100,000 to $130,000.

Rounding out the collection are a couple of recent builds that channel the artistry of the post-war custom era, including one that re-creates a famous example of  Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s show cars.

Petersen Museum
A running replica of Roth’s twin-engine Mysterion show car

Roth’s Mysterion from 1962 has been faithfully duplicated in “a fully-documented, functional and drivable version of the Kustom Kulture original,” the release says. “Mysterion is part art, part machine and entirely wild – powered by two 390-cubic-inch Ford big-block engines.”

The Mysterion replica carries a pre-auction estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.

That show rod will be sold immediately following the offering of a large collection of artworks and memorabilia from such famed outlaw car-culture artists as Roth and his studios, Von Dutch and Robert Williams, as well as memorabilia from the late movie star and car guy Steve McQueen.  Most of the pieces will be sold without minimum reserves.

Petersen Museum
The Mercury coupe is styled after the customs of the early ’50s

Another contemporary custom is a 1940 Mercury coupe built by Rudy Rodriguez in the signature style of chopped and lowered custom Mercs of the 1950s.  Its pre-auction value is $125,000 to $175,000.

For more information about the Petersen sale, and an online catalog, visit the RM Sotheby’s website.

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


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