California Dreamin’

The renovated Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles has been turning heads and driving talk of a similar venue in downtown Detroit.


Published:

(page 1 of 2)

 

TIMELESS CLASSIC: A 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, located on the museum’s history floor, was called the “Hot One” in General Motors advertising campaign. 

Billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert, who owns more than 80 downtown Detroit properties and has recruited more than 150 businesses to fill them, sees a gaping vacancy in the city that put America on wheels.

Gilbert has said on several occasions over the past few years that there should be an automotive museum downtown that would celebrate the industry and “leverage the sexiness of the car,” as he explained in a 2014 speech.

Terry Karges would like to help. Karges is executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, which recently underwent a stunning, $90-million renovation that includes a spectacular red exterior trimmed in flowing, stainless-steel ribbons. It’s considered one of the finest auto museums in the country and could serve as a model for a similar endeavor in Detroit.

In addition to more than 300 cars, the three-story museum features a variety of interactive displays, including a video touch screen exhibit in which a Ford Motor Co. employee talks about the education and skills required for various jobs in the auto industry. 

“We’d love to help in any way we can to build a museum (in Detroit),” Karges says. “It would become an instant hit, and you’d have people who come to Detroit from all over the world stop by for a visit. I think there’s a really good opportunity and I would be happy to talk to people.”

SILVER STREAK: THE PRECIOUS METAL EXHIBIT INCLUDES THE USE OF SILVER BY AUTOMAKERS TO REPRESENT THE PINNACLE OF PERFORMANCE AND STYLE INCLUDING A 1954 FERRARI 375 MM SCAGLIETTI AND OTHER NOTABLE RACECARSBELOW: ZAHNER IN KANSAS CITY MANUFACTURED THE MUSEUM’S COMPLEX FACADE OF A STUNNING RED EXTERIOR TRIMMED IN FLOWING STAINLESS-STEEL RIBBONS.

That’s not just the musing of a Southern California native who has little knowledge of the Detroit landscape. Karges spent 22 years of his professional career here, 17 of them as senior vice president of sales and marketing at Livonia-based Roush Performance, which makes high-performance automotive components for street and racing applications. He also has held marketing and management positions at Disneyland and SeaWorld.

Talk of a Detroit automotive museum accelerated in late 2014, when Gilbert purchased the 114-year-old State Savings Bank building downtown. Since then, however, no final decision has been made on what to do with the building, according to Robin Schwartz, spokeswoman for Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services. She also declined comment on any potential plans by Gilbert to establish an auto museum in Detroit.

Should Gilbert ultimately decide to undertake such a project, the Petersen Automotive Museum’s sweeping makeover is evidence that building a first-class car museum is an expensive, time-consuming endeavor. After five years of planning, California financier and museum Chairman Peter Mullin led a $125-million capital campaign in 2013 to pay for the renovation and establish an operating endowment. Virtually all of the money came from wealthy individuals, auto manufacturers, suppliers, and aftermarket parts producers. No public funds were used in building the museum.

To prep for the renovation that sought to create a world-class attraction, museum officials toured 30 auto museums around the world, including those operated by Maserati, Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes Benz. The facility was closed for a year for construction, and reopened late last year.

“In December, we had 37,000 people come through the doors,” Karges says. “That’s four times the number of the best month we had in the 20-year history of the museum.” Attendance this year is projected to reach 250,000, which he considers a conservative estimate.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Dream Weaver

As president of The Rockefeller Foundation, West Bloomfield Township native Dr. Rajiv J. Shah is on a quest to make the world a better place.

Legal Brass

A lawyer in Detroit taps his manufacturing roots to better advise clients, including himself.

CEO Gift Guide 2018

Our holiday shopping guide takes you from the American Revolution to outer space.

True Warrior

Dave Morrow, a graduate of Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Township, takes the lacrosse world by storm.

Frame Your Face

From fashionable eyewear to luxurious skin care, here’s everything you need to put your best face forward this fall.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. GM, Leading Charge Providers to Create America’s Largest EV Charging Network
    The lack of a robust charging infrastructure is one of the major hurdles hampering widespread...
  2. Dearborn’s Ford Motor Co. to Host Winter Festival at Michigan Central Station
    Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn will host a 10-day Winter Festival in front of its recently purchased...
  3. Downtown Detroit Partnership Names President, Chief Marketing Officer
    Downtown Detroit Partnership today announced John Walsh as president, effective immediately. Eric...
  4. San Francisco Investment Firm Acquires Warren’s Lipari Foods
    San Francisco investment firm H.I.G. Capital has acquired Warren’s Lipari Foods from...
  5. Warner Norcross Names Four New Partners in Southfield and Macomb County Offices
    Warner Norcross and Judd today announced it has named two partners to its Southfield office and...
  6. Intrepid Control Systems in Madison Heights Introduces All-in-one Data Logger for Autonomous Vehicles
    Intrepid Control Systems Inc. in Madison Heights Friday introduced its Autonomous ONE...