Hot rods set for auction at Petersen Automotive Museum


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Historic hot rods and customs built in Southern California will take center stage at RM Sotheby’s auction at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on December 8. Featured are cars that hearken back to Hot Rod Magazine, as well as its publisher and the museum’s founder, Robert E. Petersen.

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

The sale links with the museum’s current exhibits (including the car shown here), which 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 a 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.”


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Image Credit: Petersen Automotive Museum.

Showcase 1: 1932 Ford “Lloyd Baken” coupe

Topping the hot rod contingent is a ’50s icon: The 1932 Ford “Lloyd Bakan” coupe, which became a ’50s icon when it was featured in the November 1956 issue of Rod & Custom and on the cover of the October 1957 issue 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.

Image Credit: RM Sotheby’s.

Showcase 2: 1941 Mercury “Stengel” coupe

An early pre-war example of a California custom is the 1941 Mercury “Stengel” coupe by Coachcraft. Its modifications were completed the same year that the Merc came off of the 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 the 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 pre-auction estimated value is $250,000 to $350,000.

Image Credit: RM Sotheby’s.

Showcase 3: 1927 Ford Model T track-nose roadster

Another cool piece of custom ingenuity is the 1927 Ford Model T track-nose roadster created by hot rod builder Jack Thompson. It’s 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 history of shows and appearances, has a pre-auction estimated value of $100,000 to $130,000.

Image Credit: RM Sotheby’s.

Showcase 4: Ed Roth’s 1962 Mysterion replica car

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.

Roth’s Mysterion from 1962 has been faithfully duplicated in “a fully-documented, functional and drivable version of the Kustom Kulture original,” according to a release. “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. 

This show rod will be sold immediately after a large collection of artwork 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.

Image Credit: RM Sotheby’s.

Showcase 5: 1940 Mercury coupe

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

These vehicles are but a taste of the hot rod feast to be had at the Petersen Automotive Museum on December 8. 

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Image Credit: RM Sotheby’s.