August 27, 2012

Photo Essay: Automobile Driving Museum's Ridealong Sunday

Car culture is intrinsic to California life.

Sure, there are those who move from New York and refuse to (or cannot) adapt, and walk, bike, or hitch a ride to wherever they need to go. But regardless, their lack of driving limits their California experience. While they save on gas and reduce their carbon impact on the environment, they lose out on the freedom of the road.

The advent of motorized vehicles tremendously impacted not only the infrastructure of major California cities like LA, but also the architecture. Eye-popping styles like Googie and California Crazy emerged, drawing attention to gas stations, car washes, motels, and eateries with flashing neon lights and oddball shapes. The train may have brought people to LA, but the car brought them out of it. And in the early- to mid-20th century, it seems like all people wanted to do was get out of LA - to Vegas, Palm Springs, the Salton Riviera, or along the Mother Road all the way to Chicago.

There are car museums and shows throughout the country, but nowhere does it seem more fitting to visit one but in LA - and not only view the cars, but actually ride in them.

Tucked away behind LAX, near Nash Street in El Segundo which once was a center of activity in automotive manufacturing, is the Automobile Driving Museum, which not only preserves and displays a variety of "orphan" vehicles, but lets you actually sit inside of them and go for a spin.

1951 Nash Super Statesman

1951 Nash Super Statesman

1930 Ford Model A Coupe

1926 Pontiac

(Year??) Buick

1940 Packard 120

1955 Packard 400 hardtop coupe

1958 Packard Hawk hardtop coupe

1947 Packard Super Clipper

1936 Auburn Super-Charged Speedster

1959 Edsel

1937 Chrysler Royal Sedan


(Year??) Morgan Plus 4

1952 MG Mark II TD roadster

1982 DeLorean DMC-12

When people ask me why I love LA, one of the first things I say is, "Well, I love driving." I've driven many a rental car, moving truck, and racecar since I got my license 20 years ago, and the truth is, I just love cars - not only my car - but every Jeep, Fiat, Prius, Escalade, and crazy, chromed-out coupe with 30-inch fins, oh yeah.

So far, I've gotten to ride in a '51 Buick Super, a '68 Lincoln Continental, and an '85 Mustang. In the latter, I asked my docent driver, "How fast does this puppy go?" and he replied, "We're not going to find out," as he carefully rounded the corners under the Century Freeway. He did kick it into Turbo for me, though.

I wish I could ride in them all. Maybe, if I visit the Automobile Driving Museum every Sunday, I'll be able to experience a good selection of the rest of them.

But what I really want to do, is drive all of them.

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