Deuce Party – The Petersen Museum’s 90th Anniversary Deuce Celebration
Founded in 1994 after a $5 million donation by Hot Rod magazine founder Robert E. Petersen and his wife Margie, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California, has always been weighted toward the hot rodding lifestyle and hot rods themselves. One reason for that might be that Bruce Meyer, who owns and had restored many iconic hot rods over the years, is the Petersen’s founding chairman. Over the nearly 30 years of its non-profit life, the Petersen has hosted dozens of events highlighting any number of vehicle types or personalities that have made their mark on American culture.
The new Ross and Beth Myers Gallery hot rod display showcases three of the most prominent ’32 Ford roadsters in early hot rod history, including the Bob McGee roadster (left), the Doane Spencer roadster (middle) and the Ray Brown roadster (99c). Brown’s highboy was built in the late-’40s with a dropped axle, chopped windshield, aluminum three-piece hood, and race-prepped Mercury Flathead V8. It ran as fast as 125.70mph on the dry lakes in the late-’40s.
The gallery showcases several Deuces made famous in popular entertainment. The “Ricky Nelson Roadster,” which gained attention on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” TV show in the ’50s, was originally built by Ray De Fillipi with a channeled body and cycle fenders before subsequent owner Tony LaMasa updated it with emerald green paint and small-block Chevy power. The black, flamed, Flathead-powered roadster behind it has been seen in two of the more recent “Iron Man” movies.
One such event 15 years ago became a high-water mark for the hot rodding crowd: the 75th Anniversary of the ’32 Ford. A real blowout shindig, there were many types of ’32 Fords in attendance and the evening was capped by a rock concert on the roof performed by a supergroup consisting of Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck, Jimmie Vaughan, and Michael Anthony.
The restored Andy Kassa three-window coupe showcases vintage early-’60s show rod style with a chopped and channeled body, lots of chrome, and a flashy multi-carb Flathead. The Doyle Gammel coupe behind it represents enduring street style and is considered by many to demonstrate the ideal top chop proportions.
It’s hard to celebrate the Deuce without showcasing a Brizio-built example. This tasteful Victoria was built for rock ’n roll legend Eric Clapton and has a 515-horsepower Roush-built Ford V8 for power.
Barry Lobeck’s influential Deuce roadster, profiled elsewhere in this section, was redone by Bruce Meyer in the ’90s in black paint with yellow checkered scallops, inspired by the nose paint on a World War II-era P-47.
Inspired by the famous Nitti roadster, Pat Ganahl’s deep purple beauty is a classically styled highboy with a dual-carb ’51 Cadillac V8, dropped axle, King Bee headlights on a custom bar, and a 2-inch chopped windshield. He alternates between a Halibrand/Real Rodders wheel combo and these 16-inch steel wheels with whitewalls.
Troy Ladd of Hollywood Hot Rods not only brought out the Pat Gauntt ’32 Ford three-window coupe (which was recently crowned the Goodguys 2022 Street Rod d’Elegance), but also the Dewar coupe, a time capsule ’50s hot rod with Olds power and custom paint and upholstery that was stored in 1961 and left untouched before being acquired by Troy and brought back to life in 2018.
Since that event, the museum held a similar function on the 85th anniversary of the Deuce and, just recently, celebrated the 90th anniversary of the iconic American car. The gathering was spread over two days, with a Saturday night gala highlighted by an unveiling of the new Ross and Beth Myers Gallery hot rod display that features many examples of Ross’s extensive collection, a few more from Bruce Meyer, and some of the vehicles the Petersen itself owns.
Contemporary Deuce style is represented with the “0032” roadster, which was designed by Chip Foose, built as the “Boydster II” at Hot Rods by Boyd in 1995, and then updated and restyled by Foose at his own Foose Design in the late-1990s before winning America’s Most Beautiful Roadster in 2000.
A perfect example of the resto rod era, this phantom two-door Phaeton has all the era’s hallmarks: wire wheels, pinstripes, cowl lights, and a greyhound on the radiator cap.
How many of you have held onto your first car for 65 years? Brad Smith bought this Deuce Tudor – his first car – for $65 in 1957 and built it into a hot rod. He’s been enjoying, refining, and updating the car ever since.
Tom Prufer’s influential flamed three-window coupe (top) was one of several aggressive, throwback-style hot rods to come out in the late-’80s. Big-block Chevy power fed by dual Holleys on a tunnel ram intake sends power to those massive rear ETIII wheels and Mickey Thompson tires.
The wild yellow Phaeton on the right was built by built by Street Rodder publisher Tom McMullen and made famous in the video for Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” The bold looks are backed up with blown small-block power.
The evening was capped off by a concert from ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons, but not before he was bestowed a special honor. Henry Ford III was on hand to present a trophy and the aptly named Robert E. Petersen Hot Rod Icon award to Gibbons, who has his own collection of vehicles that some say might be the most famous hot rods in the world (including the Eliminator Coupe and CadZZilla).
Musician and hot rod enthusiast Billy F. Gibbons of ZZTop fame not only performed a great show during the Saturday Deuce Gala at the Petersen, he also received the Robert E. Petersen Hot Rod Icon award from none other than Henry Ford III.
The next morning, dozens of ’32 owners (as well as a smattering of other-year hot rods) from all over the Southern California region wound their way up to the top floor roof parking area of the museum for a car show along with a pancake breakfast and a few more special awards. With more than 100,000-square-feet of exhibit space, the five-story building (if you count the subterranean Vault in the basement that houses 250 or so more vehicles) is one of the crown gems of the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles, and right across the street from the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures building. And there’s already talk of a 95th celebration, so get your cars finished!
A self-taught photojournalist, Eric Geisert worked for 3 years at VW Trends magazine before joining Street Rodder magazine in 1991. In 2002 he was named one of The 50 Who Made A Difference at the 50th Detroit Autorama and, in 2004, was named editor of Kit Car magazine, a 30-year-old title. By 2006 a move back to Street Rodder came with a Senior Editor position and, in 2007, Eric was inducted into the Circle of Champions, the Detroit Autorama's Hall of Fame. In 2013, at 52 years old, Eric became a freelance writer supplying articles and photography to publications around the world, which allows him to work on his collection of 12 or so cars that includes a ’34 five-window Ford coupe, a '32 Ford roadster, a reproduction '59 Lotus 11, a 356 Porsche speedster, a '55 Chevy 210, and a '59 Karmann Ghia. Over his career, Eric's photographic images have graced 300 magazine covers and he’s written literally thousands of automotive-related articles.