In addition to the private automotive collections that only the privileged few ever lay eyes on, there are dozens of collections in Southern California that may be viewed by the public--some of the finest in the world, in fact. Here is a sampling of museums and public collections.
Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife. Emerson Ave., Oxnard. (805) 486-5929.
Features: Retired Los Angeles Times Publisher Otis Chandler's collection of American motorcycles and classic cars, including a Packard display, a 1901 Indian motorcycle and rare Porsches. Chandler's big-game hunting trophies are also on display.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one day a month. The museum is temporarily closed because of construction, so readers are advised to call for the next public viewing date.
Admission: $7; no children under 12.
Los Angeles County
Gen. Phineas Banning Residence Museum. 401 E. M St., Wilmington. (310) 548-7777; http://www.banning.org.
Features: The house is a great old (1864) Georgian mansion, but the attraction for vehicular buffs is the equally old coaching barn and its collection of 11 horse-drawn buggies and carriages out back. The beautifully restored carriages include an enclosed Brougham and a Phaeton--or convertible top--and are wonderful examples of the "cars" people used to get around in during L.A.'s pre-automobile days. Several of the buggies, in fact, were built by Los Angeles coach makers.
Hours: Tours of the house and coach barn are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, same hours, with an added 3:30 p.m. tour. Note: The museum will be closed the last two weeks in August.
Admission: $3 donation.
Justice Brothers Racing Car Museum. 2734 E. Huntington Drive, Duarte. (626) 359-9174; http://www.justicebrothers.com.
Features: The brothers, famed for their high-performance engine additives, display their collection of racing machines in a museum located on a section of the famed Route 66. Racing engines, midget sprint cars, vintage Corvettes and Thunderbirds, a Ford GT-40 and automobilia are all on view.
Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: Free. Visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
The Nethercutt Collection. 15200 Bledsoe St., Sylmar. (818) 367-2251.
Features: More than 200 classic and antique American and European luxury cars, mostly pre-World War II, are displayed in a mansion-like setting, along with automotive memorabilia.
Hours: Two-hour tours at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. Reservations required.
Admission: Free. Semi-casual dress; no jeans or shorts. No children under 12.
NHRA Motorsports Museum. Los Angeles County Fairplex, Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona. (909) 622-2133; http://www.nhraonline.com/museum.
Features: The museum, which opened in April 1998, is devoted to the history of the National Hot Rod Assn. and holds scores of early track, Bonneville, dry-lake and drag racing cars and early hot rods. The collection includes Mickey Thompson's Challenger, the first American-made car to exceed 400 mph, and "Big Daddy" Don Garlits' Swamp Rat 14, the first successful rear-engine dragster. There's also a gallery of historic photos and memorabilia.
Hours: Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $5; ages 6-15 and 60 and older, $3; under 5, free.
Petersen Automotive Museum. 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 930-2277; http://www.petersen.org.
Features: The Petersen is one of the premier automotive museums in the nation. The first level is devoted to the history of the car in Southern California, with uncannily realistic dioramas giving visitors a "you are there" look at how the car has influenced our lives. The second floor offers permanent and changing exhibitions on automobiles to fit every taste, whether classics, wild customs, race cars or roadsters. The third floor is given over to the May Family Discovery Center, a hands-on exhibit area for kids and grown-ups that shows how science and the automobile are linked.
Special Note: The current exhibitions are "Treasures of the Vault: Cars From the Permanent Collection," on view through Dec. 31, and "Surf's Up--The Great American Woody," through Jan. 17.
Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: adults, $7; students with valid ID and senior citizens 62 and older, $5; children 5-12, $3; under 5, free. Parking: $4.
Valentine's Metropolitan Pit Stop. 5330 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 769-1515.
Features: This may be the only museum devoted to the tiny Nash Metropolitan. Eight of the unusual cars are on display, as well as a Nash fire engine and show cars such as the bubble-top Astra-Gnome built for the 1956 New York International Auto Show. The museum is attached to the Valentine's Metropolitan parts store and restoration shop.
Hours: Store and shop open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call for reservations for museum.
San Bernardino County
Vintage Coach Museum. 16593 Arrow Blvd., Fontana. (909) 823-9168.
Features: Bill Albright's large private collection of nearly 70 Hudsons, from 1933 to 1954, including 15 restored to original condition.
Hours: By appointment only, Mondays through Saturdays.
Marconi Automotive Museum. 1302 Industrial Drive, Tustin. (714) 258-3001.
Features: Collector and vintage racing enthusiast Dick Marconi started his showcase as a hands-on car museum for children, but these days all ages are welcome. On display are Marconi's 65 sports and racing cars, including 18 Ferraris.
Hours: By appointment, Mondays through Fridays.
Dennis Mitosinka's Classic Cars. 619 E. 4th St., Santa Ana. (714) 953-5303.
Features: Automobile appraiser Mitosinka's private collection ranges from a 1929 Rolls-Royce to a 1969 Corvette roadster. Highlights include a Deco-styled 1947 Delahaye and a fuel-injected 1957 Pontiac Bonneville convertible.
Hours: By appointment.
San Diego County
Deer Park Winery and Auto Museum. 29013 Champagne Blvd. S., Escondido. (760) 749-1666.
Features: The museum is devoted entirely to the convertible, with lots of little-known names from the 1950s, such as the Crosley Hotshot and Frazer Manhattan. Visitors 21 and older also get a taste of Deer Park's San Diego County wines. There's a bookstore and gift shop, the winery and a nice picnic area.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission at 4 p.m.).
Admission: Adults, $6; senior citizens 55 and older, $4; children under 12, free.
Firehouse Museum. 1572 Columbia St., San Diego. (619) 232-3473.
Features: Displays showcase classic firetrucks and hand-drawn firefighting equipment, with several pieces dating before the Civil War. There's a 1922 Stutz fire wagon and a 1914 Seagrave used at the World's Fair held at San Diego's Balboa Park in 1915. The museum is housed in a 1915 fire station.
Hours: Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $2; senior citizens 65 and older and youths 13-17, $1; firefighters and children under 12, free. (All admissions are free on the first Thursday of each month.)
San Diego Automotive Museum. 2080 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, San Diego. (619) 231-2886.
Features: Displays of more than 80 vehicles range from the horseless carriage through high-performance and exotic cars of the early 1980s. The collection includes a world-class motorcycle display and a section devoted to American cars of the drive-in era. Exhibits change several times a year; the current show, "100 Years of Automotive Progress," presents vehicles from every decade of the century.
Hours: Open daily. Summer hours (through Labor Day weekend), 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; until 4:30 p.m. the rest of the year. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.
Admission: Adults, $7; senior citizens 65 and older and active members of the military, $6; children 6-15, $3; under 6, free.