By Chris MacDonald
El Segundo, CA—Disney has its neat new "Cars Land" at California Adventure in Anaheim but there's another "land of cars" that you'll also remember all your life, a few miles away at the absolutely amazing Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo. It's the only auto museum in the world where you can actually ride in the mint condition, vintage cars!
"Every Sunday, we take guests on a free ride in some of our autos for a trip back in time," said museum co-founder, curator and renown architect Earl Rubenstein. (What a thrill is was for us to ride in a 1947 Studebaker Champion convertible, while visiting the incredible facility, which has more than 130 classic and antique cars, 1902-1989. The non-profit museum has a 19,000-square-foot display showroom and a 4,500-square-foot banquet area for private parties.)
Rubenstein designed the display area like a real San Francisco auto showroom from the 1930s, complete with huge windows and brick-like tile sidewalks. But you can get up close and personal with these beauties as devoted docents show you the spectacular cars and tell you about their owners, like Eleanor Roosevelt's 1932 Plymouth Town Car, Howard Hughes' 1955 Packard Caribbean Convertible (complete with pink stripe) that he gave to his wife, Actress Jean Peters. Even famous football player Anthony Davis' 1968 Lincoln Continental is on display.
You can have your photo taken in a 1914 Overland and awe at a 1930 Stutz (one of only 3 fabric body cars designed), a 1928 Packard Speedster, with Woolite Headlamps (known for their glamour rather than ability to light the road), 1904 Schact (the last of the "high wheelers" that look like old wagon wheels), a 1952 Packard Parisian 500 (one-of-a-kind concept car) and fabulous autos that were featured in the 2004 and 2013 Rose Parades.
"As a kid, I wanted to be an automobile designer," said Chicago native Rubenstein, who co-founded the museum with fellow car enthusiast Stanley Zimmerman. "I always loved taking things apart and putting them back together. In creating the museum, I wanted people to be able to get close to the cars, learn what makes them tick, and be able to go on rides."
Now, with the help of 50 docents, each passionate about classic cars, Rubenstein and his friends are able to "share the love." Docent tours are on the weekends. One of the happy volunteers, who literally took us for a ride, is Carl Jacobson, the Mayor Pro-Tem of El Segundo. Another who drove us was Paul Idelson, who's hooked on cars.
"I've never seen anything this beautiful," said Doug Strathearn of Scotland, who marveled at the variety of vehicles. "We're hoping to have an auto museum in Dundee."
The unique facility should definitely be the destination for anyone who loves cars and the role they've played in their lives. What memories—getting to see a 1903 Pierce Horseless Carriage in the museum lobby, reminded me of my father telling how his woman principal used to drive to school in such an auto.
Rubenstein's favorite car is his very own 1935 Packard Sport Phaeton, without a doubt, one of the prettiest vehicles on the floor. Be sure and see the 1959 Edsel, 1951 Nash Super Statesman, 1982 stainless steel DeLorean, 1939 Cadillac Limousine, 1948 DeSoto Club Coupe and the 1929 Hutmobile. There are so many others to gaze at that you need to allow plenty of time when you visit from 10-4 Tuesday through Sunday. There's a suggested $5 donation to see the museum but you can get "the ride of your life" for free on Sundays. Thanks to the friendly folks at the Automobile Driving Museum, "The Museum that Takes You for a Ride," for preserving the past at 610 Lairport St., El Segundo. www.theadm.org. 310-909-0950