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The Top 10 Unusual Cars You Won’t See Exhibited at the Petersen Museum

Posted on December 16, 2015

Below the polished black marble floor of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, there lie ten cars with a colourful background. Notorious past, really weird appearance, or one of a kind, they are a story unto themselves.

1978 Mercedes-Benz 600 Landaulet
Produced in small numbers, Mercedes-Benz 600s were some of the most accomplished sedans of their time. The Landaulet model was even more of a rarity and was mostly used by heads of state. Its convertible top retracted over the cabin, allowing crowds to see the passengers clearly.

Its claim to notoriety comes from the fact that one of them belonged to Saddam Hussein until he was overthrown in 2003. An Iraqi drove it into Jordan, where a knowledgeable Jordanian car collector brought it to the attention of the museum’s staff.

Many dents can be seen on the trunk of this car, which are the result, it is said, of Hussein’s guards sitting on the trunk at the end of the day with their rifle butts resting on the metal.

1927 Pedroso
One of two cars ever made, the 1927 Pedroso was the brainchild of Spanish Marquis de Pedroso. Pedroso decided one day to build his dream sports car himself, with a supercharged straight eight, adjustable ignition timing and an underslung chassis to bring the passenger compartment closer to the ground. The legend has it that the marquis was so keen to drive his car that he fitted two wicker chairs from his patio as seats! And they are still in the car to this day!

The Petersen Museum acquired the 1927 Pedroso with full blueprints, so, who knows, another car enthusiast may well build another one!

The Popemobile
The 1998 Cadillacwas built byGM Mexico for John Paul II ‘s trip to Mexico City. Featuring an open top so that the crowd could see the pontiff, it was actually never used, most likely because of the security risks that the design posed.

The seat is mounted on a hydraulic system so that it can be raised or lowered, and steps unfolds when the passenger door opens, making getting in and out of the car easier.

1963 XR-6 Hot Rod
This futuristic-looking car was built for Hot Rod magazine. It was fitted with a 6-cylinder engine, which was unusual at the time as all performance cars then had 8 cylinders. Nevertheless, this little car which wouldn’t look out of place in a Batman movie, could pack quite a punch.

1923 Mathon V16 T-Bucket Roadster
Another hot rod, the 1923 Ford T-Bucket boasts, not a 6-cylinder engine, not an 8-cylinder engine, but a 16-cylinder engine. Built in the early 1990s, this monster of a motor was created by putting together two Chevrolet 350 V-8s. One can only imagine the power and the noise this engine can release, and this car is the only vehicle that was ever fitted with it.

The Mathon sits on an extremely elongated chassis to make room for the double-length engine.

1948 Davis
Three wheels might make pushchairs more manoeuvrable but doesn’t it just sound like a terrible idea for a car? Just getting in or out can make it tip over – one doesn’t dare to think about what must happen when making a turn with any kind of speed…

Yet, Davis thought it would be really cool to build a 3-wheeled car. With an aluminium body and a one-piece fiberglass hardtop, this car is (luckily) one of fewer than twenty built and was assembled in an airplane hangar. The company that made it is notorious because his founder, Gary Davis, was sent to prison for fraud and taking deposits from customers and car dealers but never delivering any vehicles.

Empi Sportster
In 1960, Empi, a mail-order supplier of Volkswagen parts, decided to create a kit to make Beetles usable off road, and so was born the Empi Sporsteer. Although it looks just like what we image the classic dune buggy should look like, it actually took inspiration from the jeeps of the day – just look at its angular lines and you can see the resemblance.

With a fiberglass body and swooping lines, the Empi Sportster was the first production buggy.

1925 Rolls Royce Phantom I
Rolls Royce’s appeal has been enduring and is a symbol of quality and comfort. None better than Pre-World War II Rolls Royce cars embody this, as their chassis are so robust that they often outlast the vehicle’s body. The Phantom I, owned by the Petersen Museum, for example, had to be re-bodied in 1934 but despite its grand old age, it still wouldn’t look out of place as a Batmobile.

Rolls Royces are usually long cars, but this one is the longest of them all, as it had to accommodate the fastback bodywork. Paradoxically, there isn't much room inside considering the size of the car. But what it lacks in grandeur inside, it makes up with coolness: the doors open suicide-style and are also rear-hinged while the windows roll down in a fan pattern.

1955 Mercury D-528 Concept
The Mercury D-528 Concept was one of the first large-scale cars constructed with fiberglass. Fitted with a Y Block V-8 engine, its air-conditioning evaporators took so much space off the car’s booth that the luggage compartment and the petrol tank had to be moved under the lumps at the back of the car.

The car was supposed to star as Batmobile, but as it became outdated by the time it was finished, it ended it in a far less cool Jerry Lewis movie.

1967 "Boothill Express" Hot Rod
There is no rush once you’re dead, so why would you want to fit a Chrysler 462 Hemi V-8 engine into a hearse?

Named after the coach reported to have carried a James Gang member to the Boothill graveyard, “Boothill Express” is essentially a hot-rod funeral coach. The motor sits in the centre of the vehicle and expels exhaust fumes through 8 pipes underneath the rear axle.


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