Petersen Automotive Museum auctions off classic cars, plans revamp

Petersen Automotive Museum

Nick Ut/AP

Steve Aubrey with his son, MacCorkle Aubrey look at a car in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles Tuesday, April 26, 2011. The museum has begun auctioning off some of its classic cars.

The Petersen Automotive Museum has begun auctioning off some of its classic cars, with sales intended to help revamp the 20-year-old auto museum.

"With 400 cars, you can't take care of all of them all of the time and there's really been no space," said Terry Karges, executive director at the museum . "The other part is that, for 20 years, we haven't necessarily done much with culling the collection or being really specific in a direction toward what we want to do. "

The LA Times reported this week that some former museum employees are concerned the sales will deter people from making donations to the museum in the future.

"I couldn't disagree more, but everyone has their opinions," Karges said. "We have 500 members who are premier collectors in the world, and if they don't have a car that we need in their collection, they certainly know who does, so there's really never going to be a car that we can't get our hands on if we want for an important exhibit." 

Karges said the Petersen Automotive Museum has sold some important cars, but none of them are cars that can't be replaced or taken out on loan for exhibits. He added that not all of the cars that the museum owns are necessarily collectibles and some were never intended to be exhibited. 

"There were an awful lot of cars that had been donated by generous folks that we took in with the intention of later on selling it for a lot less money than you'd look at for a collector car," Karges said. 

The Peterson Automotive Museum will begin to focus on featuring more galleries on art and design, Karges said, while staying true to the museum's original mission of showcasing how automobiles have  impacted culture in Los Angeles.

"We're the car center of the world," Karges said. "And we intend to maintain that." 

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