Petersen Museum and Michelin Offer Private Tour of Holy Grail Cars – Robb Report

Just steps from where car enthusiast crush Monterey Car Week takes place each August, a group of 15 gearheads gathers in the courtyard of a serene and stately home. An obsession with exquisite vehicles brings them together, but the collection housed in the sprawling self-contained garage is about to turn their jaded eyes green with envy.

The gathering, orchestrated by the Petersen Automotive Museum and blessed (meaning sponsored) by the patron saint of premium tires (and haute cuisine), Michelin, is led by Bruce Meyer. Passionate par excellence, Meyer is a remarkable collector in his own right. When he arrives in a seemingly mile-long 1930s Bugatti and emerges with a Gatsby-esque savior, he teases the group that they are about to discover one of the car assemblies and most exceptional motorcycles that can be found. He then leads the coterie into a room that has about as much in common with a garage as The Breakers has with a single-family residence in the suburbs. In a moment of instant recognition, an eye of singular automotive icons leaves the group speechless.

The iconic front of a Ferrari 250 GTO.

Photo by Larry Chen.

Straight ahead is a legendary Ferrari 250 GTO, one of 36 in total. Any GTO is as rare as a star sapphire, but this particular specimen is not just any example: of the few coveted GTOs in existence, it would be one of the only examples that has ever been crushed. Parked next to it is the last Ferrari Formula 1 car ever driven by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, his colorful helmet resting on the car’s minimalist carbon fiber chassis.

Rows of immaculate vehicles form a sea of ​​sheet metal. A series of Ferraris, both race cars and road cars, flanking Bugattis, Lancias, Packards and Talbot-Lagos from the 1920s and 1930s. 1950s to 1970s, and a delicious handful of unique goodies scattered throughout the jaw-dropping array.

A few motorcycles are neatly hung against a far wall, but the vanishing point of the cars leads the eye to the holy grail of two-wheeled competition: John Edgar’s example of a Vincent Black Lightning, better known as from “Bathing Suit Bike”. The stripped down motorcycle forged one of the most memorable images of a vehicle in motion, a capture of the Rollie Free racer stretching over the tank in his underpants to hit a record 150.313 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1948.

Rollie Free stretched over the tank in his underpants to hit a record 150.313 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1948.

A taut Rollie Free during its record run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1948.

Photo from the Herb Harris Collection.

No intimate gathering would be complete without a shared experience. As such, we stop for a toast from Napa-based Wine Access, who brought a selection of varietals to sample. Going down a flight of stairs to a lower section, the vibe becomes modern. Although there is a workshop where routine maintenance is carried out on a coveted Birkin Team Bentley Blower (naturally), the surrounding supercars provide a punk counterpoint to the bygone era of stately couriers with scarves streaming out the window . The room reads like a checklist of display cars, including a Porsche 959 and a Carrera GT. Literally completing the collection is an incredibly swoopy McLaren Speedtail, conveniently pointed towards the garage door as if ready to take off.

The McLaren Speedtail Concept presented at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2019.

The McLaren Speedtail shown in concept form at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show.

Photo by Cyril Zingaro/Keystone via AP.

The visit ends with new friends and a lingering afterglow of conviviality. Although Monterey Car Week always leaves an indelible impression, those lucky enough to visit this secret enclave have a shared appreciation that it will be a cutting-edge experience. It all ends with a toast to the Petersen Museum, Michelin and Bruce Meyer with glasses of 2014 Harlan Estate Proprietary Red, another collectible in its own right.

Editor’s Note: Since photography of the private collection is prohibited, the images shown here are representative of the examples on display.

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