LOS ANGELES, California — The Petersen Automotive Museum is absolutely packed with full-size cars of tremendous importance—visit today and you’ll see, among other automobiles, Bobby Rahal’s last Champ Car racer, a whole room full of classic, multi-million-dollar Ferraris, and some of the earliest electric vehicles in existence, dating from the turn of the 20th century. Now there’s an exhibit, opened this past weekend that pays tribute to the cars kids drive.
Dubbed “Sidewalk Speedsters: The Grown-Up World of Children’s Cars,” the exhibit consists of a couple dozen or so vehicles designed for children to drive. Most are essentially very detailed go-karts; for example the 1977 Porsche 936 Le Mans Jr. which features parts from the actual full-size 936 race car, right down to the taillights.
Others are really scaled down race cars like the 1955 Kurtis Kraft Quarter Midget. While kids will enjoy the display because it features incredible-looking cars that are “right-sized” for them, adults will enjoy learning about these detailed pint-sized vehicles and their intricate construction.
You may also find a car or two that you actually drove as a child. For example, the 1968 Disneyland Autopia Mark VII—a retired version of the car used for Disneyland’s Autopia driving attraction for a number of years. With obvious styling cues from ‘60s Chevrolet Corvettes, the car still weighs heavy in this author’s mind from trips to the park as a child in the 1980s and 1990s. This style of car was phased out in 1999.
“’Sidewalk Speedsters’ will mark a playful change of pace for the museum,” said Petersen Chief Historian Leslie Kendall, who curated the exhibit personally and owns one of the cars on display. “I had so much fun choosing the vehicles on display, as I grew up racing similar cars. The whimsical presentation will perfectly juxtapose the more serious presentations, adding an exciting element of surprise to the museum’s overall atmosphere.”
If you find yourself in the Southern California area over the holidays, the exhibit is a wonderful distraction from the hustle and bustle that typically comes from the season. And bring some children to enjoy the exhibit with you.