Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scooters at the Petersen

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

Sometimes you plan a trip down to the smallest detail. It seems that nothing is left to chance. Then you get to your destination and a museum is closed for renovations, or a planned exhibit was cancelled, or the restaurant you were dying to try has closed.

Other times, wonderful opportunities open that are completely unexpected.

 It's amazing how these things happen.

Early on during our not so recent trip to Los Angeles, we were on one of those hop-on, hop-off open-top sightseeing bus tours. We like those tours because they are not very expensive, they typically give you a lot of flexibility, and if you're in an unfamiliar city, they are a great way to get your bearings and figure out which sights and attractions you want to visit during your stay.

There we were, cruising through L.A. in the farmer's market district. We passed the Petersen automotive museum and the museum's electronic marquee flashed the word "scooter".

That was the only clue I needed.

A little Googling and I learned enough about the exhibit that I knew I had to see it. It turned out that there was indeed a scooter extravaganza that just might be the most definitive curated museum installation on that subject in the history of the world.

At first I thought that I might have missed it.  Luck was with me because it turned out that the exhibit was only wrapping up at the end of the month.

"... in the history of the world", really?

Well, I know it sounds like extravagant hyperbole, but in this case, I honestly think that the claim may be close to true.  There's the Dezer museum in Miami that has a large permanent collection of scooters, so technically that may be in some measure the world's most definitive permanent collection.  I've never been there, so I can't really say.  There's also the Piaggio museum in Pontadera Italy, but that exhibit is, as far as I know, entirely devoted to Piaggio products.

Putting aside the hyperbole for a moment, and without much further digression, you'll find some pictures I took below.

In many ways the most remarkable scooters in the exhibit were the Salsbury scooters.
Aside from having a certain Jetsons' kitschy appeal, it was quite a topical scooter to see. Only a few months ago, a 1947 Salsbury scooter handily won the 2012 Scooter Cannonball race rally traveling from Savannah Georgia to San Diego in just eight short days. It's true that the winning Salsbury was doctored with a state of the art 250cc Ninja motorcycle engine tucked under the bodywork. But when you see a Salsbury, riding one coast-to-coast seems like the most remote possibility.
Truth is often stranger than fiction.

As you might expect, Piaggio's Vespas were heavily represented, though for some strange reason I don't recall seeing any LX models.  As you will see, there was a Piaggio MP3, and a Vespa GT, and those bikes are in contention as my next commuting machines.  Decisions, decisions.
 When you compare the attention to style and detail of the Piaggio products to other scooters of similar vintage, you immediately see why Vespas became so iconic.
Among the surprises were the golf scooter above, and the Piaggio car in the exhibit.
Not bad for a little serendipity.


Canajun said...

Scooter heaven. I really liked the golf scooter - was that a custom unit or did someone actually manufacture them?

Roland said...

Absolutely fantastic! Sonja and I never knew that there was a scooter exhibit in LA (until you brought us the flyer). This would have been one (and probably the only?!) reason to eventually visit Los Angeles. Too bad, but hopefully there will be another scooter exhibit somewhere one day. And we can always visit Pontadera!

Dar said...

What a great exhibit! Love seeing all the different scooters. The Salisbury s really quite scooter, looks kind of lime a riong mower/mini zamboni.

Trobairitz said...

Awesome. What a great stroke of luck you happened to be in town and see the sign.

I had never heard of the Salsbury scooter before. I learned something.

Thanks for the great pictures.

Deb said...

What a fun post! What an experience!

Amazing exhibit. I wonder if it is traveling the country?

I will watch for it in my area!

Thanks for the tour!

David Masse said...

Canajun, I couldn't say about the golf scooter. I think it may have been meant as a one person golf cart alternative. Thought the stand would be a challenge.

Roland, Roland, Pontadera is a good idea. Who knows, we could plan a scooter holiday / blogger meet up, in Tuscany :)

Dar, can you imagine riding that thing coast to coast with a 250cc Ninja under the cowls. The guy who did it got stopped by cops who didn't give him a ticket, they just wanted to know what the heck it was, and how it went so damn fast.

Trobairitz, luck indeed, just one of those things. Love your recent ride photos. Just damn gorgeous.

Deb, I don't think it can travel. I was at Vespa Sherman Oaks and the owner has a number of scooters in the exhibit, and he know of quite a number of other locals who also contributed to the exhibit. So I think it was a one-of-a-kind thing, unfortunately.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.