The Automobile Driving Museum
A Collection You Can Ride In!

Whether you’re a young kid or a kid-at-heart The Automobile Driving Museum is a guaranteed treat for every automotive enthusiast.

It’s one of the coolest museums in Southern California. It offers antique Model T’s all the way up to a ’95 Viper and 2000 Saleen.

And not only is it okay to touch and sit in the cars but you can swing by on Sundays and go for a free ride! Hear the details from co-founder Stanley Zimmerman himself in this episode of the iDriveSoCal Podcast.

***Transcript***

Recorded March 14, 2018, in El Segundo, CA

An Automotive Museum Like None Other

Stanley Zimmerman: We would go to car shows, generally, everybody else had a sign up saying, “Look but don’t touch” their precious jewel. And we thought differently.

We thought that we should invite the public, particularly, young children to sit in our cars. And go for a ride in them. They’re not immobile. They are moving art and so to enjoy them, you have to use them. We bring out three or four cars from our collection, and people line up and get a ride. It’s no charge; it’s all free.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Today is a pretty fun day for me, actually, already has been because I’ve been getting a tour through The Automobile Driving Museum here in El Segundo, California.

Those of you from Southern California know that El Segundo is adjacent to LAX, Los Angeles International Airport. And sitting with me right now is the founder of the Automobile Driving Museum, Mr. Stanley Zimmerman, Stanley, thank you so much for joining us.

Stanley Zimmerman: My pleasure to be here and talk with you.

Tom Smith: So the Automobile Driving Museum, you’re the founder. It was your vision long ago. Can you kind of start off with a high-level explanation, summary?

“We bring out three or four cars from our collection, and people line up and get a ride. It’s no charge; it’s all free.”

Stanley Zimmerman: Correctly, I am a co-founder of it along with a man called Earl Rubenstein who’s no longer active in the museum. He’s busy with his profession as an architect. And we’re both car collectors, primarily, and we would go to car shows and to car exhibits, concourses, and we would be there with our cars and, generally, everybody else had a sign up saying, “Look but don’t touch” their precious jewel. And we thought differently.

Driving Children’s Interest

We thought that we should invite the public, particularly, young children to sit in our cars. And so between us we had discussions and said someday, we’d like to have a museum for our cars where the public could come and sit in them, bring their children, and let their children sit in them and go for a ride in them. They’re not immobile. They are moving art and so to enjoy them, you have to use them.

Tom Smith: And how long ago did you actually execute on that dream that became a vision that became a reality?

“We thought that we should invite the public, particularly, young children to sit in our cars. And go for a ride in them.”

Stanley Zimmerman: In the beginning, it was just car clubs coming and maybe bringing their families for meetings; it wasn’t the general public. But in 2002, I was able to get the use of a large underground or semi-underground garage under a preschool, which they weren’t using.

Tom Smith sits with thumbs-up in an antique car parked inside The Automobile Driving Museum

And so we put our cars there and started with leaving a few cars out on the street with a sign on them, “There is a museum around the corner.” In West Los Angeles it was. And so we’d get a few people coming in and then I decided that it would be worthwhile making it a public museum so that there are some tax benefits, but it also meant that the collection could go on.

It wouldn’t be limited by our lifetimes. And then we did that for, oh, three or four years before we had the opportunity to acquire this building in El Segundo, and we chose El Segundo because it was near LAX and because it was in the South Bay where there were no car museums and a lot of people that like cars.

Tom Smith: Sure.

Great Location to Cruise

Tom Smith: It’s so much fun. And what…because you have cars out here from literally the early 1900s all the way up through… There’s definitely some 80s probably 90s and beyond. I’ve only been in one of your main rooms here. I haven’t gotten the full tour yet. But what vehicles are people getting rides in? It’s different every weekend almost, I mean?

Stanley Zimmerman: Pretty much every weekend. There are some cars that if we were to drive them… We have an 1886 Benz. It was a built by Mercedes in 1986. They made 11 of them duplicate to the first one they actually gave to dealers, and Beverly Hills Mercedes gave us this. And we did have it once run; it does run.

“They’re not immobile. They are moving art and so to enjoy them, you have to use them.”

But like cars of that vintage, when you run them, you can pretty much rebuild them for the next ride, so that’s our oldest car. And our newest car is a 2000 Saleen Mustang, and we have pretty much everything in between.

Generally, the cars that go out are the cars that are on display, whatever happens, to be on display, or ready for the display. We have 130 cars and about half of them are on display at any time. The others are either in the repair shop or in our garage storage facility.

Tom Smith: And now Alec, your, I guess, his title is curator?

Stanley Zimmerman: Car Manager.

Tom Smith: Okay. So Alec was showing me around, and he clarified that all of the cars in the museum run but not necessarily all of them are driven because some are actually quite valuable and rare.

What’s the Most Valuable Car?

Stanley Zimmerman: That is correct, but most of the ones that are very valuable, we have a duplicate that’s not so valuable.

Tom Smith: Ah, okay.

Stanley Zimmerman: So yes, you may not get a ride in a million dollar car. You get to look at it. You get to sit in it under supervision. But we might have a car that’s not worth a million dollars that you can get a ride in.

“Howard Hughes gave it to his then wife, an actress, Jean Peters, who if you like movies of the 50s, you’ll see her in a lot of them.”

Tom Smith: And that brings me to the question that’s, I think, on everybody’s mind as soon as you walk into a museum and there’s beautiful vehicles, what is the most high-value vehicle that you have?

Stanley Zimmerman: It probably is the 1955 Packard Caribbean convertible that was number seven. Was the first one sold to the public and was sold to Howard Hughes. Howard Hughes gave it to his then wife, an actress, Jean Peters, who if you like movies of the 50s, you’ll see her in a lot of them.

1955 Classic convertible parked in The Automobile Driving Museum with a white top and three-tone paint - white, pink and black

They took it for her–it was her birthday present–and they drove it to Malibu, and drove it home, and parked it in a garage in Beverly Hills, and went off to Las Vegas. And the car sat there until her divorce.

I bought it from Jean Peters and donated it to the museum. It’s probably the most original one. It only has 1700 miles on it now. We only drive it about a mile each year. And because of its history and because it’s being so rare, it probably is our most valuable car.

A Car Made of Cloth

But, it isn’t much more than the next one which is a 1930 Stutz Weymann Monte Carlo. Weymann bodies are made like old airplanes, like World War I airplanes. They’re not metal; they’re not wood. They are a hardwood frame on which cloth is stretched so it’s a cloth body.

Tom Smith: Cloth body?

Stanley Zimmerman: Cloth body, yes. It’s more like a vinyl, but they didn’t have vinyl those days. And so there’s in the whole world of Stutzes, there are 23 Weymann body Stutzes left because you can tell if it’s fabric body car, you leave it up in the snow, things are going to happen. And only four 1930 Monte Carlos, so it’s a very rare car.

“…bodies are made like old airplanes, like World War I airplanes… They are a hardwood frame on which cloth is stretched so it’s a cloth body.”

Tom Smith: The Stutz is valued at how much again?

Stanley Zimmerman: Something over half a million dollars.Stanley Zimmerman, Co-Founder of The Automobile Driving Museum being interviewed by Tom Smith for the iDriveSoCal Podcast

Tom Smith: Now the…Howard Hughes’ wife vehicle, Jean Peters?

Stanley Zimmerman: Yes.

Tom Smith: What is the value of that vehicle?

Stanley Zimmerman: It’s really…and you really can’t tell. I’ve been told that at some of the auction companies that would like us to sell it, which we won’t, that in an auction, it would probably bring more than a million dollars.

Evolution of the Museum

Tom Smith: So you had a vision for this museum a long time ago. Has it come to fruition? Has it changed a little bit?

Stanley Zimmerman: Oh, it’s always changing. Things aren’t static. They’re not static. If they’re static, you’re a dinosaur. We have dinosaurs flying around as birds. They evolved. The museum has to evolve.

We do a lot of things for young people, youth. We have events nine times a year if it doesn’t rain, for kids that are in the average to maybe five, six years of age.

Front-driver-side view of an antique car parked in The Automobile Driving Museum

They get a chance to learn a little bit about cars, answer a few questions, and win a prize. The prize is Hot Wheels, which graciously, Mattel provides for us. And by the way, they get to see, at that same time, Mattel’s full-size cars that they have full-size cars.

“…it’s always changing. Things aren’t static… If they’re static, you’re a dinosaur. We have dinosaurs flying around as birds. They evolved. The museum has to evolve.”

Maybe 500 young people show up for that. And then we do a lot of birthday parties for preteens. That all has a motive behind that. We’re trying to implant into them a memory that maybe when they’re 50, around that age, that they’ll start to think about, “Gee, I saw those cars.”

The cars are here forever. We’re just temporary custodians of them. So we have to think about who’s the next custodian. And maybe they’ll want to have, for their memory, a Toyota that has a computer in it and not a car that you had to crank to start, didn’t have any electricity in it. So yeah, the museum will evolve that way.

Sharing the Passion 

There’s a need for having a facility where people can learn how to take care of these cars, we’ll grow to that. I mean we have some youth here that come in that help us, but it will get more formalized. And if you ask me what else is going to happen, I don’t know. But whatever is going to be for the time as we change, we will change.

Tom Smith: It sounds like whatever is going to happen, your intention is for it to stay and to continue growing.

Stanley Zimmerman: That’s our plan. The museum has funding for the next 40 years. And if they are careful with what their funding is, it will go longer. But of course, we need to have sponsors, contributors, docents that help us out.

Front-passenger-side view of an antique car parked in The Automobile Driving Museum

We’re working hard now on bringing females into the car hobbies and teaching them. There are classes here for women to learn how to maintain cars. We’re starting a project where the women will do a restoration of a GMC truck. They’re going to do…we’ll guide them, but they’re going to do all the work on it.

“The cars are here forever. We’re just temporary custodians of them. So we have to think about who’s the next custodian.”

Tom Smith: And the driving portion of your museum, it happens every Sunday. Are there any Sundays that you guys take off? Holidays, whatnot?

Stanley Zimmerman: Yes, the obvious Sundays, although, some of the Sundays, yes, they’re driving because the public gets off, and they want to be here. A rainy day is not a day for taking these cars out for a drive.

Tom Smith: Luckily, in Southern California, there’s not a whole heck of a lot.

How You Can Get Involved

Tom Smith: Mr. Stanley Zimmerman, this has been a pleasure. Thank you for having me. As we start to wrap it up here, the way that anybody can get involved, I believe your website is TheADM.org, right?

Stanley Zimmerman: TheADM.org or if you go Automobile Driving Museum, you’ll get us too. You can apply on the website and definitely, you can become one of our members or sponsors.

Tom Smith: It’s a fun place to come, and thank you for executing on your vision to make it a reality.

” [Free rides on Sunday’s are] 10:00 to 4:00 but I would get here earlier and get in line.”

Stanley Zimmerman: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the Automobile Driving Museum.

Tom Smith: The Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, California. You can find it online at TheADM.org or just swing on by any day of the week…

Stanley Zimmerman: Not Mondays.

Tom Smith: Oh excuse me, not Mondays but swing on by any day of the week but Mondays. And if you want to go for a ride on Sundays…

Stanley Zimmerman: 10:00 to 4:00 but I would get here earlier and get in line.

Tom Smith: There you go, El Segundo, California. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. As always, thanks for listening.

Related Posts

Volkswagen Innovation & Technology | iDSC053 Volkswagen Innovation Technology & Design Volkswagen is delivering innovation in many ways that you need to factor into your next car buying equ...
Spectacular September of Auto Shows | iDSC117 The Professor's Spectacular September of Auto Shows! Every weekend in Southern California brings with it the opportunity to hit multiple auto shows...
The Future of Mobility | iDSC100 The Future of Mobility What’s Hype & What’s Real? There’s a ton of hype around the future of mobility; the possibilities appear endless! Some c...
Rock Honda Customer Review | iDSC078 Jenelle from Corona on Buying at Rock Honda Everybody loves getting a new car and why shouldn’t the buying process be an awesome experience? At iDri...
Bashian joins Ontario Volkswagen | iDSC113 Volkswagen Thru & Thru  Shant Bashian Joins Ontario VW Shant Bashian has been a Volkswagen guy, thru and thru, for nearly his entire adult life....
Japanese Classic Car Show | iDSC123 Japanese Classic Car Show The 14th Annual Japanese Classic Car Show made the list of The Professor's Spectacular September of Auto Shows and this yea...
Lyon Air Museum | iDSC108 The Greatest Generation Dedication Lyon Air Museum If you're fascinated by history, the Greatest Generation, World War II, and aviation, there's a g...
2019 Toyota Tacoma Review | iDSC164 2019 Toyota Tacoma Test Drive & Review #TacoGang @ West Coast Toyota Long Beach! If you're like me then the line between 'needing' a Toyota Tac...
Muckenthaler Motor Car Festival | iDSC076 Muckenthaler Motor Car Festival - Orange County's Oldest Car Show The Muckenthaler Motor Car Festival is Orange County’s oldest running auto show and...
Top Volkswagen Dealer in SoCal | iDSC052 Top-Rated SoCal VW Dealer Started as a Hot Rod Shop Would you believe Ontario Volkswagen (in Ontario, California) basically started as hot rod shop ...
Checkered Flag Malfunction | iDSC087 Checkered Flag Malfunction Supermodel Ends Race Early A major Formula One race ended early when a supermodel waved the checkered flag a lap too soon...
New Car First Service | iDSC159  Your New Car's First Service Behind the Wrench w/ Ruben Serna Ever wonder what happens to your new car when you take it in for its first trip to th...
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach | iDSC060 The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - Professor Quan’s Analysis The 44th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach did not disappoint.  While our Profes...
Auto Enthusiast Day Preview | iDSC088 Auto Enthusiast Day Preview Rubber Will Be Burned! The Anaheim Angels (of Los Angeles) parking lot is about to get destroyed!  That is, actually, th...
2018 Genesis G80 Review | iDSC044 2018 Genesis G80 Test Drive & Review The 2018 Genesis G80 delivers the goods. The iDriveSoCal’s very own Professor, Clinton Quan, picked one up ...
Legal Marijuana & DUI Arrest | iDSC062 Legal Marijuana & DUI Arrest Don't Drive High! Although the recreational use of marijuana is increasingly becoming legal across the US, you can ...
Road Trip Home Protection | iDSC099 Keep Your Home Safe While Hitting the Road Bad guys get busy during travel season. Whether it’s summer vacation, spring break, end-of-year holidays,...
LA Auto Show Press Days | iDSC149 AutoMobility LA 2018 LA Auto Show Press Days The Los Angeles Auto Show marks the beginning of the major automotive shows around the world each year....
Car Buying w/ a Woman’s Touch | iDSC042 Car Buying with a Woman's Touch In our inaugural Dealer People Podcast, and to acknowledge International Women's Day, we profile Rock Honda's, Veron...
Car Buying Service | iDSC153 Car Buying ServiceAs of 2018, there are nearly 17,000 new car franchise dealerships across the United States - so car buying as a service should ...
Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show | iDSC083 Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show Annual Boys Republic Benefit The Boys Republic in Chino Hills hosted it’s 11th Annual Friends of Steve McQueen fun...
Best of France and Italy | iDSC162 The Best of  France and Italy Car Show Have a thing for rare cars from France & Italy? Then you'll find this one to be a special treat! True S...
Import Tuner Scene | iDSC165 Import Tuner Scene World's Car Capital - SoCal! Southern California is the home of the Import Tuner Scene; yet another reason the region is the car...
2019 Jaguar F-TYPE R OC Auto Show Test Drive | iDS... 2019 Jaguar F-TYPE R Test Drive at the OC Auto Show The 2019 Jaguar F-TYPE R was made available for test drives during the Orange County Internation...
Autumn Road Trips | iDSC106 Autumn Road Trips Find Your Seasonal Bliss Nothing compares to a Southern California road trip as the seasons change. There's so much to see - from...
2019 Honda Passport Review | iDSC168 2019 Honda Passport Test Drive & ReviewAfter driving the all-new 2019 Honda Passport I can confirm that this new/re-entry into Honda's crosso...
BMW Ultimate Driving Experience | iDSC138 BMW Ultimate Driving Experience iDriveSoCal's Professor, Clinton Quan, is dialed into all the best automotive events and experiences throughout the S...
Ride-Hailing vs. Vehicle Ownership Ride-Hailing vs. Vehicle Ownership With the ease and accessibility of app-based transportation options, right at our fingertips, you may be one of th...
2019 Volkswagen Arteon Test Drive & Review | ... 2019 VW Arteon Test Drive & Review Anticipation for the dealership-arrival of the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon is at a fever pitch for hardcore VW ent...
Automotive Crime Prevention | iDSC102 Automotive Crime Prevention - Every 45-seconds a Car is Stolen! Forget Gone in 60-Seconds: Every 45-seconds a vehicle is stolen in the United States!...
Top 10 Best Selling Vehicles in History | iDSC139 Top-10 Best Selling Vehicles in History What do you think are the Top-10 best selling vehicles in history?  When we saw the headline we had to dive-i...
2018 Honda CR-V Review | iDSC105 2018 Honda CR-V Test Drive & Review The 2018 Honda CR-V is top in its class – arguably a pick above its luxury sibling, the Acura RDX. I recentl...
Highway Earth Auto Show | iDSC093 Highway Earth Auto Show - The Professor's Awesome Auto Show June Who would have guessed there are actual hills in Beverly Hills? Add to that there’s ...
ArtCenter Car Classic | iDSC147 ArtCenter Car Classic The ArtCenter College of Design, right here in SoCal, is one of the top schools for transportation and automotive designers aro...
History of the Volkswagen Beetle | iDSC151 History of the  Volkswagen Beetle The fascinating history of Volkswagen's Beetle could take up far more than a 30-minute podcast.  It's one of the m...
2018 Honda Fit Test Drive & Review | iDSC048 2018 Honda Fit Test Drive & Review Thinking of a smaller car that delivers great versatility and value with plenty of creature comforts? Then ...
70-Years of Porsche – Sportscar Together Day... Sportscar Together Day 70 Years of Porsche Porsche recently marked it’s 70th year on the streets of North America with a special event at The Porsch...
The Driverless Tech Conundrum | iDSC047 The Driverless Tech Conundrum - Pedestrian’s Death Raises Issues The death of a pedestrian after being hit by a self-driven Uber raises issues. Who’s...
Rock Honda Customer Review | iDSC082 Paola of Fontana on Buying at Rock Honda The 2018 Honda Civic offers a lot of functionality and technology. In this iDriveSoCal Podcast we hear dire...
The History of Cars & Coffee with Barry Megui... The History of Cars & Coffee  Cars just have a special appeal to some folks.  Young or old, wealthy or not, doesn’t matter what race, nationality...