Jewish Journal


October 20, 2010

Rev up for a high-octane ‘Car Mitzvah’ party


The 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom I is a major draw for b’nai mitzvah celebrations at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Photo by Scott Williamson

The 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom I is a major draw for b’nai mitzvah celebrations at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Photo by Scott Williamson

Ben Shane loves cars. When he was a baby, his mother said, he slept with two Hot Wheels cars instead of a blanket. Now 13, he excels at auto-themed video games, attends monster truck shows, watches NASCAR races on TV and collects model cars. In his bedroom, motorcycles adorn his bedding. His nightstand is an old racing tire topped with Plexiglas. His clock is a tire with an embedded timepiece.

When it came time to plan Shane’s bar mitzvah celebration, there really was only one theme to consider.

His family rented out the Sylmar MB2 Raceway, an indoor kart track. Boys and girls — along with moms and dads — put on their helmets, revved their engines and whizzed around the track to their hearts’ content for four hours.

“Ben will never forget his bar mitzvah party,” said his mother, Valerie, who added that guests came up to her saying it would be “hard to top this one.”

Southern California is a car culture, and its automobile museums and kart tracks offer all sorts of party packages for car enthusiasts. Lovers of Packards, DeLoreans, the Batmobile, karts and just about everything else on two, four or more wheels, can book places such as MB2, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Mid-Wilshire, the Automotive Driving Museum (ADM) near Los Angeles International Airport and the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard for memorable b’nai mitzvah celebrations.

“People are looking for a big facility that will appeal to all of their guests,” MB2-Thousand Oaks Events Coordinator Bailey Dawson said. “It’s all-inclusive.”

At the Petersen, the autos become part of the decor as the tables are set up around them. Guests also can roam the various exhibit halls. The ADM has enough space to allow for an outdoor Wiffle ball game, said Jeff Walker, the museum’s executive director.

Mostly, however, people book events at these locations to be different. They’re tired of the hotel scene and want a celebration that stands out.

Sometimes, it’s the parents who book the place before showing it to their children, said Jerry Lepe, Petersen’s events and operations coordinator.

“A month out, they show it, the kid loves it and didn’t know it was already booked,” he said.

Walker said museums such as the ADM, Petersen and Murphy welcome b’nai mitzvah celebrations because these parties bring in needed cash. “The average individual who comes into a museum off the street spends about $5,” he said. “Parties can be $100 a person. … One event leads to another event, and people join the museum and find things to donate.”

Petersen Automotive Museum

Dedicated to presenting and exploring the automobile and its impact on American life, the Petersen Automotive Museum began in 1994 when magazine publisher Robert Petersen and his wife, Margie, donated $5 million to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and then followed up with $24.8 million more in 2000 to establish the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation.

Many b’nai mitzvah honorees want their celebration near one of the Mid-Wilshire museum’s four Batmobiles or the round-door 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe, Lepe said.

The museum has a variety of exhibit and private spaces that can accommodate from 10 to 3,000 guests. Exhibits on the first floor, named Streetscape, follow the history of the automobile. The second floor boasts five large rotating galleries that include displays of race cars, hot rods, classic cars, motorcycles, and movie and celebrity cars. The fourth floor contains the Penthouse, a glass-walled rooftop alternative with views of Beverly Hills and Hollywood.

One of the five rotating galleries on the Petersen Automotive Museum’s second floor.

All events, except in the Museum Pavilion, come with five hours of event time and include set-up and clean-up, on-site manager, lighting technician, tables and chairs, security, custodial services and a service charge.

Prices vary depending on the floor and the number of guests. The first floor can seat up to 120 people for $5,500. On the second floor, prices range from $6,000 for 100-150 guests to $7,500 for 250-350 guests. The fourth floor can hold up to 250 people, with prices ranging from $4,000 (up to 150 guests) to $4,500 (150-250 guests). A 17,280-square-foot tentlike structure, called the Museum Pavilion, is also available for larger parties at a cost of $12,000, plus security, rentals and custodian.

The Petersen recommends caterers, including its own on-site Johnny Rockets, but outside caterers are welcome. Parking is available.

Petersen Automotive Museum, 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 964-6348 or visit petersen.org.

Automobile Driving Museum

The ADM, inspired by its four founders’ fascination with vintage cars, opened in 2002 and moved to its current El Segundo location in 2006. Its mission is to preserve orphaned vintage cars, primarily from the 1930s to 1950s.

Executive Director Walker said that if a bar or bat mitzvah requests a particular car, he does everything he can to get it, even borrowing from the Petersen if necessary. Popular cars are a 1959 Cadillac convertible, a DeLorean and the 1936 Packard that Josef Stalin once owned. Walker said he even picked up and drove one bar mitzvah honoree to the museum in the Packard.

The museum features two buildings as well as an outdoor area.

The Packard Ballroom, at 610 Lairport St.,  seats up to 250 guests. For $2,500, the museum provides as many as 25 72-inch round tables, padded chairs, projector, dance floor, podium, P.A. system and docents to answer guests’ questions during the celebration.

The Auto, Air & Space Room, at 600 Lairport St., seats up to 100 guests and features five 60-inch tables, chairs and a dance floor for $1,500 but does not include access to the main museum.

The museum’s outdoor area, Gasoline Alley, offers six picnic tables, requires portable toilet rental and does not grant access to the museum. It rents for $1,000.

The entire facility can be rented for $5,000.

All parties are slated for four hours, with $500 charged for each additional hour.

The museum offers plenty of parking and several catering options, Walker said.

A party can bring in an outside caterer or use one of the venue’s preferred restaurant partners; the museum will arrange food pickup and delivery for the latter.

Automobile Driving Museum, 610 Lairport St., El Segundo. For more information, call (310) 909-0950 or visit automobiledrivingmuseum.org.

Murphy Auto Museum

Ventura neurosurgeon Dan Murphy started his nonprofit museum in 2002 because he wanted a place for collectors to display their vintage cars. He advertised heavily and passed word to collectors in the Tri-County area, collecting more than 40 cars, including nine Packards, in its 16,000-square-foot facility in Oxnard. The oldest is a 1903 curved-dash Oldsmobile, the newest a 1975 Datsun truck. A popular car for photos is the classic black London cab, the 1968 Austin FX4.

Franz Lopez, in charge of education and outreach, said the museum has hosted b’nai mitzvah celebrations in the past. The museum has enough indoor space to seat 100 guests comfortably at a rate of $16 per person, but extra guests can spill onto its patio, where a large shade tree helps keep guests cool. Party organizers are expected to arrange their own catering, tables and chairs. Free parking is available.

Murphy Auto Museum, 2230 Statham Blvd., Oxnard. For more information, call (805) 487-4333 or visit murphyautomuseum.com.

MB2 Raceway

The prices and packages are the same for both the MB2 Raceway Sylmar and Thousand Oaks locations. Junior party packages range from $895 for eight racers to as much as $1,100 for up to 16 racers. Parents who want to rent the place out pay $2,200 an hour, but another option includes two 1,200-square-foot rooms, which rent from $100 per hour to $700 for eight hours. Parties usually arrange their own catering, but a sandwich shop is available at the Sylmar raceway, and the Thousand Oaks location is building a barbecue restaurant. Parking at both sites is free and plentiful.

MB2 Raceway, 13943 Balboa Blvd., Sylmar, and 1475 Lawrence Drive, Thousand Oaks. For more information, call (866) 986-7223 or visit mb2raceway.com.

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