New San Francisco classic car museum coming soon!

An arts college in San Francisco is planning to turn its private car collection into a museum, due to open in 2019...

The Academy of Art University, a privately owned for-profit art school in San Francisco, is putting into place plans to turns its extensive car collection into the San Francisco Automobile Museum, the only one of its kind in the city.

The collection of 250 cars originated with Richard A. 'Dick' Stephens, the son of the university’s founder, longtime president of the university himself, and father of the university’s current president, Elisa Stephens, who made the decision to make the collection publicly accessible. It consists of numerous coachbuilt European cars and a large number of iconic vehicles originating from America.

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There are half a dozen Duesenbergs, multiple Cadillac V-16s, a dozen Packards, and a couple of Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrows, not to be confused with the iconic German racing cars of the same name. In addition to that there are plenty of other pre- and postwar American cars and even two microcars. While the collection has been shown in parts at concours events in the past, and students have been able to observe the machinery for design inspiration, the general public has largely been unable to tour the collection as a whole.

'We already have the collection and the building,' said Rob Fisher, the CEO of the newly created museum. But we still have quite a lot of things to put into place to open it to the public. We definitely know that this will not be a walk in the park. Dick did have a personal conviction to keep it private. It wasn’t curated as a museum – the cars in the collection are just the ones Dick wanted. He loved the big iron.'

The process of creating the museum will require the formation of a non-profit organisation to oversee the running, and include selling off some of the cars and acquiring others to fit the museum’s mission. While Dick 'was very much against' selling any cars out of his collection, Fisher said the members of the Stephens family — who now own the collection — have given their blessing to selling off duplicates 'or those cars that are right for the market… and make the most sense as leverage to turn around and acquire others'.

Seven cars have already been sent to Monterey Car Week to be sold, including a 1929 Duesenberg Model J convertible, a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K cabriolet, a 1936 Packard Super Eight 1404 dual-cowl sport phaeton, and a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 convertible.

As for funding the museum, Fisher believes the museum’s location in San Francisco will benefit it in multiple ways.

'There’s a huge automotive community here, and it’s a true destination point. We’ll be leveraging our proximity to Silicon Valley as well, both for displays and for partnerships.'

If all goes well, Fisher plans to see the museum opening in the first half of 2019. For more information about the museum and its collection, visit

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